The interim report of a two-year project by Working Families and Lancaster University Management School, Work-life balance: working for fathers?, says that fathers are under increasing pressure to combine work with being more directly involved with their children, and the desire among fathers to spend more time looking after their children is widespread.
Twenty-one per cent of fathers look after pre-school children at some point during the week and 43 per cent of fathers provide childcare before or after school.
The project also measured the stress felt by fathers, finding that those with one child were more stressed than those who have two children. Fathers who did more housework were less stressed and those whose partners worked full-time had a better sense of well-being than those whose partners worked part-time.
The report says that flexible working helps fathers on low incomes feel less stressed. It recommends that employers should become more 'father-friendly' by offering more flexible working.
The report says, 'There is evidence which suggests that received social attitudes in relation to family and childcare are in a period of profound change. Fewer fathers than mothers believe it is a mother's job to look after children. When it comes to working and caring, more fathers than mothers believe the highest earners should work full-time, regardless of gender.'
Lead researcher at LUMS, Dr Caroline Gatrell, said, 'The way we "do" family has changed - not only because mothers are more likely to go out to work, but also because today, both mothers and fathers want close relationships with children as they are growing up. Our research shows how employers would be wrong to assume that mothers are always primary carers.'
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said, 'Flexible working is a good way to alleviate some of the stress, and men who have a better balance between work and home life tend to be happier and perform better at work. We would urge employers to look at these findings, especially in these uncertain economic times when maximising performance is vital, to see if there is anything they can do to help their employees who are fathers.'