Fathers, work and families in twenty-first century Britain: beyond the breadwinner model?

Lead Research Organisation: National Centre for Social Research
Department Name: Research Department


Family life and the role of fathers within the family have changed radically over the past few decades. A decline in the traditional 'nuclear' family model, with increasing divorce rates and increased re-partnering, has occurred at the same time as men have become more involved in the care of children. The changes in men's family roles are mirrored by changes in their economic activity and working patterns. The classic model where there was a 'male breadwinner' in full time employment and a 'female caregiver' not in paid work is no longer the norm and the changing cultural expectations on men to be more actively engaged in the care of children have influenced the development of work-family reconciliation policy.

There is a real need for more information about fathers; whilst we know that the picture of fatherhood in the UK is diverse, there is no single comprehensive source of information about men as fathers, their contribution and role in the family, involvement in childrearing, economic activity and contribution, relationship with children they do not live with and stepchildren they live with, and how these life patterns interact.

This study will bridge this information gap and establish the UK's foremost analysis about the lives of fathers, drawn from secondary analysis of large-scale datasets; Understanding Society, the European Labour Force Survey, the European Social Survey and the British Household Panel Study. Although principally focused on fathers in the UK, the study will also include international data to enable comparisons with countries with different labour market contexts and different social policies around the family and work.

In addition to providing the first comprehensive profiling of fathers in twenty-first century Britain, the study will:
-Examine which are factors associated with differences in fathers' paid work and family life - such as age and educational status of the father, number of children and partner's employment.
-Look at time trends in fathers' working patterns since the late 1990s - to explore whether changes in UK policy and the recession have led to a shift in how households arrange their paid work and care.
-Compare the UK with other European countries - to try and unpick which factors affect fathers' working patterns and levels of work-life conflict.

The study will be of benefit to both academic and non-academic audiences; early discussions with key stakeholders have shown that the study would be valuable in satisfying existing information gaps on fathers and informing policy development and practice. To facilitate the impact of this study we propose a range of written outputs and dissemination events including: publications in academic journals; an online resource which will house all the main research findings and will structure the information around the needs of the diverse stakeholders; a launch event for the study's findings and for the online tool; targeted briefings aimed at specific types of stakeholders; and presentations at UK and international academic conferences.

Planned Impact

Existing literature and scoping research demonstrates a clear need for comprehensive and accessible data on fathers, that those working across the areas of family policy, employment rights and work-life balance can refer to and rely on. A number of organisations who would benefit from this research and the specific ways in which they might use the data have been identified:

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
BIS has expressed interest in the research and strongly supports this application, as can be seen in the attached letter of support. One of BIS' core policy areas is the labour market and within that, flexible and family-friendly employment practices. BIS has identified that there are currently gaps in the evidence base on the impact of family-friendly policies and has stated that it expects this study to contribute to filling these gaps and to inform the development of family friendly policies in the UK.

NGOs and charities
Through our scoping work it is clear that various NGOs and charities would find real value in the outputs of this research. The Fatherhood Institute has stated that "this project will make a real difference to improving the evidence base for national policy and practice interventions with fathers, families and employers across the country" (see attached letter of support). They have identified this research as being directly relevant to the issues around fathers' lives that they are trying to address. The single parent charity Gingerbread has stated that its own in-house research highlighted a lack of information on single-fathers (see attached letter of support). Given that they rely on robust and thoughtful data analysis to inform their services, they have stated that the proposed research is highly valuable and would be directly useful to their work and the services they provide.

Preliminary discussions with other NGOs and charities have demonstrated that the proposed research would be valuable to the work of organisations in a range of different areas and with different policy focuses including: work-life balance, relationships, employment and gender equality. The work-life balance charity Working Families stated the proposed research is highly relevant to its work on policy and employment especially given that its own research has highlighted that (in comparison to research on mothers) there is relatively little research on fathers and their experience of work-life balance. Furthermore, the Fawcett Society, the relationship support charity Relate, representatives from the Diversity in Business Council of Conference Board and from the Trade Union Congress (see attached support statement) have all given their support to the application and have stated that the research would be of real use and interest to them.

