Communities Adapting to Changing Family Needs: Availability of Diaper Changing Facilities to Men

By Olson, Pamela N.; Stueve, Jeffrey L. et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Communities Adapting to Changing Family Needs: Availability of Diaper Changing Facilities to Men


Olson, Pamela N., Stueve, Jeffrey L., Urban, Julie, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Expectations of men are changing. Although only a modest change in overall levels of paternal involvement has been reported, increasingly, men are solely responsible for the care of a young child at some point in time. One indicator of societal acceptance could be the availability of diaper changing tables for men in public facilities. This study investigated the accessibility of diaper changing tables over 7 years in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More than 200 different locations were examined. The conclusion is that there has been an increase in the availability of diaper changing tables during this time period to both men and women. Awareness of changes that suggest that a community is family friendly is important for FCS.

Although there has been only a modest change in recent overall levels of paternal involvement and proportional involvement as compared to that of mothers (Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004), some fathers (e.g., single fathers, primary care fathers, and fathers with part-time custody) are increasingly solely responsible for childcare (Gerson, 1997). In response to these individual and family changes, there has been a call for increased community support (LaRossa, 1988). One possible societal or institutional indicator of acceptance of new responsibilities for men is the availability of diaper changing tables for men. This study investigated the accessibility of diaperchanging tables to men and women. More than 200 different locations were examined repeatedly over a 7-year period (1998-2005) to determine if diaper changing tables became more accessible to men in Albuquerque, NM.

Pleck and Masciadrelli (2004), in a review of the research on father involvement, reported a general increase in fathers' engagement and accessibility over the last several decades. In regards to fathers' responsibility to children they concluded that overall, the relatively high rate of primary care in dual-earner families suggests that for a significant portion of the work week, a substantial minority of fathers have a high level of responsibility. In addition, the rate of fathers' being the primary child care arrangement has gradually increased since 1977.

Less research has explored support for paternal involvement. The majority of work exploring social or institutional support of fathering has focused on partner support, typically of married fathers, employment practices related to paternal or family leave, or legal support of fathers. Other aspects of social or public support for fathers seem weak and have received limited study (Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004).

This study investigated trends in the availability of diaper changing stations in Albuquerque, with a focus on the availability to men. Diaper changing accessibility was considered to be one indicator of a shift in community support and in societal expectation for fathers. As the level of involvement for some fathers has increased, both the government and society in general (e.g., Gerson, 1997) have been called upon to be more responsive in supporting and strengthening the role of men.

Not only may the increase in availability of diaper changing tables be a response to the changing culture of fatherhood, but also it would be part of a more general change in culture. That is, it would be both a form of support for fathers and families to meet changing expectations, and a signal to fathers, and others, of the changing expectations regarding fathering behavior (LaRossa, 1988). Because this study looks at the availability of changing tables, and not their use, it does not directly assess the conduct of fathering. It does, however, examine a potential response to changes in the behavior and certainly assesses a change related to societal expectations of fatherhood.

The following research questions guided this investigation:

1. What trends occurred over the 7-year period, 1998-2005?

2. Did the rate of accessibility of diaper changing tables to fathers differ by type of facility? …

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Communities Adapting to Changing Family Needs: Availability of Diaper Changing Facilities to Men
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