The U.S. has undergone a seismic shift over the past few decades as more women have entered the workplace while men, on the other hand, have assumed a more active role in the home. According to a recent study, fathers today strive to share in the duties of raising their children equally - though many concede that they lag behind their wives in caregiving.
According to a study of 1,000 fathers conducted by the Boston College Center for Work and Family
, contemporary fathers endeavor to balance their careers with their work lives, though the feat is admittedly challenging.
Family roles are ever-evolving, according to sociologists, and the results from the study indicate that fathers in the U.S. have shifted their notion of what kinds of attributes play a pivotal role in fatherhood
Historically, fathers have viewed their primary role in the home as providing for their families, according to Brad Harrington, the executive director of BC's Center for Work and Family. Fathers today are not content to merely provide financially for their families, but instead stress the importance of playing a larger role in childcare.
Survey respondents said that the roles of caregiver and breadwinner were equally important as they raised their families. However, many fathers asserted that adeptly fulfilling such roles was exceedingly difficult given time constraints and the unique demands that each presents.
"Balancing work and family is not just a woman's issue," Harrington affirmed. "We see that fathers, too, need a family-supportive work environment when it comes to aligning work and family, and this has tangible benefits for their jobs and careers, and in turn for their organizations."
The 2011 survey, "The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted," is the latest iteration of an ongoing study by BC researchers that aims to ascertain how familial roles have changed over the past 50 years as women have increasingly taken on corporate jobs and fathers have moved toward a more active role in caregiving.
The study's findings also served to underscore the dichotomy that exists between fathers' commitment to their careers
and their desire to spend more time with their children.
Study participants rated job security as the most important job characteristic, surprising some analysts as men in the past often cited career advancement as most significant. Fathers nowadays are more concerned about flexible working hours than the potential to earn a high income, according to the study.
Moreover, most of the fathers surveyed said that they hoped to share equally in the raising of their children. Nonetheless, a majority also affirmed that they were often unable to come through on that desire because of work constraints and the limited amount of time they spend in their homes.
Fathers have made progress in helping out around the home over the past 16 years, according to a report from Time Magazine. Compared to 1985, men now spend roughly 3.5 hours more per week on childcare. Still, some sociologists are hardly impressed with such a figure as women also have increased their time spent on childcare by roughly 2.5 hours per week since 1985.
Nevertheless, there has been a shift in fathers' sentiment toward a more equal balance between work and home life, research data indicates. Fifty-three percent of fathers surveyed by BC asserted that they would consider not working outside the home if such an option were financially possible.
"Our findings show that fathers want to have more time to be with their children and they aspire to do more at home," Harrington said. "At the same time, they have equally strong desires to be successful at work and to advance in their careers. Thus, we have an image of today’s fathers as caring, committed and conflicted, struggling to be engaged parents while striving for advancement in their careers."