Dads matter, too

Mothers aren't the only ones essential to kids' development.

Published March 9, 2007 7:12PM (EST)

Here's a no-brainer: Dads are important in their kids' lives. According to a new study, fathers who take time off to spend time with their families positively affect their children's development. The U.K.'s Equal Opportunities Commission report surveyed 19,000 children, and found that a kid is more likely to have emotional or developmental problems if his or her father doesn't take some family time in the child's first three years of life. There have been plenty of studies that document the correlation between child development and quality time with mom (and pundits claiming the statistics support the notion that mothers belong in the home, despite the fact that studies have also shown that the children of working mothers aren't worse off then their mom-at-home peers). This report is the first to show that the same is true for fathers, the Guardian reported this week.

But just how feasible is it for most fathers to take time off work? Obviously, money is an overriding factor: The Guardian reports that 81 percent of U.K. men in professional careers could get flexible hours to spend time with a new baby, compared with only 46 percent of "low-skilled" workers. (Of course, families that are less able to take time off work are also less able to afford high-quality childcare.) But it seems social expectations are at play across economic strata: Men are much less likely to request time off and more likely to have their time-off requests refused.

The good news here is that the report observes that a "social revolution in fatherhood" is going on -- fathers are increasingly interested in being actively involved in their kids' lives. (This trend seems to have legs: The increase in the number of engaged and stay-at-home dads is something Broadsheet has noted before.) But government and workplace policies still have some serious catching up to do: Sixty-three percent of men feel that they don't get to spend enough time with their children.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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