Fatherhood Institute report reveals dads have done more in lockdown and reaped the benefit. Now they’re launching a Time With Dad campaign to consolidate those gains
Working dads have become better fathers due to the lockdown experience. And they want more flexible working and working from home going forward. These are the top line findings from a huge new piece of research from the Fatherhood Institute.
BritainThinks surveyed 2000 dads for the work. The result is a report titled Lockdown Fathers; the untold story.
Researchers found that most dads spent more time with their children, built stronger relationships with them, and improved their parenting skills during the first Covid-19 lockdown. They grew in confidence as parents, gained greater insights into their partners’ caring roles, and did more housework.
The results of the research are broken down into a number of main findings.
More time together:
The figures were even higher among those partnered fathers who were at home full-time during lockdown. These findings are consistent with several time-use studies, including one from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found that, during the Spring 2020 lockdown, fathers almost doubled the number of hours in which they did some childcare from just over four to eight hours per day. Mothers’ equivalent input increased from almost seven to 10.3 hours.
Better parenting: More than two-thirds (65%) of partnered fathers reported a better father-child relationship following lockdown (rising to 73% among those who were full-time at home). Almost half (48%) left lockdown feeling more competent as a parent. And 42% were better able to keep calm and manage their tempers with their children. A small but significant minority (14%) felt less able to manage their tempers with their children.
Closer relationships: More than three-fifths (61%) of partnered fathers reported understanding their children better and feeling closer to them (64%) after lockdown. Almost all the rest (likely including some who had felt very close beforehand) reported no change. Only 2-3% reported closeness and understanding deteriorating.
Educational support: More than half the partnered fathers (57%) said that, following lockdown, they feel better equipped to support their children’s learning and education. The same was even said by 50% of the most disadvantaged – who were more likely to be working outside home during lockdown. Those fathers who had spent more time with their children during the lockdown were more likely to report improvements in their own mental wellbeing.
Black, Asian & Mixed Heritage fathers in two-parent households had even better experiences. They were more likely (29%) than white fathers (19%) to report a positive impact of lockdown on their mental wellbeing, to report increased closeness with their children (79% v. 61%) and to report improvement in their couple relationship from before to after lockdown.
Separated fathers had a more mixed experience.It depended largely on how much they were able to see of their children. During the Spring 2020 lockdown, 40% saw more of their children than before lockdown, and 46% less. Separated dads who saw less of their children were more likely to report worse mental wellbeing. Half of the separated dads questioned reported a co-operative relationship with their child’s other parent. One in four said that relationship ‘makes me happy’.
Most fathers said that they wanted more flexible (76%) and home-based (63%) working options post-pandemic, in order to continue being better fathers. As a result, the Fatherhood Institute is launching its ‘Time with Dad’ campaign to maintain the ‘lockdown positives’ of fathers spending more time with their children and supporting their learning.
Adrienne Burgess, Co-Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute said: “During lockdowns, fathers grew in confidence and competence, providing much more childcare and educational support. Post-pandemic, government, employers and trades unions should help them retain gains in home and flexible working, and schools should enlist dads to help in the huge educational ‘catch-up’ programme. Through our ‘Time with Dad’ campaign, we are building a space to develop new and innovative solutions.”
Ruth Maisey, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation which supported the research, said: “As lockdown ends, and businesses and offices reopen, employers will be making arrangements for their staff to return to work. We urge employers to consider policies which will improve the work-life balance for their employees, including fathers. We also hope that fathers will grasp this opportunity and negotiate the terms on which they return, for instance submitting flexible working requests, so they retain some of the positive changes brought about by lockdown.”
As part of the Time with Dad campaign the Fatherhood Institute has produced a list of policy goals.
You can read the full Lockdown Fathers report here.