“When paternity leave comes into the picture you have a situation where parents are home together. Those processes are able to develop for both the mother and the father – there’s time for fathers to bond with their children, there’s time for parents to figure out how to be parents together. It’s not so lopsided where mothers become the experts because they are there all the time. Mothers and fathers can develop that expertise together because they are both there at home at the same time. At this sort of crucial point where you figure everything out for the first time, I think it can really have a transformative effect. That is why we see that paternity leave matters for a whole host of outcomes.”
Episode Description: We begin by describing what paternity leave is and how it differs in countries worldwide. Richard’s research documents the profound positive impact that fathers taking time off at the birth of a child has both in the short-term and long-term. Improvements in children’s functioning have been noted up to 9 years after the leave. Regarding the ‘selection question’ – is it the leave or the father who chooses the leave – he is convinced that the data shows that the leave itself is a meaningful variable in these improved outcomes. We discuss the differential availability of leave between higher and lower-income workers and the relative absence of data on leave in same-sex marriages. We close with his sharing with us his personal story regarding paternity leave as well as the influence of how he was fathered in his own fathering.
Our Guest: Richard J. Petts, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sociology at Ball State University. His research focuses on the intersection of family, work, gender, and policy, with a specific emphasis on parental leave, father involvement, and workplace flexibility as policies and practices that can reduce gender inequality, promote greater work-family balance, and improve family well-being. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Council on Contemporary Families, an organization devoted to disseminating the latest research on American families. He has published extensively in academic journals, and his work has been featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. You can learn more about his research by visiting his website www.richardpetts.com and by following him on Twitter, @pettsric
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