Primary Caregiving Fathers

Background

My work on fathers who are primary caregivers largely focuses on representations of these fathers in the public sphere. All of this work was undertaken with Sarah Hunter, whose PhD thesis focused on media representations and self-presentations of primary caregiving fathers.

A full list of my research publications on the topic of primary caregiving fathers can be found further down the page, and are drawn on in the applications of research findings sections below.

Applications of research findings for practitioners

Our analysis of popular texts for and by primary caregiving fathers found that whilst on the surface these appear to promote primary caregiving fathers, they often draw on normative ideas to do this. The analysis found that fathers were framed as usually being financial providers, and thus discussed difficulties with giving up paid employment, and the status that goes with this. In several of the books, fathers were framed as being primary caregivers due to accident or circumstance and/or it being temporary. In addition, the fathers’ masculinity was asserted in other ways (e.g. drinking or sports), rather than via caregiving. When caregiving was discussed, it was framed in a masculine way, and unique from mothering, yet fathers were often positioned as inferior caregivers to mothers. These findings highlight the need for practitioners to provide continued support for all fathers in heterosexual relationships to have the chance to be involved as primary caregivers in their child(ren)’s lives.

The analysis of newspaper articles focused on primary caregiving fathers provided contradictory accounts. They advocated for primary caregiving fathers, compared the past and present, and discussed barriers to father involvement. Overall, whilst the articles promoted primary caregiving fathers in principle, they also justified continued inequalities in parenting due to practical considerations. The practical considerations drawn on in the articles were economic barriers (where ‘good’ fathers are positioned as financial providers), mothers behaving as ‘gatekeepers’, and struggles and difficulties. These findings have implications for practitioners, who need to consider the broader picture of structural gender inequality (including in terms of levels of pay for paid employment) and how this impacts on the possibilities for fathers to be primary carers.

Applications of research findings for (intending) parents and families

The analysis of popular texts for and by primary caregiving fathers found that they both promoted primary caregiving fathers, yet drew on normative ideas to do this. In particular, fathers were framed as usually being financial providers, and thus discussed difficulties with giving up paid employment, and the status that goes with this. In several of the books, fathers were framed as being primary caregivers due to accident or circumstance and/or it being temporary. Caregiving was framed in a masculine way, and unique from mothering, yet fathers were often positioned as inferior caregivers to mothers. These findings suggest that more fathers should consider how involved they want to be in their children’s lives, and how this is another valuable way of providing for their child that extends beyond finances. In addition, fathers could consider if they would choose to be primary caregivers, rather than only coming to this role due to circumstance (such as via job loss).

The analysis of newspaper articles focused on primary caregiving fathers provided contradictory accounts. Overall, whilst the articles promoted primary caregiving fathers in principle, they also justified continued inequalities in parenting due to practical considerations. The practical considerations drawn on in the articles were economic barriers (where ‘good’ fathers are positioned as financial providers), mothers behaving as ‘gatekeepers’, and struggles and difficulties. These findings highlight the need for fathers consider the broader picture of structural gender inequality (including in terms of levels of pay for paid employment) and how this impacts on their possibilities to be primary carers.

Resources for practitioners

Australian

Australian Psychological Society – Engaging fathers (by Lucy Tully)

Resources for (intending) parents and families

Australian
Fathers and caregiving – government sources

Australian Government – Paid Parental Leave Guide – 2.2.5 Who is a Primary Carer for PLP?

Australian Government – Paid Parental Leave Guide – 2.2.7 Primary Carer is Person Other than Birth Mother for PLP Purposes

Fathers and caregiving – additional sources

Stay at Home Dads Australia

Forums

Bubhub – Dads Chat

Essential Baby – Dad’s Zone

Raising Children Network forum – Dads

International

National At-Home Dad Network

Books/sources with personal stories

Benner, S. (2013). Life is short, laundry is eternal: Confessions of a stay-at-home dad. Ann Arbor, MI: Spry Publishing.

Byrnes, P. (2013). Captain dad: The manly art of stay-at-home parenting. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press.

Greagen, C. (2014). Reservoir dad: He’s got it covered. Sydney: Bantam.

Kulp, A. (2013). Dad or alive: Confessions of an unexpected stay-at-home dad. New York: Penguin.

