Shaping Expectations About Dads as Caregivers: Toward an Ecological Approach

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A growing number of men are embracing childcare responsibilities traditionally associated with women, such as swaddling and singing to a fussy infant to coax her into slumber; preparing a child’s meals; cleaning messes made by a child; doing a child’s laundry; and managing an older child’s after-school schedule, which might include craft or baking projects, running errands together, accompanying the child to sports practices or dance classes, or helping with homework. The number of “stay-at-home dads” in the United States has grown rapidly to approximately two million. A 2012 study found that fathers comprised approximately sixteen percent of all stay-at-home parents. Meanwhile, fathers employed full-time outside the home tend to devote more time to childcare after work compared with fathers from previous generations. Despite these changes, however, mothers still shoulder a much larger share of childcare responsibilities, and our cultural environment reinforces this pattern.

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