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The incredibly long list of benefits to kids and parents if we took paternity leave seriously

Dads playing with their kids in a park
AP Photo/Niklas Larsson
Out of office.
  • Jenny Anderson
By Jenny Anderson

Senior reporter, Editor of How to be Human

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

There are many things that hold men back from taking paternity leave. A new survey (pdf) of more than 1,000 men and women in the US, conducted by Promundo and Dove Men+Care, finds that nearly three-quarters of men think there is no support at work for taking leave, many are worried their household income will suffer, and one in five are afraid of losing their jobs if they take time off when a child is born.

“Too few workplaces provide paid leave for fathers, and even when they do, too few fathers take their full leave because they worry about what the rest of us think about them, particularly at work,” the report says. The research is based on a nationally representative online survey of men and women ages 25-45; 83% of men polled were fathers and 64% of women were mothers.

In a depressing, but not-at-all-surprising finding, the report shows that paternity leave should be made more available. Indeed, the US is the only advanced economy in the world that does not provide nationally guaranteed paid parental leave. But it also reveals that American society needs to break out of its 1950s mindset. How so? Let us count the ways…

  • 60% of mothers and 44% of women without children believe that women are better at managing daily planning than men. That compares with 31% of fathers and 33% of men without children
  • 51% of mothers, versus 32% of fathers, believe that women are better at providing emotional care than men
  • 46% of fathers and 41% of men without children believe men are better at providing financial support, compared with 29% of mothers and 27% of women without kids.

“In 2018, we’re still held back by two traditional stereotypes: that men are the primary breadwinners and women are the primary caregivers for children,” the report says. These stereotypes are “impeding equality in the workplace and at home.”

Perhaps most startling about the survey was what everyone—men and women, parents and non-parents—cited as benefits of more paternity leave, from improved mental health for mothers and children to more involved, confident fathers. When men are able to act as the caregivers they want to be, they report significantly higher life satisfaction, including in their sex lives.

Promundo and Dove


Read more from our series on Rewiring Childhood. This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

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