What Makes a Good Dad? Contexts, Measures and Covariates of Paternal Care
Bianchi, Suzanne M.
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American fathers devote significantly less time than mothers to rearing their children. Using new time diary data from the 2003-2005 American Time Use Survey, this dissertation documents the variation of father involvement in different family contexts, develops more comprehensive measures of paternal care, and provides an in-depth examination of the major covariates contributing to fathers' time allocation to childrearing. Compared to married resident fathers, single fathers - specifically, "sole" single fathers who are the only adult in the family - spend significantly more time providing all types of childcare except playing with children. Sole single fathers spend similar amounts of time with their children as married fathers, although their passive care time is less. Cohabiting fathers and married fathers demonstrate similar parenting time patterns. Lacking daily interaction with their children, non-resident fathers provide less than one-third of direct childcare and spend much less overall time with their children than resident fathers do. When non-resident fathers are with their children, their time is mostly spent on playing with children and performing necessary managerial responsibilities (e.g., attending children's events and school meetings, picking up/dropping off children). However, non-resident fathers' time "minding" children - a measure that gauges passive care of children not requiring physical presence - is almost 85 percent of what resident fathers report. Further, divorced non-resident fathers spend more time providing childcare than (re)married non-resident fathers, especially in physical and recreational activities. Father care in two-parent families is associated with a number of covariates that reflect demands on fathers and their capacity to provide care. First, fathers' direct care time and time with children, but not their minding time, decreases as their children age. Second, fathers tend to do more childcare when they have boys rather than girls in the family. Third, although fathers appear to do more childcare when their spouses are employed, this happens only among those whose spouses are least educated or best educated. Finally, despite the common assumption that better educated fathers are more "involved," the childcare time differences are mainly between fathers with high school (or below) education and everyone else.