Other beneficiaries
In addition to those we have been in contact with, there are a number of others who may benefit from the data and outputs produced from this research. The detailed profiling data on fathers has the potential to benefit user organisations and political institutions (e.g. House of Commons All Party Group on Fathers) working with specific subgroups of fathers (e.g. BME fathers, young fathers, fathers living in disadvantage, fathers of a particular religion) since the current data on these subgroups are so poor. This new data has the potential to enable organisations working in this area to understand better the specific challenges, work patterns and models of family life experienced by fathers in the subgroups they work with and how these compare to fathers in the wider population.

Advisory Group
As detailed in the Pathways to Impact attachment, we have commitment from BIS and a number of charities and organisations to sit on an Advisory Group for this project. The Advisory Group will be utilised to ensure that the outputs from the study are relevant and can be used in a way which will ensure impact on policy and practice.


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Aldrich M The Resilience of Families in the Recession in Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) Workshop - Lifespan, lifestyle and decision-making theme

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Aldrich M (2018) Blog Family Friendly Working

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Aldrich M (2014) UK Fathers' Working Hours in Modern Fatherhood: Fathers, Work and Families in twenty-first century Britain seminar

Description The key findings from the project are outlined in correspondence to the four key objectives outlined in the research proposal.

Aim 1:
We have produced a comprehensive profiling of fathers in 21st Century UK, using data from the Understanding Society, wave 1 (2010-11), EU-Labour Force Survey (2001-2011) and the European Social Survey (2004 and 2010). This profiling has focused on vital statistics about fathers in the UK (including those with resident and non-resident children), as well as an analysis of fathers' working hours, families' employment patterns, father involvement with children, their relationships with partners, and their experiences of work-family conflict.

Our novel 'father-centric' analysis of non-residential fatherhood has enabled us to outline four different 'types' of non-resident fathers, which could be a useful analytical tool. These are 'Engaged' fathers, 'Less Engaged' fathers, 'Disengaged' fathers and 'Distance' fathers.

Aim 2:
We have explored factors associated with fathers' work patterns and family life. The most significant achievements have been in the area of fathers' employment patterns and in the area of non-residential fatherhood.

We identified a growth in dual full-time earner households, increasing hours of work of mothers in traditional 1.5 earner parent couple households and a growing proportion of households with non-standard patterns, which suggests both a convergence in economic provisioning within parent couple households and increased diversity, particularly in the post economic crisis period.

We investigated which factors are associated with paternal involvement in family and found that the quality of the couple relationship is linked with how involved the father is with the child. Understanding that the couple relationship is important not only for the parents themselves but also for child involvement is useful to relationship practitioners and also potentially policy makers.

Aim 3:
UK coupled fathers working full-time had the highest average working hours across EU in 2001, and second highest (behind Greece) in 2011. Our evidence shows that between 2001-2011 UK fathers' average weekly work hours have declined; shift work and working at weekends and night has declined and part-time working has increased.

We also investigated how the 2008 recession has affected UK fathers' experience of underemployment (wanting to work longer hours than those currently worked) and found that coupled fathers experienced less underemployment than men in other circumstances.

Aim 4:
We compared UK fathers with those in seven other purposively-selected EU countries.

We found that the sole male breadwinner is in retreat, maternal employment is rising, and those countries hit hardest by the recession have seen an increase in atypical working practices (Spain and Greece have seen a tripling of sole female breadwinners).

We found that UK fathers reported levels of work-family conflict which were consistently the highest among the countries in the study (with the exception of Greece post-economic crisis), while fathers in the Netherlands reported consistently the lowest levels. This highlighted the importance of labour market structures, such as the strength of labour rights and the norms and practices around the length of the working week.
Exploitation Route The project has been very successful in engaging a diverse group of academic researchers, policy makers, politicians and practitioners with the findings of the study.

Academic impact:
Our project website (www.modernfatherhood.org) contains briefing papers, comprehensive statistics, presentations, and blogs from stakeholders. It has had over 32,000 users and over 88,800 page views. We continue to add materials to the website and have recently improved its layout having secured additional funding.

We presented findings at national and international conferences. Two journal papers have already been published (the Journal of Social Policy and the Work, Employment and Society), one is under review with the Cambridge Journal of Economics and two are being prepared.

