Father-Child Relationships Improved Over Lockdown

Over the Spring 2020 Lockdown, a study by the Fatherhood Institute examined the changing roles and relationships of fathers - and the results were pretty interesting!
In June 2020, the Fatherhood Institute surveyed 2045 fathers of children under the age of 12. Asking them to look back on the lockdown that began in March, they explored changes in time spent with children, impact on parenting and their relationships with their children and partners.

The majority of the notable findings centred around fathers who had been in paid employment prior to the lockdown, more than half of whom were at home full time during it. An external study cited by the Fatherhood Institute found that, despite media reports that women were ‘doing more than men’, the parenting gender gap actually reduced over lockdown.

Where, before lockdown, women were contributing an average of 7 hours per day to childcare, and 10 during it, men contributed 4 hours before and 8 during - doubling their time and reducing the difference. So, while a gender gap still very much exists in parenting, this pandemic-fueled change garnered some interesting results for the fathers involved.

When asked about the time spent with their children, 66% reported spending more time listening to or talking with their children, and 62% said they spent more time helping with school- or homework.

The Impact of this quality father-child time was impressive. 60% said they understood their child better, and 58% reported a better relationship with them. 57% even reported showing physical affection more often, and 44% said they had got better at staying calm and managing their temper around their child.

These significant improvements in father-child relationships are consistent with prior research in neurobiology and anthropology, which have found that more time spent with children increases parental sensitivity and promotes more secure attachments.

The change in routine didn’t just affect parent-child relationships, either. Fathers who had higher hopes for continuing flexible working beyond the pandemic were more likely to report an improved relationship with their partner. And, although the results in this survey were somewhat inconclusive, they did cite a study in Spain that found that couple functioning among parents with children at home improved over lockdown - but stayed the same for couples without children.

But here’s the big question: What does this mean for the future?

Will things just go ‘back to normal’?

Well, the authors of the study are hopeful.

Research on extended paternal leave has found that fathers tend to continue their involvement in childcare, even after returning to work.

On top of this, pandemics are, historically, times of accelerated social change. As of September 2020, half of surveyed employers had policies in place to support flexible working. This, in turn, has the potential to reduce fears among employees that working flexibly will negatively impact upon their careers.

If more fathers are able (and willing!) to take on flexible work, the gender parenting gap could be drastically reduced - and this is important, on more than just a personal level for fathers and their children.

A literature review published by the UK Government Equalities Office in 2020 found that high levels of care from fathers is connected to positive child outcomes and wellbeing. It also promotes higher levels of engagement in paid employment from mothers, which, in turn, is also associated with higher levels of child- and fathers’- wellbeing and couple relationship satisfaction, along with reduced risk of parental (particularly mothers’) stress and separation.

Households with higher levels of fathercare are more likely to produce sons who take on a greater share of housework and childcare, and daughters who earn more and hold more supervisory roles.

On top of this, involved fatherhood is beneficial for the growth and development of the father, contributing to better emotional regulation and expression, improved cognitive skills, executive function, confidence, health and capacity for empathy.

So, a little more time with the kids really has the power to change the world.

The full study is a fascinating read, and you can find it here.

If you have any questions, want to share how lockdown impacted your family, or have a topic you’d like to hear more about, you can contact us via our Instagram.

Until next week!

Content Creator at MEplace
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