Men’s participation in unpaid care - A review of the literature
3. BARRIERS TO MEN'S GREATER PARTICIPATION IN CARE
Barriers to greater participation in care by men are numerous and range from the visible and clearly significant to the hidden and seemingly minor. However, together, these barriers form a formidable system that may discourage many men from engaging in greater levels of care.
The barriers to men's greater participation discussed in this section include:
- biology and the time of first childbirth
- workplace factors such as working hours, workplace cultures and occupational characteristics, as well as the gender pay gap
- the impacts of various government policies and laws, such as paid parental leave, laws impacting on separated fathers (including custody decisions and child support) and the impact of the criminal justice system
- not residing with children (i.e. non-resident fathers)
- women's preferences for undertaking care
- the attitudes and skills of professional services
- the support of men in settings such as playgroups
- structural barriers to men's care, such as the placing of infant changing facilities in women's rest rooms
- culture and ideology
- a lack of 'official' advocates for men as carers in the policy arena.
3.1 Biology and the time around the first birth as a critical juncture for care
The need for women to manage pregnancy, recover from childbirth and establish breastfeeding means that men often begin parenthood in a secondary role. This need is reflected in legislation, with both New Zealand (for example, New Zealand's paid parental leave scheme) and other countries acknowledging the role of biology (such as the ILO's convention on maternity leave).
Research indicates that the impact of biology in limiting men's care for their newborn children in the short term may establish a gendered pattern of care that continues after biological imperatives have receded and thus may impact on men's caring for children throughout their dependent years. As such, the time of the birth of a first child is a critical juncture for the division of both care and paid labour force participation for men and women.
The arrival of the first child often leads to a more traditional sharing of tasks in the household. Cowan and Cowan (2000) have shown that gender becomes more salient during the transition to parenthood, while Singley and Hynes (2005:377) note that the transition to parenthood is:
...an especially critical juncture in the life course of many couples. During early parenthood, many couples adopt a more traditional gender split in family roles, either temporarily or more permanently.
They further note that gender exerts an influence on mothers' and fathers' work arrangements during early parenthood:
At the cultural level, new mothers and fathers must engage with cultural ideals that define "good" mothering and fathering as qualitatively different. ... this has traditionally meant that women provide intensive caregiving and men provide economic support. During the transition to parenthood, couples are involved in constructing their new social roles as mothers and fathers. ...thus, through their own self-definitions and their interactions with others, individuals within couples create gender difference during early parenthood.
A significant body of research supports the theory that the introduction of children into the household is a pivotal point when the division of care and paid work becomes gendered. The Department of Labour (2007:19) evaluation of parental leave, for example, found that:
While many of the mothers and fathers may have strived for equality in both paid and unpaid work before having a child, pregnancy and the birth of a child often reinforces traditional gender roles.
Similarly, the OECD (2007a) note that many of the differences in employment outcomes for men and women can be related to the period of family formation.
Bernhardt, Noack and Lyngstad (2008), in their analysis of the division of housework in Norway and Sweden, argue that the presence of children in the household strongly reduced the actual sharing of housework, a finding that corresponds to earlier findings by Bianchi et al (2000) that the arrival of the first child often leads to a more traditional sharing of tasks in the household. They cite a Swedish study by Ahrne and Roma (1997) that classified couple households into egalitarian, semi-egalitarian, conventional and patriarchal, based on degree of sharing of household tasks. Couples without children were found to be the most egalitarian, with almost three-quarters were classified as egalitarian or semi-egalitarian. However, three-quarters of couples with children of school age were conventional and patriarchal families. Bernhardt et al (2008:277) argue that a dramatic change in gender equality in the home occurs when the first child is born, as:
...it is the woman, not the man, who changes her attachment to the labour market after childbirth, first by taking most of the parental leave and, when returning to her job, by working part-time (at least until the child is in school). These circumstances tend to either create or strengthen an already existing asymmetrical relation between the parents.
As such, the gendered division of labour following birth often results in women's continued greater responsibility for childcare and men's lesser participation in care across the life course. These differences also flow through to variations in labour force participation by gender. Gornick and Meyers (2008:315) state that "childbirth (or adoption) is the moment at which men's and women's working lives begin to diverge most radically".