Mastin, M. J. (2010). Cinderfella: My life as a stay-at-home dad. New York, NY: Black Bird Literary Company.

Noonan, J. (2016). Life between naps: Stories from a full-time unemployed, stay-at-home dad. MorningNoonanNight Publishing.

Reservoir Dad

Robertson, B. (2012). Hear me roar: The story of a stay-at-home dad. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Schatz, J. (2009). Daddy, where’s your vagina? What I learned as a stay-at-home dad. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corporation.

Picture books

Sean Taylor, The Guardian – Top 10 dads in picture books

Shelley White, The Globe and Mail – Where are the stay at home dads in children’s picture books?

My research publications

Hunter, S.C., Riggs, D.W., & Augoustinos, M. (Online First, 2017). Constructions of primary caregiving fathers in popular parenting texts. Men and Masculinities.

Hunter, S.C., Augoustinos, M., & Riggs, D.W. (2017). Ideological dilemmas in accounts of primary caregiving fathers in Australian news media. Discourse, Context & Media, 20, 116-123.

Hunter, S., Riggs, D.W., & Augoustinos, M. (2017). Hegemonic vs. a caring masculinity: Implications for understanding primary caregiving fathersSocial and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(3), 1-9.

Other research publications (selected)

Australian

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Persons not in the labour force, Australia, September 2013 (cat. no. 6220.0). Canberra: ABS.

Baxter, J. (2017). Stay-at-home dads (facts sheet). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Grbich, C. F. (1987). Primary caregiver fathers—a role study: Some preliminary findings. Australian Journal of Sex, Marriage & Family, 8(1), 17-26.

Grbich, C. F. (1992). Societal response to familial role change in Australia: Marginalisation or social change? Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 23(1), 79-94.

Grbich, C. (1994). Women as primary breadwinners in families where men are primary caregivers. Journal of Sociology, 30(2), 105-118.

Grbich, C. F. (1995). Male primary caregivers and domestic labour: Involvement or avoidance? Journal of Family Studies, 1(2), 114-129.

Grbich, C. F. (1997). Male primary caregivers in Australia: The process of becoming and being. Acta Sociologica, 40(4), 335-355.

Russell, G. (1999). Primary caregiving fathers. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), Nontraditional families (2nd ed., pp. 35-52). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Stevens, E. (2015). Understanding discursive barriers to involved fatherhood: The case of Australian stay-at-home fathers. Journal of Family Studies, 21(1), 22-37.

Winter, J., & Pauwels, A. (2006). Men staying at home looking after their children: Feminist linguistic reform and social change. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16(1), 16-36.

International

Burkstrand-Reid, B. A. (2012). Dirty Harry meets dirty diapers: Masculinities, at-home fathers, and making the law work for families. Texas Journal of Women & the Law, 22(1), 1-44.

Casper, L. M. (1997). My daddy takes care of me! Fathers as care providers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

Chesley, N. (2011). Stay-at-home fathers and breadwinning mothers: Gender, couple dynamics, and social change. Gender and Society, 25(5), 642-664.

Coskuner-Balli, G., & Thompson, C. J. (2013). The status costs of subordinate cultural capital: At-home fathers’ collective pursuit of cultural legitimacy through capitalizing consumption practices. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(1), 19-41.

Doucet, A. (2004). “It’s almost like I have a job, but I don’t get paid”: Fathers at home reconfiguring work, care, and masculinity. Fathering, 2(3), 277-303.

Doucet, A. (2006). Do men mother?: Fathering, care, and domestic responsibility. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Doucet, A. (2006). “Estrogen-filled worlds”: Fathers as primary caregivers and embodiment. Sociological Review, 54(4), 696-716.

Doucet, A. (2009). Gender equality and gender differences: Parenting, habitus, and embodiment (the 2008 porter lecture). Canadian Review of Sociology, 46(2), 103-121.

Doucet, A., & Merla, L. (2007). Stay-at-home fathering: A strategy for balancing work and home in Canadian and Belgian families. Community, Work & Family, 10(4), 455-473.

Dunn, M. G., Rochlen, A. B., & O’Brien, K. M. (2013). Employee, mother, and partner: An exploratory investigation of working women with stay-at-home fathers. Journal of Career Development, 40(1), 3-22.

