Nationally, 3% of married couples with children under the age of three are families with an employed mother and a stay-at-home father. However, this underestimates the changes in men's family roles, as increasing numbers of men are involved in child-rearing tasks that had been reserved to women in earlier generations, such as solo care for the child while the mother is at work, diapering and feeding young children, as well as playing with and supervising young children.
The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) has followed over 1,300 children from birth. Among the married or partnered couple families in this sample, over 20% include fathers who were the solo caregiver while the mother was at work (N=242 men when the children were 5 months old). These fathers may also hold jobs (either on opposite work schedules, or with flexible hours or place), but their involvement in the day-to-day care of a young child represents a significant shift in fatherhood.
This is a study of the relation between fathers’ high levels of involvement in childrearing and various family outcomes: quality of the marriage, the mother's report of social support, the quality of the mother-child relationship and of the father-child relationship, and the quality of family interactions when the children are in elementary school.
In addition, here in Massachusetts, the WCW Work, Families & Children Research Group conducted brief interviews with 14 fathers who were solo caregivers while the mother was at work. We asked the men about their experiences caring for their child, and whether they would recommend it to other men (and why, or why not). The team will analyze these interviews and re-contact these fathers to follow-up, now that their child is 18, to learn more about their experiences as involved fathers and stay-at-home fathers.