· News

The extent of working fathers' stress levels revealed by new research

Dads on a low income feel less stressed if they are able to work flexibly, new research reveals.

Working fathers who have one or three children are more stressed than those who have two and fathers who do more housework are less stressed. And fathers whose partners work full-time have a better sense of wellbeing than those whose partners work part-time.

Research from Working Families and Lancaster University School of Management has uncovered new findings about today’s working fathers. The two-year research project has spoken to more than 1,100 working fathers to find out about how they combine work and family life.

Lead researcher from Lancaster University Management School, Caroline Gatrell, said: "The way we ‘do’ family has changed – not only because mothers are more likely to go out to work but also because today both mothers and fathers want close relationships with children as they are growing up.
"Many more dads than in the past want to be involved with their children and this is the case whether they are in partnerships/marriages, or separated/divorced. And mums who go out to work might require dads to work flexibly so childcare can be shared. Our research shows how employers would be wrong to assume that mothers are always primary carers. Among some parents childcare is shared equally than in the past and in some cases dads are the main or only carer. It’s time social attitudes changed to recognise big changes in family practices in the 21st century."
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: "Our research to date shows that working fathers are very often seriously stressed: pressures of combining work with being a dad are squeezing many men to feel more psychologically stressed and less effective at work.
"Flexible working is a good way to alleviate some of this stress, and men who have a better balance between work and home life tend to be happier and perform better at work. We would urge employers to look at these findings, especially in these uncertain economic times when maximising performance is vital, to see if there is anything they can do to help their employees who are fathers."

The survey also found a substantial number of fathers are now full- or part-time ‘home dads’ – for example, 21% of fathers of under-fives are solely responsible for childcare at some point during the working week, 43% of dads of school-aged children provide care before/after school and in just over 4% of English two-parent families with a five-year-old, the mother works full-time and the father works part-time or is not employed. In another 6%, fathers live alone with their children on a full-time or half-time basis.