Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Fathers More Involved Now

From the Milken Institute Review:

It’s hard to discern a silver lining in the Covid-19 crisis, but let me give it a shot. The social distancing demanded by the virus has fundamentally changed the dynamic of families with children living at home — and has created a grand experiment in father-child relationships. Will increased paternal caregiving and involvement have a lasting effect on behavior and attitudes, or will it melt away with the pandemic?

In the olden days — that is, before mid-March — a small, but growing number of fathers in America were stay-at-home dads, whether because they wished to be or lacked other employment opportunities. Moreover, there’s some evidence that the ranks of fathers who take a truly equal role in child-rearing has been increasing, albeit slowly. Now millions more are, thanks to the pandemic. They are distracting their toddlers at bath time with rubber duckies, introducing Dr. Seuss to their kindergartners and trying to remember what a logarithm is so they can help their 10th graders with homework.

According to a new survey by Promundo, a non-profit dedicated to advancing gender equality, the numbers suggest the shift is pretty impressive. Nearly two-thirds of men who were forced to stay home by the pandemic — whether because they are teleworking or have been laid off or furloughed — say that they are spending at least two hours more time caring for their children and homes. Yes, women still spend more time than men, and mothers’ proportion of time devoted to childcare hasn’t changed, but the fact that men are spending more time in absolute terms does show that fathers can take greater responsibility for their children.

Not everyone is popping the champagne corks. Naomi Cahn of George Washington University is cautious: “Although I hope the pandemic results in fathers increasing the time they spend on childcare once we are on the other side of this, it’s worth noting that research shows men often overestimate how much time they are engaged with their children.” More important, forced proximity is almost certain to mean more instances of family violence — in particular, men harming spouses and children.

Read more here.

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