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Nation/World

December 20, 2013

Detached dads mostly a myth, parenting survey says

CHICAGO — The detached dad, turning up his nose at diapering and too busy to bathe, dress and play with his kids, is mostly a myth, a big government survey suggests. Most American fathers say they are heavily involved in hands-on parenting, the researchers found.

The nationally representative survey shows fathers’ involvement has increased slightly since the government first asked in 2002, coinciding with research since then that bolsters the benefits of hands-on fathering.

The results are encouraging and important “because others have found the more involved dads are, the better the outcomes for their children,” said researcher Jo Jones of the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. She co-authored the report released today.

More academic success, fewer behavior problems and healthier eating habits are just some of the ways fathers’ involvement has been linked with children’s well-being.

“Times have changed,” said Robert Loftus, 34, of Yonkers, N.Y. He quit a six-figure sales job a year ago to care for his two young children while his wife works full time. “We’re trying to rethink our priorities,, and family seems to be the No. 1 priority, whereas in the past, maybe people were more focused on career.”

The results build on volumes of research showing changes in the American family since the baby boom years and before, when women were mostly stay-at-home moms and dads were the major breadwinners. As those roles shifted, so did the view that moms are the only nurturers.

University of Chicago sociologist Jennifer Bellamy, who also studies fathering, said some old stereotypes persist, “that dads are sort of the co-pilots in their families,” absent or less involved than moms.

But she said the survey confirms that fathers “are quite involved in a variety of different and important ways.”

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