Family Ties

The benefits of a mother spending time with her newborn are well-documented, but those bonding benefits apply to new dads, too.

Fathers who take parental leave from work to spend time with a newborn child are significantly less likely to see their marriage or relationship end within a few years, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social Policy in January. The study, conducted at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, found that couples were 25 percent less likely to end their relationship in the first six years following the birth of a child when fathers took leave as compared with couples where fathers did not take leave.

“Results suggest that increasing access to parental leave for fathers — and encouraging fathers to take this leave — may help to increase family stability,” said sociology professor Richard Petts, the study’s lead author. “Overall, our study suggests that fathers’ leave-taking may help to promote more stable parental relationships in the U.S., identifying an additional benefit of fathers’ leave-taking for families.”

Many fathers face stigma and even career penalties for taking such periods of leave, Petts said, but that shouldn’t be the case.

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

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