Fatherhood can have transforming effect on men's lives

April 20, 2000

Despite the enormous social changes affecting family and parenting over the past three decades, fatherhood still offers powerful incentives and important social benefits for many men, a Penn State study says.

"Our research reveals clear and compelling differences between fathers and non-fathers in their social and familial connections and their work lives," says Dr. David J. Eggebeen, associate professor of human development and family studies.

Men who live with their biological children are more involved in community and service organizations and more connected to their own siblings, adult children and aging parents through phone calls and visits than other types of fathers and non-fathers. Moreover, they take the good provider role seriously and invest more hours per week in work and career than non-fathers and fathers of adult children, according to Eggebeen.

"Once men no longer live with their children, the transforming power of fatherhood diminishes considerably, even for biological fathers," he adds. "Biological fathers who live apart from their children as a result of divorce, separation, remarriage or simply because their children move away stay closer to siblings and parents than non-fathers but in other respects lead the lifestyles of non-fathers -- their recreational activities are more self-focused and they are more inclined to immerse themselves in their jobs. These differences hold true regardless of the father's marital status, socioeconomic factors, race or age."

Eggebeen is lead author of the paper, "Does Fatherhood Matter to Men?," presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Los Angeles. His co-author is Chris W. Knoester, graduate student in the department of sociology. The researchers used data from the National Survey of Families and Households, drawing a sample of 5,226 men aged 19 to 65. This survey gleaned extensive data regarding personal, family and socioeconomic histories, as well as kinship and social networks.

American fatherhood is undergoing changes that are both rapid and contradictory, almost paradoxical. At the same time that a "new fatherhood" is emerging and an appreciation is growing for the father's role in children's lives, fewer men are experiencing fatherhood, at least in the traditional sense, says Eggebeen, a research associate with Penn State's Population Research Institute, and a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Development.

"Recent demographic analyses show that 6 out of 10 adult males were living with children in the mid-1960s, but that this was the case with only 45 percent of men by the late 1990s," he notes. "Women's experience with parenthood has also declined in the last few decades, but men's retreat from parenthood has been more pervasive.

"Nevertheless, for men who do embark on fatherhood, the impact on their lives is all-encompassing. For instance, those men who live with their biological or adopted children are significantly more likely to belong to service clubs and school-related organizations. Children are the mechanism that lead men who are fathers to become a cub scout leader, scout master, community league basketball coach, little league coach and school board member," Eggebeen says.

As parenting becomes paramount, fathers will tend to be less involved in organizations that focus only on personal recreation, leisure pursuits or self improvement. They will also be less inclined to visit friends or co-workers, go to a bar or play on sports teams.

"Furthermore, the place of religious practices and priorities in one's life may get reevaluated as children arrive and parents are confronted with the tasks of teaching values to children," Eggebeen notes. "With the exception of men who are fathers of adult children, we found that non-resident fathers, stepfathers and men who are not fathers attend church significantly less than men who live in the same household with their children.

"One factor not significantly affected by fatherhood is physical and psychological health," he says. "Married men without children are no more likely than married men with children to report depression or problems with drinking or drug use. Neither do they express less satisfaction with life or give a poorer rating of their overall physical health."
-end-
This research was partially supported by core funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

EDITORS: Dr. Eggebeen is at 814-865-2655 and e5x@psu.edu by email; Mr. Knoester is at 814-865-0172 and knoester@pop.psu.edu by email.

Penn State

Related Parenting Articles from Brightsurf:

Perfectionists may be more prone to helicopter parenting, study finds
The negative effects of over-parenting on children are well documented, but less is known about why certain people become helicopter parents.

The effects of smartphone use on parenting
Parents may worry that spending time on their smartphones has a negative impact on their relationships with their children.

Extended parenting helps young birds grow smarter
The current study analyzes social and life-history data from several thousand songbirds, including 127 corvids, the family that includes jays, crows, ravens, and magpies.

Education the key to equal parenting rights for same-sex couples
Same-sex marriage may have been given the green (or rainbow) light in many countries around the world, but it appears there are still some entrenched attitudes in society when it comes to same-sex parenting.

Parenting elective lets physicians spend more time with their babies
A novel, four-week parenting rotation designed for pediatric residents has dramatically increased the amount of time resident parents can spend at home with their babies, according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Parenting stress may affect mother's and child's ability to tune in to each other
A study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has revealed the effects of the stress of parenting in the brains of both mothers and their children.

Evolution from water to land led to better parenting
The evolution of aquatic creatures to start living on land made them into more attentive parents, says new research on frogs led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath.

Keep calm and don't carry on when parenting teens
In a new study, University of Rochester psychologists find that mothers and fathers who are less capable of dampening down their anger are more likely to resort to harsh discipline aimed at their teens, and that fathers in particular were not as good at considering alternative explanations for their teens' behavior.

Most parents say hands-on, intensive parenting is best
Most parents say a child-centered, time-intensive approach to parenting is the best way to raise their kids, regardless of education, income or race.

One in 4 parents not prepared for 'parenting hangovers' this holiday season
A quarter of parents of young children who drink alcohol on special occasions do not think about limiting how much they drink or whether they'll be able to take care of their child the next day, according to a new national poll.

Read More: Parenting News and Parenting Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.