PARENTS
15/06/2015 20:00 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 06:59 BST

Involved Fathers Are Happier And Help Children 'Thrive', But Lack Supportive Paternity Leave, Reveals Global Study

Fathers becoming more involved in their children's lives is critical for their own wellbeing and nurtures their children's development, the world's first global fatherhood report has revealed.

Researchers found fathers play a 'crucial' role in the development of their children, as they are "biologically hard-wired to provide care, just as mothers are".

However, the study also found that there are no countries in the world where men share the unpaid work it takes to bring up a child equally with women.

The researchers suggest finding time to spend with their children can be problematic for fathers because of the lack of supportive paternity leave policies in many countries - which the researchers state is a large factor contributing to gender inequality.

fathers

The global analysis of fatherhood was published by MenCare and called The State of the World's Fathers (SOWF), to analyse men's contributions to parenting.

Gary Barker, SOWF report author said: "This report reaffirms that fathers matter for children and that caregiving is good for fathers."

The "landmark analysis" of fatherhood drew evidence from hundreds of studies covering all countries in the world to create a global picture of a father's role.

The report found that fathers with close connections to their children have fewer health problems, are more productive and happy, and help their children "thrive".

It also found fathers' increased involvement was linked to lower rates of depression, fear, and self-doubt in their young adult children.

However, although spending more time with their children is beneficial, women continue to spend between two and ten times longer than men caring for a child.

The SOWF report stated that a lack of supportive policies such as paternity leave for new fathers, is part of the problem for this inequality between mothers and fathers.

This imbalance, the report states, has "widespread negative effects": women lose opportunities for work and income, children lose out on the benefits of having an involved father, and men miss out on the positive benefits of involved fatherhood.

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Nikki van der Gaag, feminist and SOWF report author, spoke of the benefits of fathers spending more time with their children:

"When fathers take on their fair share of the unpaid care work, it can alter the nature of the relationships between men, women and children," she said.

"[This is because] both fathers and mothers will have more time for their children, women are released from some of their ‘double burden,’ and fathers get to experience the joys, satisfactions, and stresses of caring for their children."

The researchers found that only 92 out of 194 countries offer leave for new fathers and for half of these the leave is less than three weeks.

Iceland offered the longest paternity leave with men averaging 103 days of paid leave, but that is still only a third of what women take.

In the UK, fathers who took leave after their baby's birth were 19% more likely to participate in feedings and to get up with the baby at night eight to 12 months later, compared with fathers who did not take leave.

The study also found that between 61 and 77% of fathers said they would work less if it meant that they could have more time with their children.

fathers

The report's authors said the findings lead them to believe that gender equality in parenting could not be achieved until men are more involved in caring for their children.

Van de Gaag added: "Taking up roles as caregivers also offers men the opportunity to begin to break free from the narrow concepts of manhood and fatherhood, providing their sons and daughters with positive role models, improved health and development, and higher hopes for the future."

She said more research on the benefits of fatherhood for both men and their families is needed and could be groundbreaking helping to change traditional policies.

With these global findings, the report authors are urging states to adopt and implement parental leave policies for fathers that is non-transferable between parents.

They also wish for states to adopt policies that specifically encourage and support fathers’ and caregivers’ involvement in early childhood development, care, and education.

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