Sociologist Erin Rehel conducted a fascinating research study on paternity leave and changing perceptions of masculinity. Here’s a Q&A with Dr. Rehel about her research and its implications for working dads.
- Tell us a bit about your study
My research examines the connection between fatherhood, work, social policy, and shifting ideals of masculinity in the United States and Canada. I conducted 85 interviews with fathers and their partners. I find that fathers today draw think differently about masculinity and fatherhood, but there are societal and workplace barriers that force many dads to fall back into less involved parenting roles.
In this particular study, “When Dad Stays Home Too: Paternity Leave, Gender, and Parenting,” (forthcoming in Gender & Society), I argue that when fathers experience the transition to parenthood in ways similar to mothers, through formal or informal paternity leave, they come to think about and do parenting in ways that are similar to mothers.
Paternity leave provides the space necessary for fathers to develop the parenting skills and sense of responsibility that allows them to be active co-parents rather than helpers to their female partners. This shift from a manager-helper dynamic to that of co-parenting creates opportunities for a more gender-equitable division of labor.