Fischer, J., & Anderson, V. N. (2012). Gender role attitudes and characteristics of stay-at-home and employed fathers. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 13(1), 16-31.

Gaunt, R. (2013). Breadwinning moms, caregiving dads: Double standard in social judgments of gender norm violators. Journal of Family Issues, 34(1), 3-24.

Geiger, B. (1996). Fathers as primary caregivers. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Kramer, K. Z., Kelly, E. L., & McCulloch, J. B. (2015). Stay-at-home fathers: Definition and characteristics based on 34 years of CPS data. Journal of Family Issues, 36(12), 1651-1673.

Latshaw, B. A. (2011). Is fatherhood a full-time job? Mixed methods insights into measuring stay-at-home fatherhood. Fathering, 9(2), 125-149.

Latshaw, B. A., & Hale, S. I. (2016). “The domestic handoff”: Stay-at-home fathers’ time-use in female breadwinner families. Journal of Family Studies, 22(2), 97-120.

Liong, M. (2017). Sacrifice for the family: Representation and practice of stay-at-home fathers in the intersection of masculinity and class in Hong Kong. Journal of Gender Studies, 26(4), 402-417.

Marshall, K. (1998). Stay-at-home dads. Perspectives on Labour and Income, 10(1), 9-15.

McCann, D. (2006). Stay at home dads: How fatherhood is evolving in Irish society. Master’s thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Medved, C. E. (2016). Stay-at-home fathering as a feminist opportunity: Perpetuating, resisting, and transforming gender relations of caring and earning. Journal of Family Communication, 16(1), 16-31.

Merla, L. (2008). Determinants, costs and meanings of Belgian stay-at-home fathers: An international comparison. Fathering, 6(2), 113-132.

Petroski, D. J., & Edley, P. P. (2006). Stay-at-home fathers: Masculinity, family, work, and gender stereotypes. The Electronic Journal of Communication/La Revue Electronic de Communication, 16(3-4).

Radin, N. (1988). Primary caregiving fathers of long duration. In P. Bronstein & C. P. Cowan (Eds.), Fatherhood today (pp. 127-143). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Radin, N. (1994). Primary-caregiving fathers in intact families. In A. E. Gottfried & A. W. Gottfried (Eds.), Redefining families. New York: Plenum Press.

Ranson, G. (2013). Who’s (really) in charge? Mothers and executive responsibility in ‘non-traditional’ families. Families, Relationships and Societies, 2(1), 79-95.

Roberts-Holmes, G. P. (2009). “People are suspicious of us”: A critical examination of father primary carers and English early childhood services. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 29(3), 281-291.

Rochlen, A. B., McKelley, R. A., Suizzo, M.-A., & Scaringi, V. (2008). Predictors of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being, and life satisfaction among stay-at-home fathers. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 9(1), 17-28.

Rochlen, A. B., McKelley, R. A., & Whittaker, T. A. (2010). Stay-at-home fathers’ reasons for entering the role and stigma experiences: A preliminary report. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 11(4), 279-285.

Rochlen, A. B., Suizzo, M.-A., McKelley, R. A., & Scaringi, V. (2008). “I’m just providing for my family”: A qualitative study of stay-at-home fathers. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 9(4), 193-206.

Smith, C. D. (1998). ”Men don’t do this sort of thing”: A case study of the social isolation of househusbands. Men and Masculinities, 1(2), 138-172.

Solomon, C. R. (2017). The lives of stay-at-home fathers: Masculinity, carework and fatherhood in the United States. Bingley: Emerald.

West, A. F., Lewis, S., Ram, B., Barnes, J., Leach, P., Sylva, K., . . . FCCC project team. (2009). Why do some fathers become primary caregivers for their infants? A qualitative study. Child: Care, Health and Development, 35(2), 208-216.

Zimmerman, T. S. (2000). Marital equality and satisfaction in stay-at-home mother and stay-at-home father families. Contemporary Family Therapy, 22(3), 337-354.

Zimmerman, T. S., Northen, L. P., Seng, S. C., & Grogan, J. W. (1999). Marital equality when fathers stay at home. Initiatives, 59(1), 45-63.