Non-academic impact:
We organised two dissemination events and delivered three briefing sessions for policy makers (DWP, BIS and Cross-Government Family Analysis Group) and received very positive feedback. Study findings informed "Fathers and work-family policy" section of Family Futures Digital Book commemorating the UN twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. We engaged throughout the project with the Fatherhood Institute who publicised our findings and used them to campaign against the "bedroom tax". We worked with other members of our Advisory Group including policy makers, NGOs, journalists and academics. Our findings were widely reported in the media and on specialised websites such as Conversation and Society Central (see e.g. the recent Observer Editorial (https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2017/feb/12/fathers-help-create-happy-families-but-the-state-neglects-their-role). Most recently, we organised two round tables, in May and November 2017, as part of UCL's Grand Challenge of Justice and Equality seminar series, and presented findings from our 2017 briefing paper (on inequalities in parental leave and flexible working) at one of them.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.modernfatherhood.org
Description Modern Fatherhood website We have developed a website www.modernfatherhood.org, where we publish policy briefing papers from the project, slides from conference presentations, blogs from stakeholders and press releases. Visitors to the website are invited to leave comments. The website has been 'live' since July 2013 and we are continuing to add materials to it (e.g. a new briefing paper added in 2017; a set of four new briefing papers added in 2016). Since its launch, the website has had over 36,500 unique users and over 75,000 page views. It was referenced in a 2017 Observer editorial (https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2017/feb/12/fathers-help-create-happy-families-but-the-state-neglects-their-role). Policy During the period of our award, 2012-14, we organised two dissemination events and delivered three briefing sessions for policy makers (DWP, May 2014, BIS July 2014 and the Cross-Government Family Analysis group, September 2014). For DWP we presented on non-resident fathers; parental employment for BIS and fathers' work in Europe for the Cross Government Family Analysis Group, Our main dissemination event, in July 2014, chaired by Rt Hon Charles Clarke, attracted around 70 people, and enabled cross-sector dialogue about the challenges of active fatherhood. All received very positive feedback from stakeholders telling us how useful the evidence was to them in their work, including: 1)Adrienne Burgess, Co-CEO of the Fatherhood Institute: "I am currently using your research in the report I am writing for Nuffield [Foundation], and have used information from it when briefing at least half a dozen journalists. I have also referred journalists directly to the website. It's invaluable - the most up to date material we have, and brilliantly analysed and presented". 2)Christopher Muwanguzi, dad.info/Family Matters Institute: "We used the research findings to inform some of the changes we made with dad.info. The findings were combined along with our own research to give us better insight of how to make sure the site appealed to men and fathers. [...] The Evidence base adds quality to our courses, and also gives practitioners a better understanding of how they should engage with men in their parenting role." 3)Jon Rallings, Barnardos: "I can cite two instances of where I have used your stats. One was the presentation I made to the APPG for Parenthood around Jan/Feb [2015] time. The other was in a press release we put out on Fathers day around the hardships fathers are facing in which we used some figures from the study to calculate the number of young dads (18-21) who might potentially be affected by the changes to housing benefit. You are the only source of data really." More recently OECD's analysts have noted the influence of the project's evidence in understanding "the diversifying patterns of families across the OECD" (Thevenon, 2016) and EU Commissioner Vera Jourova invited O'Brien to provide evidence on incentivizing fathers to take leave at the Round Table meeting "New start for working parents" (Brussels, February 2016). In the UK our evidence informed the Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee on fathers and parenting: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EqualOpportuntiesCommittee/General Documents/20_March_papers.pdf. The Fathers and Parenting Report published by EOC May 2016, based upon the evidence considered in these meetings http://www.parliament.scot/S4_EqualOpportunitiesCommittee/Reports/eor-14-01w.pdf. O'Brien's earlier keynote at the Scottish Year of the Dad conference, in February attended by 181 people, helped frame policy, particularly through her collaboration with Fathers Network Scotland, the local mover and shaker NGO. http://www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/research_conferen ce_who_loves_you_daddy. Our work was cited in 'Young Dads: overlooked, undercounted, but out there' a report by Rt Hon. David Lammy MP, published by 4Children, which draws attention to young fathers, collates statistics about them and suggest how services available to young fathers could be improved forming part of a response to the DWP's