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Couple health improves when dads take parental leave - study

Researchers at Ball State, Indiana, say men who take full parental leave are more likely to have lasting relationships.

The benefits of dads taking shared parental leave to care for newborns include bonding with infants, creating more equal division of work at home and improved work-life balance.

But in Australia and the US, few men access paid parental leave.

Read: Why Australian needs to catch up on making parental leave fairer for men

The authors of ‘If I [Take] Leave, Will You Stay? Paternity Leave and Relationship Stability,’ claim 25% of men are less likely to see their marriage or relationship end in the first six years following the birth of a child if they take leave.  

Published in the Journal of Social Policy last November, sociology professor, father of two and lead author Richard Petts said increasing parental leave may increase family stability. He said most dads in the US take a short period off work after the birth of a child and that career penalties and stigmas stop men from taking even a few weeks off.

“Given the numerous benefits of parental leave, the increased attention on expanding parental leave policies in the U.S. is warranted,” Petts said. “American parents need greater access to paid parental leave in order to take advantage of the benefits that parental leave provides, such as more stable parental relationships.”

“For the full benefits of parental leave policies to be realized, U.S. culture needs to be more accepting of fathers taking leave,” Petts said. “By doing so, we may be able to work towards greater gender equality by encouraging – and providing opportunities for – mothers and fathers to share more equally in childcare.”

While taking more than three weeks leave did not necessarily improve a couple’s chance of staying together, Petts’ research found that couples were 29% less likely to break up when fathers took one week of leave and 25% less likely when they took two weeks of leave.

In Australia, 95% of primary leave takers are mums. Just 1 in 20 dads take primary parental leave. According to Parents at Work, men want to be more involved in the lives of their children, but over half of dads don’t take more leave because they can’t afford it.

Read: Australia could do better for new dads, says report (AMHF September 2018)

Take action for men’s health

Study: Couples are more likely to survive if fathers take family leave for newborns (Ball State University)

Read: How did Quebec get 4 in 5 dads to take parental leave?

Read: Australia trails the world in parental leave (AMHF)

Read: Want men to share parental leave? Just give them equality (The Guardian) 

White Paper: Advancing Parental Leave Equality (Parents At Work)

Website: Parents At Work

Insight Paper: Parental leave and gender equality (WGEA) 



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