Academic journal article Demographic Research

Long-Term Trends of Men's Co-Residence with Children in England and Wales

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Long-Term Trends of Men's Co-Residence with Children in England and Wales

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

In all developed societies, the Second Demographic Transition (Lesthaeghe 1995, van de Kaa 1987) has changed the structure of men and women's life courses. Among the outcome of these transformations are the declining proportions of men living with children of their own, and the shrinking number of years of life that men live with their children. These trends have been well documented for the United States (Eggebeen and Uhlenberg 1985, King 1999, Eggebeen 2002, Goldscheider, Hogan, and Bures 2001, Hogan and Goldscheider 2001). In addition, Jensen (1998, 1999) has presented data for a number of European countries - excluding Britain - about the low shares of men in their twenties living with children.

The drop in father-child co-residence is one of main bases of claims about "fathers pulling out of family life' ( George and Gold 1991) and of "shrinking fatherhood' (Jensen 1999). These claims have been linked to a number of problems at the individual and the societal level. A comprehensive body of literature has studied the potentially negative consequences of father absence for child development and well-being (Amato 2000; Lamb 2010). More recently there have been investigations into how fatherhood affects men's own well-being. The few studies addressing this issue indicated a better social integration and closer family ties of fathers (Eggebeen and Knoester 2001; Keizer, Dykstra, and Poortman 2010). Furthermore, it has been argued that a decreasing involvement of fathers in bringing up their children leads to an increased burden on women, who have to shoulder their stronger labour-market engagement without relief from their roles in the home (Jensen 1999). On the societal level, the concerns about increasing numbers of men not living with children of their own are related to claims of a polarization of society into a declining family sector and a diverse non-family sector (Daly 2005). The problems of combining full employment with bringing up children make families more economically vulnerable than childless individuals. With decreasing numbers of parents among employees, this raises fears that work-place culture might become less family friendly. Finally, more general concerns have been raised; for example, that a shrinking child-oriented sector of society might lead to less emphasis upon the interests of children in political agendas (Jensen 1995) or how more and more widespread childless lifestyles affect societal visions of solidarity in the future (Rupp 2009).

Given the number of concerns associated with "shrinking fatherhood', we know surprisingly little about the exact trends in fathers' involvement in their families, in Britain and in many other countries. One reason for this is the problem of obtaining reliable information about men's fertility histories (Rendall et al. 1999), making it difficult to calculate rates of childlessness in men. In addition, men's parenthood experiences have been affected by trends in partnership breakup and new family forms. Reliable data about these processes from men's perspective are also difficult to obtain. The only available data that provide some information about long-term trends in men's involvement with children are about father-child co-residence. Co-residential fatherhood offers the most opportunities for father-child interaction, and has well- documented effects on a child's wellbeing (Lamb 2010). Therefore, long-term trends in father-child co-residence offer an approximate account of changes in the prevalence of the arguably most intensive experience of fatherhood.

As mentioned earlier, the most detailed analyses of father-child co-residence have been presented for the United States. Eggebeen and Uhlenberg's (1985) study of the United States in the 1960s and 1970s showed that the drop in men's co -residence with children over time was pervasive across educational levels and racial categories. …

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