Academic journal article Family Relations

Does Change in Young Men's Employment Influence Fathering?

Academic journal article Family Relations

Does Change in Young Men's Employment Influence Fathering?

Article excerpt

This study examined the association between paternal and maternal employment changes and changes in the frequency of fathers praising, showing affection, disciplining, and reading to children. Data were drawn from the Young Adult supplement to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979). Supporting economic theory, fathers were more involved when they and their partner were employed full time and were less involved when their employment exceeded that of their partner. Although fathers tended to be less involved when they worked less, fathers who held traditional gender role attitudes were more involved than those who held nontraditional gender role attitudes. The results suggest the important part fathers' attitudes and values have in influencing their involvement with children under differing employment conditions.

Key Words: fatherhood, gender roles, work anil family.

Economic downturns are highly relevant to family well-being. After a long period of prosperity in the 1990s, Americans experienced a minor recession from March to November 2001, followed by a steep economic decline beginning in December 2007 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009; National Bureau of Economic Research, 2010). Historically, recessionary periods result in economic hardships for families who experience reduced work hours, periods of unemployment, and consequent loss of income. Research has indicated that employment loss is especially difficult for men because it alters family roles. During the Great Depression, paternal unemployment disrupted the traditional division of labor. As mothers worked and made more financial decisions, fathers' provider role was diminished (Elder, 1999). Research with Iowa farm families experiencing hard times found that economic difficulties were associated with psychological distress and reduced quality of fathers' parenting (Conger & Elder, 1994). Recent recessions have been accompanied by cuts in work hours as well as layoffs. A loss of even some work hours may be as likely as unemployment to alter within-family relationships, including patemal nurturance and involvement.

The early studies on the relationship between unemployment and fathering behavior used interviews from Oakland, California, families beginning in the 1930s and rural farm families in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Conger & Elder, 1994; Elder, 1999). Effects on children and families today may differ from those found in the past and in rural areas. In 1 940, only about 23% of children ages 0-17 lived in dual-earner nonfarm families, but by 1980, this had risen to 63% and by 1989, it had risen to 73% (Hernández, 1993). Just as mothers are involved in the workplace, fathers are increasingly involved in all aspects of their children's care (Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006; Sandberg & Hofferth, 2001; Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001). Given changes in gender roles, the reaction of fathers today may differ from that found decades ago, yet little new research has been conducted. In addition, although the proportion of men and women who believe that married women should not work outside the home has dropped to less than 20%, there are still differences between men and women in gender role attitudes regarding childrearing. In 1994, half of men thought that preschool children would suffer if the mother worked, compared with one third of women (Casper & Bianchi, 2002).

Using a 21st century sample of fathers with partners and children, this study examines the association between degree of paternal and maternal employment and paternal involvement with residential children in two-parent families. Father involvement includes praising, being affectionate, spanking, and reading to children. Using data over time, we examine whether changes in paternal and maternal employment are associated with changes in these fathering behaviors. We also examine whether the association of employment with paternal involvement varies by the traditionalism of the father's gender role attitudes. …

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