Family Stability review in 2014. (http://www.4children.org.uk/Resources/Detail/DavidLammy-essay-Young-Dads). In February 2017, we submitted evidence to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on Fathers in the Workplace. In February 2018, our statistics on proportion of mothers and fathers not eligible for parental leave (from the 2018 briefing paper) , were quoted by Tracy Brabin, MP, in a House of Commons' debate. Throughout our work has been linked on websites as a useful resource for user groups and lobbyists for marginalized fathers in society e.g. the KnowledgeBank a website of key resources curated by OnePlusOne with input from Relate, Marriage Care and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (http://knowledgebank.oneplusone.org.uk/page/12. The Fatherhood Institute used our evidence in their campaign highlighting that children of non-residential fathers may be disadvantaged by the "bedroom tax". We have sought to engage with the media from the Daily Mail to the FT and specialist websites such as Conversation and Society Central and as a result our research findings have had lots of media coverage.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Citation in David Lammy's report
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact This report by Rt Hon. David Lammy MP, published by 4Children, draws attention to young fathers, collates relevant statistics about them and suggest how services available to young fathers could be improved.
URL http://www.4children.org.uk/Resources/Detail/David-Lammy-essay-Young-Dads
Description Contributed to wide ranging book Changing Families (2018, Brand, T. (ed.)) used in teaching A level and college students
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Our research was used in this wide ranging textbook designed for A level and college students. "Changing Families" (2018), edited by Tina Brand, Volume 329, published by Independence Educational Publishers, Cambridge, ISBN-13: 978 1 86168 780 7
Description Prof M O'Brien submitted written evidence as part of The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on Fathers and the Workplace Feb 2017
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description Response to the DWP's Family Stability review in 2014
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description The Women and Equalities Commission enquiry on Fathers and the workplace. The research on which the scope of the enquiry is based (Modern Families Index 2017, by Working Families) cites our research three times as evidence.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-com...
Description Tracey Brabin MP cited our work as evidence in a ten-minute rule bill to the House of Commons (21/02/18; second reading TBA) pressing for shared parental leave and pay to be extended to self-employed and freelance workers
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-02-21/debates/FEFA3F8C-D199-4B07-9538-EDE7BD6674B1/Shared...
Title Modern fatherhood 
Description No single authoritative definition of a 'father' status exists. A status definition can be based on a number of different dimensions including: presence or absence of a child in a man's fertility history; age and dependency of the child; residency of the child with father, relationship between the child and father (whether biological, adoptive, foster or step) and the partner relationship status of the man (whether married, cohabiting, separated, divorced). We developed syntax for this typology for Understanding Society and the European Labour Force Survey and are currently working with the relevant data archives to develop the syntax and associated derived variables. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We achieved a balance between a simple reductive approach (e.g. a binary split between 'fathers' and 'non-fathers') and an overly elaborated set reliant on too many dimensions). Whilst the resulting 4 fold typology is not comprehensive, it contributes to concept-driven analysis of men's economic and family behavior in large scale data sets. 
Description Financial Times August 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Professor Sarah Connolly was interviewed for an article "Working parents need AI to lighten the load" in the Financial Times, on 5 August 2018. The article references findings of our research funded under this grant and the further development of the research since the grant period finished.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ft.com/content/d4fc6402-958e-11e8-b747-fb1e803ee64e
Description Our work has been linked as a useful resource for user groups on the KnowledgeBank website curated by OnePlusOne with input from Relate, Marriage Care and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our work has been linked on websites as a useful resource for user groups. This includes the KnowledgeBank website of key resources curated by OnePlusOne with input from Relate, Marriage Care and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR). http://knowledgebank.oneplusone.org.uk/page/12/. Our publications they list as useful resource include:
- Speight S et al. (2013) Men and fatherhood: Who are today's fathers? Briefing paper on www.modernfatherhood.org
- Poole E et al. (2013) What do we know about non-resident fathers? Briefing paper on www.modernfatherhood.org
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://knowledgebank.oneplusone.org.uk/page/12/