In contrast to unpaid caring work, paid work appears to be changing by becoming less affected by biology. Jobs that require 'brawn' have been declining rapidly in industrialised countries, while those requiring 'brains' or 'soft skills' have been increasing (Reich, 1993; OECD, 2007b). This is one factor behind the rise of women's employment in recent decades.
3.2 Workplace factors
It is worth noting that the workplace barriers to providing care that men face are also faced by women carers, with this particularly for those who are providing care to relatives or friends, rather than to children. However, in their study of employees combining work and eldercare, Davey and Keeling (2004:8) point out that "it is primarily women rather than men who are hindered by the responsibility and burden of caring for older relatives".
A significant body of literature indicates that long hours in paid work are a major barrier inhibiting equality between men and women in both unpaid care and labour force participation. Long hours of work lessen the availability of men to engage in care, and research indicates that men who work very long hours are less likely to engage in a variety of specific care activities. Gornick and Meyers (2008:318) argue that the persistence of long weekly hours among male workers is "a formidable obstacle to greater involvement in the daily tasks of caring for children", while Kitterod and Pettersen (2006) contend that fathers' long working hours mean that men do not have much time available to undertake unpaid work.
The vast majority of men are employed in full-time work, with more than a third of these working 50 or more hours each week (Fursman, 2008). Of all those who work long hours, three-quarters are men. This indicates that the impact of long working hours in New Zealand may affect significant proportions of men with care responsibilities. Certainly, 2001 Census data indicated that many fathers with young children worked long hours. In this year, 37 per cent of fathers aged 25-34 with a child under 5 worked 50 or more hours per week. In contrast, 7.9 per cent of comparable mothers worked these hours (Callister, 2003b).
A study by the Department of Labour found that those who work the longest hours are less likely to be able to participate in other activities such as spending time with family (Department of Labour, 2006). More than a third (38 per cent) of those working more than 60 hours a week reported that work often made it difficult for them to get home on time, with 20 per cent of this group reporting that work often had an impact on them spending time with family members.
Similarly, the Work, Family and Parenting Study, conducted by the Ministry of Social Development (2006), found that those who worked long hours reported missing out of some of the rewarding aspects of being a parent because of work. Parents also reported having family time that was less enjoyable and more pressured, losing their temper, yelling at their children or increasing their use of physical discipline as a result of work stress (Ministry of Social Development, 2006).
In a large UK sample of 9,592 children, Tanaka and Waldfogel (2007) found that long work hours were associated with significant reductions in fathers' involvement with their young children. When compared to fathers working standard hours, fathers who worked long hours were 17 per cent less likely to look after their babies, 18 per cent less likely to change diapers, 22 per cent less likely to feed their babies and 10 per cent less likely to get up at night to care for their babies. Similarly, in their comparison of France and the UK, Gregory and Millner (2007:75) argued that organisational working time policies and practices significantly influenced men's involvement with their children, with long working hours "put[ting] a brake on men's availability for and involvement with their children".
Jacobs and Kelley (2006), in their study of couples with preschool children, found that the more hours fathers worked outside the home, the less they were involved in childcare, and that the amount of responsibility for children as well as the time spent with children were predicted by the hours fathers worked. Similarly, Aldous, Mulligan and Bjamason (1998) found that the more hours fathers were employed, the less fathering they did.
Haas and Hwang (2005), in their Swedish study of fathers' time spent with children following parental leave, found that fathers' work hours were significantly correlated with six out of nine childcare and relationship variables that measured father involvement in childcare. Their study used Lamb's (1987) typology of responsibility, accessibility and engagement, as described above, to assess fathers' involvement with children. They found that the more hours fathers worked, the less responsibility they took for childcare, the fewer hours they spent with children on workdays and the less they were engaged in specific childcare tasks. Haas and Hwang concluded that fathers' long working hours were "a formidable barrier to fathers' sharing childcare" (Haas and Hwang, 2005:14).
