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Fathers’ household and childcare involvement in New Zealand: A snapshot, determinants and consequences

This study uses data from the Growing Up in New Zealand birth cohort to explore fathers’ engagement during the early years of their children’s lives and analyses the potential consequences of different levels of fathers’ engagement on their children’s outcomes.

There is evidence of a significant gap between mothers and fathers in the responsibilities and time commitments in family life at home, also known as the gender care gap. This reflects the disparities between gender in the labour market and how one might contribute to the other, most directly in the ‘motherhood penalty’ where mothers are disadvantaged in a number of ways compared to childless women and men.

Findings and Future Considerations

The study found a distinct disparity between mothers and fathers when it comes to involvement in a childcare and the amount of time spent engaged in quality care such as playing games and reading books. This disparity lessens as children grow from infants to toddlers but increases again if a child has siblings.

Most fathers in the study took less parental leave time than they would like, in most instances because of work and financial commitments rather than traditional gender norms. Many fathers overestimate their anticipated involvement before their child is born.

There was some difference found between ethnic groups, with Māori and Pasifika fathers found to be more involved with childcare than Pakeha fathers.

The study found a positive relationship between a father’s involvement and strong language development, motor skills and most psychological outcomes. Showing that ultimately the more a father was involved in the care of children and the better this care was, the better than outcomes would be for those children.

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