Supporting Involved Fatherhood

The evidence that involved dads positively influence their children’s health, social success and academic achievements is compelling and robust.

Parents can also impact their children in negative ways. Children whose dads show signs of depression in their first year are three times more likely to experience behavioural problems, while four year-olds with obese or overweight dads are up to 15 times more likely to be overweight four years later.

Taking action to help dads stay involved and stay healthy is better for men and better for their children. For mums, involved fatherhood can help advance gender equality by expanding women’s career opportunities and improving their economic security.

Three of the main barriers that prevent men being actively involved in their children’s lives are:

  • Sex/gender differences in parenting roles
  • Lack of social supports for dads
  • Being a separated dad

While biology clearly shapes the roles that mums and dads play, men’s involvement in their children’s lives is also shaped by the parental leave policies of the country they live in. According to parenting campaigners, Australia’s paid parental leave is the least generous among OECD countries. Research shows that:

  • 95% of primary parental leave takers are mums
  • 85% of fathers take less than 4 weeks leave
  • In the private sector, fewer than 30% of parents who take leave are men
  • Most mums taking leave get 18 weeks pay, while most dads get two weeks
  • 60% of private sector employers do not offer leave for dads
  • Private employers who offer dads leave, give mums seven times more leave
  • 3 in 10 dads experience discrimination related to parental leave and return to work despite
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to have requests to work flexibly rejected.

One in two separated dads spend little or no time with their children after separation. Around 75% of separated dads say they want to be more actively involved, and 50% of separated mums also say they want dads involved more. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the four main barriers to separated fathers being more involved in their children’s lives are as follows:

  • 1 in 2 say the demands of work is a key barrier
  • 1 in 3 say the child’s mother is a key barrier
  • 1 in 3 say distance/cost of travel is a key barrier
  • 1 in 6 say a court-ordered arrangement is a key barrier

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