A number of studies have highlighted long working hours as impeding men's ability to participate in care by contributing to the gendered divisions of labour force participation and unpaid work. Hook (2006:643), in her analysis of paid and unpaid work in 20 countries, concluded that:
Long standard and maximum working hours may encourage specialization by requiring exhaustive hours of the primary breadwinner, putting the breadwinner in an advantaged bargaining position, and making adherence to traditional gender ideology relatively easy.
Similarly, Himmelweit and Land (2007:26) argued that:
...(long) hours provide one of the main stumbling blocks to promoting equality between fathers and mothers in both caring responsibilities and labour market opportunities. Many women are restricted to low paid part-time employment because long hours of full-time employment are incompatible with the long hours that their partners work. This restricts both the father's ability to take part in caring for their child and the mother's available time for employment and her ability to take up labour market opportunities. The same applies to those with caring responsibilities for older people: fulfilling or even sharing these is difficult for those working long hours.
In line with this, Aldous et al (1998) found that the greater number of hours women worked in the paid labour force, the more husbands were involved with young children, supporting the interdependent relationship between participation in care and paid work for both men and women.
Baxter (2007) argues strongly, however, that working hours do not necessarily act as a significant barrier to the participation of men in care. Using a sample of 3,268 children from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, she analysed the time fathers spent with children and fathers' working hours and found that fathers' involvement only decreased when they worked 55 or more hours each week, and even then, there was only a small reduction in the time spent with children. As such, the differences between full-time employed fathers working longer and shorter hours were quite small. In addition, Baxter notes that, even among fathers working standard hours, there were some fathers who were less involved in children's activities, while among those with the longest hours, there were fathers who were heavily involved with their children's activities. She concludes that the number of hours worked is just one indicator of fathers' availability to their children and that how fathers spend their non-work time and the degree to which they make themselves available to help with child-rearing tasks or to interact or develop father-child relationships is likely to vary with factors other than those measured by working hours.
It is commonly reported that fathers work longer hours than non-fathers; however, Dermott (2006) shows that this correlation is problematic because of the presence of other variables. She notes that the age of parenthood commonly coincides with the period that is also key for career progression and stabilisation, and uses analysis of two major surveys to show that fatherhood status is not a good predictor of the number of hours worked. Rather, when other variables were taken into account, the effect of fatherhood status became insignificant. As such, Dermott concludes that attributing the differences in the average working hours of fathers and non-fathers to parenthood status ignores the fact that the two groups differ in other aspects. However, Dermott's argument is focused on the difference between men by parenthood status, a finding that does not refute the fact that many men - both fathers and non-fathers - work long hours, leaving limited time for care activities.
Workplace culture remains a major barrier to men's greater participation in unpaid care, with this highlighted in both New Zealand research and the international literature. Workplaces remain structured around the 'ideal worker', with Appelbaum, Bailey, Berg and Kallberg (2002) noting that employers still feel entitled to "unencumbered workers" who function as if they have no care responsibilities. They argue:
Under this model, anyone - male or female - can hold a full-time job provided they conform at work to employers' notions of the ideal worker. The ideal worker is available to work full-time, works mandatory overtime or long hours as needed, and does not take time off for child-bearing or child-rearing responsibilities... Care work is to be fitted in without impinging on the employee's availability for work (Ibid:126-127).
Workplace culture and employer attitudes are cited internationally as barriers to taking up entitlements that aim to encourage men's greater participation in care, including in the Nordic countries, which are commonly held up as the pinnacle in gender equality with regard to gender equity in the care of children.
The impact of workplace culture in New Zealand is apparent in the Department of Labour (2006) study of work-life balance. This study found that workplace culture made it more difficult for respondents to achieve work-life balance, with 59 per cent of respondents reporting that the attitudes of supervisors, managers, colleagues and co-workers were an impediment to them achieving the balance they desired.
Workplace cultures and values that reinforce the separation of work and family life have a major impact on whether men are able to participate in unpaid care. In part, this is because, even when family-friendly work arrangements are available, such cultures prohibit their use, as to take advantage of these arrangements would be to signal a lack of commitment to work.
