Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare

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Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare | Seminar and report launch Tuesday 13th September

Modern parents want to do things differently, but parental leave policies make it hard to share care, new study finds Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare, a major mixed-methods study funded by the Nuffield Foundation, compared couples in which childcare responsibilities are shared equally, or assumed primarily by the father, with more traditional arrangements.

Drawing on survey data from a nationally representative sample of British parents, as well as in-depth interviews with couples with young children, the study found that:

  • Both fathers and mothers in all the parenting arrangements researched want to spend time with their children and be closely involved in their lives.
  • Most couples feel forced to identify a main carer with reduced involvement in paid work, and a main breadwinner with reduced involvement in childcare.
  • Couples who shared care and paid work equally had higher levels of satisfaction (with mothers in these arrangements particularly satisfied).
  • Mothers in traditional arrangements reported lower wellbeing, relationship quality and self-esteem.
  • Both men and women who were the main breadwinners tended more than others to feel they had been forced into their role.
  • The study was conducted by Prof Ruth Gaunt, Dr Ana Jordan, Prof Anna Tarrant, Nicola Chanamuto, Dr Mariana Pinho, University of Lincoln (UK), Dr Agata Wezyk, Bournemouth University (UK) and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
  • It will be launched at a public seminar, hosted by the Women’s Budget Group on 13th September. Find out more and join the webinar here


Professor Ruth Gaunt from the research team said:

“Current parenting leave policies restrict couples’ choices and steer them into a traditional division of family roles despite their beliefs, preferences, and parenting

arrangements. Parents want to see more part time and flexible working and leave policies and childcare that enable both parents to return to work after parenting leave.”


Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said:

“We know that modern parents want to do things differently, sharing responsibility for care and earning more equally with their partners. This study shows that too many feel pushed into a split between breadwinner or carer by out of date leave policies, lack of flexible work and inadequate childcare.”


Unpaid care is at the heart of women’s economic inequality. Women do 60% more unpaid care than men, meaning they have less time for paid work, so they earn less, own less and are more likely to be poor. We can change this through leave policies, flexible work and childcare that reflect parents’ wishes and would be better for children.

Download the full report here and read more about our project here

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