5 facts about today’s fathers
As the American family changes, fatherhood is changing in important and sometimes surprising ways. Today, fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in caring for them and helping out around the house. And the ranks of stay-at-home fathers and single fathers have grown significantly in recent decades. At the same time, more and more children are growing up without a father in the home.
The changing role of fathers has introduced new challenges, as dads juggle the competing demands of family and work. Here are some key findings about fathers from Pew Research Center reports.
1Fewer dads are their family’s sole breadwinner. Among married couples with children under age 18, dual-income households are now the dominant arrangement (60%). In 1960, only one-in-four of these households had two incomes; 70% had a father who worked and a mother who was at home with the kids.
The public has mixed views about these changes. Most (62%) say that a marriage where the husband and wife both have jobs and both take care of the house and children is preferable to one where the husband works and the wife takes care of the home and family (30%). At the same time, a majority (74%) says having more women in the workplace makes it harder for parents to raise children.
2Dads’ and moms’ roles are converging. As the share of dual-income households has risen, the roles of mothers and fathers have begun to converge.
In 1965, fathers’ time was heavily concentrated in paid work, while mothers spent more of their time on housework or childcare. Over the years, fathers have taken on more housework and child care duties—they’ve more than doubled time spent doing household chores and nearly tripled time spent with children since 1965.
Meanwhile, women have increased their time spent doing paid work. Significant gaps remain, but there is clearly a more equal distribution of labor between mothers and fathers these days.
3Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers. Pew Research surveys have found that, just like mothers, today’s fathers find it challenging to balance work and family life. Working fathers are as likely as working mothers to say that they would prefer to be home with their children, but that they need to work because they need the income: 48% of working fathers with children under age 18 say they’d prefer to be home while roughly the same share say, even though it takes them away from their family, they want to keep working.
Among working fathers, 50% say that it is difficult for them to balance the responsibilities of their job and their family. This is roughly equal to the share of working mothers who told us they have difficulty balancing work and family. About the same share of working dads (34%) and moms (40%) say they “always feel rushed” in their day-to-day lives.
4Today’s dads say they spend at least as much time with their kids as their own fathers spent with them. In a 2012 Pew Research survey, 46% of fathers and 52% of mothers said they personally spend more time with their children than their own fathers and mothers spent with them.
Very few said they spend less time with their children than their parents spent with them. Even so, many fathers feel they’re still not doing enough. Nearly half of all fathers (46%) said they spend too little time with their kids. Only 23% of mothers said the same.
5More fathers are staying at home to care for kids. Today, 7% of U.S. fathers with children in their household do not work outside the home—that’s roughly 2 million dads. Although stay-at-home dads represent only a small fraction of fathers, their share is up from 4% in 1989.
The reasons they are staying home are changing, too. Much of the increase in stay-at-home fathers can be attributed to more fathers caring for their family. In 2012, 21% of these dads said their main reason for staying home was caring for home or family—four times the share in 1989. Then, more than half (56%) reported being home due to illness or disability. In 2012, only 35% cited illness or disability as their primary reason.
Note: This is an update of a post originally published on June 12, 2014.
Kim Parker is director of social trends research at Pew Research Center.