University of Florida Professor William Marsiglio presents a valuable new report: The State of America’s Fathers.
In America, and elsewhere around the world, the transformation of fatherhood in recent decades represents a key thread to a broader tapestry of cultural and social changes. Increasingly, public sentiment about how American dads should be involved, and are involved with their children reflects a profeminist philosophy that embraces gender equity at home and in the workplace.
During the late 1900s and the early years of the 21st century, an eclectic set of scholars, government agencies and spokespersons, media representatives, religious organizations, social activists, and others have documented and debated key aspects of this cultural shift. Collectively, these voices have revealed how the nostalgic image of the breadwinning father is out of sync in today’s cultural climate and economy.
In June 2016, Promundo, in collaboration with various partners, is poised to advance the public conversation about fatherhood by releasing the State of America’s Fathers report. The report, based on new survey data of currently employed adults from the Families and Work Institute’s National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), explores four critical issues: men as caregivers, fatherhood and the workplace, fatherhood and family well-being, and the troubling realities of nonresident, low-income fathers. Its main objective is to promote social justice by fostering policies and programs that elevate the value of care work, especially for men for whom it is often devalued.
With an eye on promoting policy and programmatic initiatives, the report documents, among other patterns, the changing demography of fatherhood and families more generally, the fresh ways more and more people are thinking about and practicing fathering, and the steady increase in fathers’ (and mothers’) dissatisfaction with their work-family balance. A more specific sampling of these developments includes the following. There are more nonresident fathers in the United States than ever before—roughly 8-10 million. Roughly 2.7 million children have incarcerated parents and 92 percent of those are fathers. In recent decades fathers on average have increased the time they spend with children during the workday by 65 percent. Yet, the majority of parents who work full-time report that they do not spend enough time with their children. Unfortunately, 95 percent of American workers who have low-wage jobs do not have any option for taking paid family leave. And many working parents—fathers more than mothers—believe that their careers would be negatively affected if they asked their employers for greater flexibility in their work schedule because of family responsibilities. The take-home message: social policies and programs have not kept pace with the changing demography of families and the evolving culture of fatherhood.
The report’s timely analysis and sound public policy/programmatic recommendations complement the diverse personal narratives of the men Kevin Roy, and I showcase in our 2012 book Nurturing Dads: Contemporary Initiatives for Fatherhood. Like the State of America’s
Fathers report, we argue for a public vision of fathering that celebrates a father’s choice to nurture his children emotionally as much as his choice to support them financially. Efforts to achieve gender equity at home and in the workplace require a compelling and pervasive cultural message that promotes a father’s nurturance and the institutional, practical means to foster this style of father involvement across the diverse life course, family/household, and cultural conditions.
I am particularly pleased with how the State of America’s Fathers report accentuates the gender role norms play in shaping men’s everyday realities as men, and as fathers. The survey-based report once again reinforces my own current qualitative work on how fathers navigate their experiences related to health, fitness, and well-being for themselves and their children. In my forthcoming book, Dads, Kids, and Fitness: A Father’s Guide to Family Health (Rutgers University Press, http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/product/Dads-Kids-and-Fitness,6048.aspx), I discuss four types of partnerships critical to how a father can impart positive outcomes for their children (father-child, father-coparent, father-non-family members, and community organizations’ interactions). Strengthening these partnerships is essential if we are to address the types of issues the State of America’s Fathers explores including sexual/reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth outcomes, intimate partner violence and violence against children, mental and emotional health, and risk-taking behavior. These issues are also explored on my website: Dads & Kids: Health & Fitness Talk (http://www.dadsandkidshealth.com).
I encourage you during this Father’s Day season to review this report for yourself at www.men-care.org/soaf.