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Sharing of childcare and wellbeing outcomes: an empirical analysis

Walthery, Pierre, Chung, Heejung (2021) Sharing of childcare and wellbeing outcomes: an empirical analysis. UK Cabinet Office, 43 pp. (KAR id:85872)


Executive Summary

This report summarises the main findings of the second part of our study, ‘How do within-family caring arrangements impact parental and children’s outcomes’. This study consists of an empirical analysis of the relationship between the time spent on childcare by mothers and fathers in two parent households and a series of well-being outcomes, using the 2015 UK Time Use Survey. Here we distinguish between three dichotomies of the time spent caring for children based on the literature (see part 1 of this report, Chung, 2021) namely:

-Care conducted as either a primary (main activity) or secondary activity (alongside another primary activity such as paid work)

-‘Solo’ care (conducted without the presence of the other parent) or ‘joint’ care (conducted with another parent present)

-Routine (i.e. feeding, cleaning, transporting) vs enriched (i.e. playing, reading, studying with child) care

The report first provides descriptive patterns of parental childcare. We then compared these according to maternal working-time (i.e. full vs part-time) as well as the age of the youngest child in the household. Key conclusions are as follows;

-Women are more likely to provide care during any given day and spend more time providing care compared to men. A large proportion of fathers, on the other hand, did not report any care-giving. Even among those who do report care giving in their time-diary, men only spend about half as much time in providing care compared to women. This gap is much larger when we take into account those who do not report providing any care.

-This gender gap is especially noticeable during the week day, for caring alone, and routine care. In other words, when men take part in care, it is mostly done jointly with their partners, during the weekend, providing enrichment care.

-This gender gap was especially pregnant among parents with pre-school aged children (under 5) where mothers were spending two to three times as much time providing care, especially on weekdays, and for routine and solo care. The gender gap is reduced significantly especially once children reach secondary school age. Fathers are less likely to be involved in routine childcare in households where mothers work part-time, but those who are involved in routine and solo childcare tend to do for longer periods of time than in households where both mothers work full-time.

-Mothers’ employment patterns – i.e. full time vs. part-time, did not matter much in the amount of care provided as a primary activity. However, part-time working mothers spent more time providing care as a secondary activity or being with children whilst doing other activities (co-presence).

-Fathers’ employment patterns also did not change the amount of time they spent with children. However, full-time working fathers tend to spend more time providing enrichment care compared to their part-time counterparts, especially during the weekend, whilst part-time working fathers reporting providing more routine care and spent more in the presence of children (co-presence).

We analyse the association between the absolute and relative share of care carried out by parents and seven distinct well-being instruments, namely, anxiety, overall life satisfaction, work-life balance satisfaction, satisfaction with leisure, satisfaction with social life, relationship satisfaction, and finally overall daily enjoyment. The final instrument, enjoyment, represents an innovation over traditional well-being instruments as it is based on episode-level records reported in a 24h time diary instead of an overall evaluation by respondent of a given aspect of their life.

Whereas past studies have analysed typologies of childcare such as those described above in terms of the amount of time spent by parents, the contribution of the present work consist in examining how within-household sharing of care between mothers and fathers is associated with these well-being outcomes.

We found clear evidence that an increased share of childcare provided by fathers is significantly associated with a number of positive well-being outcomes, primarily for mothers, but also for fathers themselves. Some evidence was also found of a positive effect of the time spent with their parents on well-being of children aged 8 to 14.

Controlling for the socio-demographic characteristics of parents, it was found that:

-Mothers in households where fathers take on a significant share of enriched care tend to report greater satisfaction with their work-life balance, and lower levels of anxiety than in those in which they are not involved. This is also true of households where a greater share of the childcare is jointly done by both parents. At the same time however, mothers tend to report feeling more anxious where fathers take on more than 40% of the routine childcare.

-Fathers report a greater satisfaction with their social life when they significantly engage in primary or routine care (i.e. more than 40% of the total amount of childcare carried out in the household); and a higher level of mean daily enjoyment when they significantly engage in enriched care. At the same time however, fathers who engage in significant amount of solo and secondary childcare relative to mothers, tend to be significantly less satisfied with their relationship.

-For children aged 8-14: no significant association was found between their daily enjoyment and the time spent with either their mother, their father, or both parents jointly. There are indications that when mothers reported having a rushed day, the enjoyment levels of children were lower.

We also found that:

-Fathers working flexible hours or working at the weekend for any reason are more likely to be involved in childcare than those who do not work in these ways.

-The association with father’s involvement in childcare and well-being outcomes are unlikely to have a linear relationship. Rather, being involved in primary childcare (compared to not being involved) mattered in enhancing fathers’ overall enjoyment.

-Both mothers and fathers equally enjoy higher levels of well-being when they care for children at the weekend rather than on a weekday.

These results of the analysis reinforce the body of evidence showing that fathers’ involvement in childcare and a more equal division of care between mothers and fathers can potentially increase well-being outcomes for parents. The report also provides some reflections on the changes expected due to COVID-19 in terms of future parenting patterns.

Item Type: Research report (external)
Uncontrolled keywords: childcare
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women > HQ767.9 Children. Child developement
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Heejung Chung
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2021 09:59 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 02:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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