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Fathers need paid parental leave too

Media release

Fathers need paid parental leave too

The Families Commission is renewing its call for four weeks paid parental leave for dads, based on the findings of two reports it released today.

Supporting Kiwi Dads research surveyed 1721 fathers in early 2009. The report provides a snapshot of the views of fathers about a range of issues related to their role as dads, including support for fathers. The second report is Heart and Head: Explanation of the Meaning of Fatherhood. University of Canterbury researchers Dr Jeffrey Gage, Associate Professor Ray Kirk and Professor Andrew Hornblow conducted in-depth interviews with 22 men about their role as dads.

Families Commissioner Gregory Fortuin says dads need paid parental leave just for them. Currently the father/partner is only entitled to two weeks unpaid leave. Mothers can also transfer up to 14 weeks of their own paid parental leave entitlement to the father/partner. However, almost half of the fathers surveyed said that they were unable to take any parental leave.

“We know that the initial bonding phase with a child is crucial for a child’s development. When a strong attachment is made the positive effects are felt throughout the child’s life,” Mr Fortuin says.

Researcher Dr Jeffrey Gage said that most fathers interviewed in the Heart and Head report immediately felt connected to their children.

“As the non-birth parent, a father ‘switches on’ to the responsibility and love that comes with the role. Paid parental leave would ensure dads have the time needed to develop that connection and give important support to the mother,” said Dr Gage.

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The range of fathers surveyed in Supporting Kiwi Dads illustrates the diversity of fathers in New Zealand today. Included were step-fathers, single fathers, separated dads, teenage parents, foster fathers, and fathers from a range of ethnic and social backgrounds.

Mr Fortuin said the report shows that fathers from all backgrounds are satisfied that they are doing well in their fathering role. They are generally warmer and more engaged with their children than their own fathers were.

“Overall fathers report that they are doing a great job, spend about 37 hours a week with their children, and are involved in a variety of aspects of their children’s lives, such as homework or changing nappies.”

Most fathers want to spend more time with their children.

“Fathers think they could do an even better job if they could spend more time with their children. The main barrier to fathers sending time with their kids is work, which illustrates the need for flexible workplaces.”

Some dads did not feel supported by child-focussed agencies, which were mainly geared towards supporting mums.

“Dads are also concerned that coverage in the media, and assumptions made in society, mean that their role was not valued.

“Stereotypes that all men are abusive or unsafe have meant that fathers have become nervous about doing normal things that dads need to be able to do – such as changing nappies in public.”

Fathers who had separated from the child’s other parent generally felt happy with the amount of time they were able to spend with their children.

“One in six single-parents are men, so there are actually a lot of single fathers with a full-time parenting role. And most separated fathers who don’t take on full-time caregiving are satisfied with the amount of time they get with their children.”

Eighteen percent of separated fathers said being apart from their children was a barrier to fathering, but most simply saw this as fact of life post-separation. About half of those separated fathers were dissatisfied with the time they spent with their children, either because of custody arrangements or because of ongoing relationship problems with their former partner.

Supporting Kiwi Dads (pdf)

ENDS

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