June 15, 2017

6 facts about American fathers

Elsiana Ruiz, 8, gets help learning to ride her bike from her father, Sinahy, at a playground in Aurora, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Elsiana Ruiz, 8, gets help learning to ride her bike from her father, Sinahy, at a playground in Aurora, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Fatherhood in America 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 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.

1Dads see parenting as central to their identity. Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Some 57% of fathers say this, compared with 58% of mothers. Most dads seem to appreciate the benefits of parenthood – 54% report that parenting is rewarding all of the time, as do 52% of moms. Meanwhile, 46% of fathers and 41% of mothers say they find parenting enjoyable all of the time.

2Dads are much more involved in child care than they were 50 years ago. In 2015, fathers reported spending, on average, seven hours a week on child care – almost triple the time they provided back in 1965. And fathers put in about nine hours a week on household chores in 2015, up from four hours in 1965. By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 15 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2015.

While fathers are spending more time with their children, many feel they’re still not doing enough. Roughly half (48%) say they spend too little time with their kids. Only 25% of mothers say the same. Dads are also less positive about their own parenting than are moms. Just 39% of fathers say that they are doing a “very good job” raising their children, compared with 51% of mothers.

3It’s become less common for dads to be their family’s sole breadwinner. About a quarter of couples (27%) who live with children younger than 18 are in families where only the father works. This marks a dramatic change from 1970, when almost half of these couples (47%) were in families where only the dad worked. The share of couples living in dual-earner families has risen significantly, and now comprises the majority of two-parent families with children.

The public has mixed views about these changes. While only a small share (18%) of adults say women should return to their traditional roles in society, breadwinning is still more often seen as a father’s role than a mother’s. About four-in-ten (41%) say it is extremely important for a father to provide income for his children; just 25% say the same of mothers. And while about three-quarters of the public says having more women in the workplace has made it harder for parents to raise children, a majority (67%) says this has made it easier for families to live comfortably.

4Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers. Just like mothers, many of today’s fathers find it challenging to balance work and family life. About half of working dads (52%) say it is very or somewhat difficult to do so, a slightly smaller share than the 60% of working mothers who say the same. And about three-in-ten working dads (29%) say they “always feel rushed,” as do 37% of working mothers.

Working fathers are also about 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 dads vs. 52% of moms). Working dads and moms are also equally likely to say that even though it takes them away from their families, they want to keep working (49% vs. 42%).

5Despite changing gender roles, many still perceive mothers as better equipped than fathers to care for children. When it comes to caring for a new baby, 53% of Americans say that, breast-feeding aside, mothers do a better job than fathers; only 1% of Americans say fathers do a better job than mothers. Another 45% say mothers and fathers do about equally well.

Among the majority of adults (59%) who say that children with two parents are better off when a parent stays home to tend to the family, 45% say it’s better if that parent is the mother, while just 2% say a child is better off if the father stays home. About half (53%) say it doesn’t matter which parent stays home.

6Seven-in-ten adults say it’s equally important for new babies to bond with their mother and their father. About one-fourth (27%) say it’s more important for new babies to bond with their moms, and 2% say it’s more important for new babies to bond with their fathers. Women are slightly more likely to say that it’s important for new babies to bond with both parents (74% vs. 68% of men).

Among those who took time off to care for a new baby in the past two years, fathers took a median of one week off from work for this reason, compared with a median of 11 weeks for mothers. One factor that might contribute to this gender difference: About half of adults (49%) say employers put more pressure on fathers to return to work quickly after the birth or adoption of a new child, while 18% say employers put more pressure on mothers. One-third say employers pressure mothers and fathers about equally.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on June 12, 2014.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Work and Employment, Income, Marriage and Divorce, Family Roles, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure

  1. Photo of Kim Parker

    is director of social trends research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Gretchen Livingston

    is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous3 months ago

    I believe tgat Pew sets the standard for research. As a researcher, I feel I must comment on this clearly this left out the data for racial minorities.

  2. Anonymous3 months ago

    Kim and Gretchen (and others)
    As the premier research company in America with the top reputation for accuracy and honesty, I salute the dedication with which you execute your chosen work.

    Never before has truth been so important —as are those who labor to find and disseminate the truth.

