Data from Pew Research indicates that the role of fathers in a family has changed over the past 50 years. Fewer fathers are sole breadwinners since 1970 with the rise of dual-income families. The percentage of fathers staying home to take care of the kids was almost 25% in 2016, a dramatic increase from 4% in 1989.
Unfortunately, while the role of fathers in the household seems to be changing, attitudes toward fatherhood seem to be stuck in the past. Many adults surveyed consistently say that it is better for children if the mother stays home to care for them and that it is more important for a baby to bond with the mother than the father.
How do fathers view their role?
Research consistently shows the importance of involved fathers in children’s lives. The Pew study shows that their role as a dad is at least as important to fathers themselves. More fathers than mothers report that parenting is enjoyable and rewarding all of the time, and roughly equal percentages of dads and moms say that being a parent is extremely important to their individual identity.
Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of fathers, 63%, feel that they do not spend enough time with their children. In 20% of those cases, the reason is that they do not live with the children all the time.
What prevents divorced fathers from spending time with their kids?
While researchers are discovering the benefits of shared custody for fathers and children alike, state governments are slow to recognize them. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kentucky was the first state to require shared custody, except in extenuating circumstances, in 2018.
While courts in other states may favor shared custody, in cases where the split between parents is amicable, fathers typically receive only 35% of the parenting time available. The percentage is likely to be even lower in a contentious divorce.