How Are The Roles Of American Dads And Moms Changing?

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  • The women’s movement of the 60s and 70s opened more opportunities for women, more mothers entered the workforce and started being both a homemaker and an income-earner.
  • Modern-day fathers come in various forms according to the American Psychological Association. No longer are they limited to being the breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family, they are also becoming more involved in childcare.
  • The number of families with traditional parental roles has significantly dropped from 70% in 1960 down to only 31% in 2011.

The American family dynamics have been going through drastic shifts in the past decades particularly when it comes to the role of the mother and the father. Centuries ago, girls were primarily groomed to be homemakers and boys to be the breadwinners. The term “bring home the bacon” was a responsibility previously placed on the shoulders of men. They were expected to be the sole breadwinner of the family while the mother stays home to take care of the children.

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Shifting Roles And The Women’s Movement

But as early as the 1950s people have been seeing a shift in the role of moms and dads particularly in the US. More women started entering the workforce during the second world war to help build ships and airplanes and this trend continued long after WWII. After getting a taste of financial freedom, many mothers stayed in the workforce even after the war. They started taking on dual-roles in the family—that of a homemaker and an income-earner. Meanwhile, men slowly took on more childcare responsibilities as their spouses spent more time at work. People have become more aware of these shifts that various studies about the changing roles of parents were published during the decade. A study titled “The Changing Role of Father and Mother in Contemporary American Society” published in The American Catholic Sociological Review in October 1950 detailed these drastic shifts in roles that have become apparent among American families in the 50s.

The women’s movement of the 60s and 70s saw the emergence of more reformers and revolutionaries who questioned the traditional homemaker role of women. They demanded equal rights and opportunities among others. While many women marched in protest on streets, others like Ruth Bader Ginsburg pierced through the previously exclusive-for-men legal arenas to fight for equal access to work and education. This period ushered in an influx of mothers who were finally given access to jobs in every industry contributing to the US economy, companies were required to increase the number of women in their workforce, and it became illegal to discriminate against pregnant women.

More Women Are Becoming Bread Winners

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The US family continued to undergo shifts as more mothers entered the workforce throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. In the past several decades, people saw the emergence of dual-income families where both parents work to earn income for the family. A study by the Pew Research Center has found a significant increase in the number of mothers who work since the 60s. In 2011 the research firm found that six in ten married couples have dual incomes or have women who work. The number of families with traditional parental roles, the father as the breadwinner and the mother as the homemaker, has significantly dropped from 70% in 1960 down to only 31% in 2011.

 Mothers are veering away from their homemaker-only roles that many are even out-earning their husbands becoming the main breadwinner in the process. The Pew study has found that the number of mothers who earn more than their husbands has increased from 4% in 1960 to 23% in 2011. This drastic shift can be due to an increased employment rate among women,  increased work opportunities, and rising educational levels among mothers. More mothers are pursuing higher education, either going back to school after having children or pursuing higher education and having children later in life. “In 2014, 80% of women ages 40 to 44 with a Ph.D. or professional degree had given birth, compared with 65% in 1994,” Pew Research has found. There has also been an increase in the number of mothers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees compared to those in previous decades. This increase in many mothers’ level of education has resulted in a large percentage becoming bread-winners or income-earners at home.  

Fathers Are Becoming More Involved At Home

With mothers spending more time in the workplace and earning more money for the family, fathers are spending more time at home. They are taking on a more active role in raising their children and are getting more involved in helping out around the house. According to a Pew Research in 2016, fathers reported spending a minimum of eight hours on childcare which is significantly higher than the 2.5 hours fathers used to spend on childcare in 1965. Aside from that, they reported spending 10 hours doing household chores, up from four hours in 1965.

Today, the modern-day father comes in various forms according to the American Psychological Association. “Today’s father is no longer always the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. He can be single or married; externally employed or stay-at home; gay or straight; an adoptive or step-parent; and a more than capable caregiver to children facing physical or psychological challenges,” the association explains.

It is becoming more common to see fathers helping children with their homework, cooking in the kitchen, doing the laundry, and taking their kids to school. And this is proving to be beneficial since numerous studies have found that the increased involvement of fathers contributes to the well being of their children. According to research a father’s involvement in child care contributes to the child’s overall life satisfaction, in that children with more involved fathers become more resistant to stress and frustration, and display superior problem-solving skills among many others.

The Rise Of The Stay-At-Home Dad

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In recent years, there has also been an increase in the number of fathers who do not work and instead stay home to take care of the family, up to 2 million in 2012 to be exact according to a Pew study. The number of fathers who stay at home to take care of the children has nearly doubled since 1989.

Many of these fathers have taken a step back to allow their spouses, who have more earning potential, to take over and be the breadwinner, others want to spend more time with their children and become more involved with raising the kids, and many are reluctant to allow someone else--a caregiver or a baby sitter--to take care of the child. There are also those who choose to stay home with the kids because of the skyrocketing costs of childcare. It has become more financially viable for the mother who has better earning potential to be the breadwinner and the father to stay home with the kids instead of both of them working and paying for childcare. This has been a continuing trend as women’s economic contribution to the family increases.

The role of the mother and the father will continue to shift in the next few years. No longer are dads and moms confined to traditional roles set by societal expectations set for men and women. Parents are increasingly becoming partners who pitch in and help each other either by doing more work outside the home or taking on more childcare responsibilities and switching roles throughout depending on the family’s circumstances at a certain time.  

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