BEYOND BREADWINNERS: Dads have been seen as second-string players when it comes to parenting, but scientists now see that fathers have a special influence on children's emotional and cognitive development. Image: iStockphoto
- Fatherhood has undergone a profound change in the past half a century. In 1965 fathers were spending 2.6 hours a week on child care; by 2000 that figure had reached 6.5 hours. There are three times as many stay-at-home fathers as there were a decade ago.
- For years social scientists considered fathers to be second-string parents, but that view has changed, partly thanks to research revealing that dads are anything but bit players in their children’s lives. Fathers are biologically as responsive to their children as mothers are.
- Fathers influence children in unique ways. In particular, they play an outsized role in stretching their emotional and cognitive capabilities—enriching their verbal skills, for example, and encouraging them to take risks.
Mark Oppenheimer, a part-time stay-at-home father of two young girls, is used to stares. “When I’m walking down the street with one baby strapped to my chest and the other in a stroller—and the kids all look happy—and I walk by a group of mothers, they’re just blown away,” he says. “The easiest way in the world to get a smile is to be a man with a baby.”
Fatherhood has undergone a profound change in the past half a century. In 1965 fathers were spending 2.6 hours a week on child care; by 2000 that figure had reached 6.5 hours. There are three times as many stay-at-home fathers as there were a decade ago, and families headed by single fathers are the fastest-growing household type in the U.S. “When I started studying American mothers and fathers, the majority of the fathers I studied had never bathed their children. Many of them had never changed a diaper,” says developmental psychologist Michael Lamb of the University of Cambridge. That was in the 1970s. “Now,” he says, “men would feel embarrassed to say they hadn’t changed their children.”
This article was originally published with the title Family Guy.