    Richard McLean

  3. Anonymous1 year ago

    Jobs. Dad. School. Sister

  4. Anonymous1 year ago

    Father.s. Day. Dad. Yes.

  5. Anonymous1 year ago

    Parenthood is all about maturity and responsibility.
    Mature adults do not procreate children they don’t want
    or they can not afford to provide for.

    1. Anonymous3 months ago

      The problem is that the ability to procreate often comes before the maturity to make responsible decisions and knowledge of the costs associated with raising children, in particular of these choices have not been modeled for you. So we need reality based sex education and community support for young parents.

  6. Packard Day1 year ago

    Looking back on my own life with a father who was a six day a week private practice physician, I think his greatest contribution to me and my siblings was his role modeling of a steady professional work ethic. He may not have attended all of our athletic events, our music recitals, or took any of us fishing or camping, but he did demonstrate each day of his life what it meant to live, breathe, think, read, and above all practice medicine. In fact, he once told me that he never worked a day in his life once he had graduated from medical school…and I miss him still.

  7. Anonymous1 year ago

    It would be great for the father to spend more time with his children. Going to work and holding your baby for 20 minutes then wanting your video game or go to sleep at 9 just isn’t cool. I say this because being a white female dating a Mexican male all it comes down to is he comes home wants his dinner on the table plays with our daughter 20 to 30 minutes plays his game or watches a movie and goes to sleep wakes up goes to work in the morning. I’ve since her birth have gotten 4 hours a day of sleep at the most leaving 20 hrs to feeding bathing tummy time play time cooking and changing her diaper. It would just be nice if he helped at 3 or 4 in the am sooth her or take a interest in something other than sex or video games.

    1. Ahmad Jenkins1 year ago

      I wish I could spend more time with mine, I mean physically; we live in different states. Traveling is too expensive to spend time with them as much as we all would like. I use video games (especially online games for Playstation 3) to interact with my children outside of visits, and phone calls. In a way I envy you children’s father, he has an opportunity to engage with them everyday. :/

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      At least your child has you and your hard work. The fact that you describe your relationship with the father as only ‘dating’ might say a lot. It’s unfortunate that he’s not more invested in you and your daughter, but given his apparent view of his role in the home, it sounds like this man is but a child himself.

  8. Anonymous1 year ago

    Thanks Pew Research .The role and responsibilities undertaken by American dad and granddad are finest example of Yoga .Who can be better Teacher of citizenship than dads?

  9. Porter Sykes2 years ago

    It’s a good article with important information. It seems that time has brought a lot of changes to the home. Personally, and I know others may disagree, which is fine, I believe that the traditional home with a father caring for the material needs of the family while the mother stays at home is the best model. As it says above, parents often feel overwhelmed and that they never have enough time. I think both my parents were still pretty busy despite only having one working a job. Having my mom at home has been very beneficial to me. She’s one of my best friends, and so is my dad. I feel that having a parent work at home and care for the children creates the best environment for emotional and spiritual growth in the family with children that learn and love.

    1. Katharine Dickson1 year ago

      Families have higher household income when the mother is the primary breadwinner.

      Fathers should be the ones staying home if at all. pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/b…

      1. Anonymous3 months ago

        But I suspect that more likely explains why she is the primary breadwinner rather than be because she is the primary breadwinner. In families where there are two breadwinners, they both earn a lot less. Higher income means one less likely to work.

  10. Gustavo Marin2 years ago

    Great Job (: Really enjoyed your information.

  11. James patterson2 years ago

    i totally agree with this passage, but fathers should really spend more time with their kids

  12. Gerald FitzGerald3 years ago

    Have you studied the reasons why many children are raised by women without a father in the home. This is especially a problem among African-Americans, and a major reason for household poverty and poor school performance by the children. I would like to at least see what percentage of the men who impregnated the mother 1) never lived with the mother after the child was born, 2) did live with the mother and children for a period, but were missing because of a divorce or separation before the children reached age 18. Of those in each group, what percentage of the men who left the mother were unemployed, drug addicts and/alcoholics. We seem to always conclude the household and children do better when both parents are in the home, but don’t look at the problem in depth or get data that might lead to solutions.