Bittman et al (2004), in his review of men's uptake of family-friendly work arrangements, found a number of workplace barriers faced by men that reflected the power of the ideal worker norm. These included: doubts about the legitimacy of men's claims to family responsibilities; negative attitudes on the part of immediate supervisors; and informal practices and taken for granted assumptions. In addition, employers, supervisors and senior managers thought that breaks or reductions in working hours could irreversibly damage men's careers (Bittman et al, 2004).
Duvander et al (2005:12), in their evaluation of the use of parental leave in Sweden, reported that:
Fathers often mention the workplace and employers' attitudes as reasons to not use the parental leave and it seems that small, private, male dominated workplaces inhibit parental leave use for fathers.
Albrecht et al (1999) found that employers in Sweden interpreted men taking parental leave as signalling a lesser commitment to their careers and responded by penalising those who took significant amounts of leave. In contrast, because virtually all Swedish women take substantial leave following childbirth, their leave-taking behaviour did not signal anything to their employers.
Similarly, Haas and Hwang (2008) quote a 2005 Swedish study that found that a majority of human resources professionals believed that men who took leave to care for children were less career-oriented. In an earlier study, Haas, Allard and Hwang (2002) found that men's use of parental leave was significantly affected by organisational culture, including the company's commitment to caring values, the company's levels of 'father friendliness', the company's support for women's equal employment opportunity, fathers' perceptions of support from top managers and fathers' perceptions of work group norms that rewarded long hours at work rather than performance. When the culture was perceived to be flexible and adaptive in responding to fathers' desire to take time off to care for children, men were more likely to take leave and to take more days of leave. Haas et al conclude that, within the sample they studied, organisational culture was the most important predictor of men's use of parental leave, tied in importance with men's advocacy of shared parenting (Haas et al, 2002).
The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) in the UK highlights workplace culture as a barrier specifically to men's participation in care, with this reaching beyond the use of family-friendly work arrangements. Their report argues that:
This is about more than just family-friendly policies. It includes issues such as how comfortable fathers feel discussing their family commitments in the workplace and how acceptable it is to leave early in order to pick up the children from school, or to spend time with them in the evenings (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2003:5).
The EOC further argues that the pervasiveness of such cultures in the workplace results in men regarding the need to reconcile work and care as their personal responsibility, with this reducing their expectations about whether particular work-life practices could be made available in their workplace. As a result, men's expectations and use of specific family-friendly policies and practices are low despite high demand from parents for an improved balance between work and family (Ibid).
One notable aspect about a number of the most recent studies of workplace culture and its effect on men's participation in care is that much of the research has been carried out in Sweden, a country that is often held as the ideal for policies promoting the participation of men in childcare. These studies highlight the significance of workplace culture as a barrier to men's greater participation in care by providing an example where, it could be argued, the government has attempted to remove many other barriers to men's participation.
Occupation and men's participation in care
The link between occupation and care opportunities and outcomes is very complex. Particular occupations can be a barrier to undertaking care work, but, equally, those who either want or need to be involved in caregiving may be attracted to particular occupations. As discussed, occupational segregation itself is associated with unpaid caregiving in the home, but also paid caregiving in the workforce.
As noted above, the research literature shows that it is not only occupation that matters, but also hours of work within that occupation. Where the work is carried out, when it is carried out (in terms of when during the day, the week and over the year) and whether the person is an employee or self-employed can also be important - in a New Zealand context, see Callister and Dixon (2001), Callister (2003a, 2004b) and Callister and Singley (2004) - but occupation itself can have a major influence on these variables.
Frontline occupations within the fishing and oil exploration industries provide examples of work that is male dominated and where the people work very long hours, but they are also occupations where many people work for intense periods and then have substantial periods off work. In some situations, this can be a barrier to caregiving, but the time off can facilitate it. Another example that is often talked about in the fathers' literature is men in the military where the fathers can be away for lengthy periods but might also have relatively long periods off work (for example, Applewhite and Mays, 1996).
While parents generally care for children outside of their paid work time, they can care for children within their workplaces or they can work at home while caring for their children. As an example of the possible benefits of simultaneous work, Lareau (2000) suggests that the 'presence' - as distinct from active care - of fathers at home in the evening can be important for the wellbeing of older children. She provides examples of fathers initiating homework even if they are involved in other activities such as undertaking some paid work at home.
