Opinion: To the point - Let's support fathers


Many headlines have been crafted over a report claiming that the number of fathers quitting work to look after their children has soared tenfold in a decade. Aviva, the insurer, reported that 600,000 UK men now regularly care for their children while their wives or girlfriends worked.

My research team tells me that FPI has indeed detected a rise, but not a leap, in fathers who consider themselves to be their child's primary carer. At 600,000 fathers, this equates to 6 per cent of fathers as primary carers. So while this is welcome news, we still have a long way to go before we achieve a genuine cultural change that allows couples to make free decisions about how to divide and share the roles of work and childcare.

Many fathers want to be more involved with their children, and we know that hands-on parenting from both mum and dad yields significant benefits for children. Yet traditional and cliched views on who should earn a crust and who should rock the baby still linger. Movies and TV sitcoms still delight in depicting men as naturally clumsy, out of their depth and ill-suited when it comes to caring for babies and children. Such portrayals aren't helpful for those fathers who decide to take up the tough but rewarding challenge of staying home with the kids.

There has certainly been great progress in how fathers interact with their children. The BBC reported on 7 April that an Oxford University team had analysed thousands of time diaries kept by UK families between 1975 and 2000. The team has said, 'British dads are spending almost 30 minutes a day longer on childcare, as well as more time doing the housework, DIY and shopping in 2000 than in 1975.'

These findings are in line with the contents of FPI's Family Trends, published last year, which revealed that fathers have become much more involved in family life. Now let's harness this change and push it broader and deeper.

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