As an example of such simultaneous work and the effect of employment arrangements, the childcare survey undertaken in New Zealand in 1998 asked whether a parent had a child at work with them as one of the care arrangements in the previous week (Department of Labour, 1999). For employees, a total of 6 per cent recorded this response (for mothers, 9 per cent, and for fathers, 3 per cent). This arrangement was, however, much more common for self-employed parents. Amongst this group, 29 per cent had used this arrangement (for mothers, this was 44 per cent, and fathers, 21 per cent).
However, when childcare and paid work in the New Zealand time use survey is considered, overall, fathers were more likely than mothers to record a period of simultaneous care and paid work. This primarily reflects the greater likelihood of fathers being employed. The time use data show that just over a third of employed mothers and fathers undertook a spell of simultaneous work in weekends, while during the week, the figures were a fifth for fathers and a quarter for mothers. The time use data show that employers, the self-employed and, connected with this, people in agricultural occupations (all more likely to be men rather than women) stand out as being most likely to undertake such simultaneous work. Some of this may reflect active employment choices made by parents. For example, some parents may choose to be self-employed so they can combine spending time with their children with paid work.
The gender pay gap
A further important factor that may shape who might be a primary breadwinner and who might be a main caregiver is relative wage rates, that is, the pay gap between women and men. However, over time, this gap has decreased. In addition, the size of the gap changes quite significantly over a life-cycle. A number of studies indicate that, while many factors influence inequalities in wages, one important determinant of the pay gap is gendered roles adopted after having a child (for example, Budig and England, 2002).
While studies have yet to be carried out in New Zealand on wage rates and earnings before having a child, data on hourly wages by age suggest the gap might be quite small before having a child. In New Zealand, Crossan (2004) has shown that, in the 15-29 age group, the gap is small (and, in fact, in some age groups, in favour of women). Equally, and as Figure 6 indicates, the more recent Ministry of Social Development Social Report 2008 shows little gap in hourly earnings up to age 30.
Figure 6: Median hourly wage and salary earnings, by age and sex, June 2007
Source: Ministry of Social Development (2008).
Data table for Figure 6
3.3 Government policy and law
Gendered government policies can act as a barrier to men's greater participation in care. These include the structure of paid parental leave schemes, and other policies and laws, such as those impacting on separated and divorced fathers.
Paid parental leave
Paid leave from work is a key strategy for supporting men's participation in care in many countries (further discussed in the following section). However, the design of leave initiatives can also mean that leave policies can act as a barrier to men's care of children. Parental leave policies that are contingent on mothers meeting eligibility criteria, or rely on mothers' willingness to transfer leave to their partners, mean that some fathers are unable to access leave to care for children.
Lappegard's (2008) Norwegian research studied the use of parental leave by the parents of 167,234 children born in the 5 years immediately following the introduction of the father's quota in 1993. During this period, fathers' payments for the father's quota were dependent on mothers' benefit rights. As such, a father's parental leave depended on how much the mother had been working, independent of his own work time.
Lappegard argued that, because of the structure of the policy, how much the mother was working before the birth became crucial to the cost to the family of the father taking parental leave. For instance, if a mother had been working half-time, the father was entitled to only 50 per cent of the benefit rights, even though he had been working full-time.
As such, Lappegard (2008:140) argued that:
Even though the parental leave program is intended to promote gender equality, it has a gender-inegalitarian component whereby the father's eligibility for leave is dependent on the mother's work status, but not vice versa. That fathers' use of the father's quota is dependent on mothers' connections to the labour market means that not all fathers are entitled to this leave, which results in about 60 per cent of all fathers actually using the father's quota.
Access to paid parental leave for fathers in New Zealand is also based on their partner's eligibility and labour force participation. The 2007 evaluation of paid parental leave (Department of Labour, 2007) showed that, of the 1,000 women in the sample, 434 were not eligible for leave, either because they were not employed or, if they were employed, had not been employed for enough months, were self-employed or had not worked enough hours per week. As such, the partners of these women were thus also unable to access paid parental leave (PPL). The report states:
...where mothers are not eligible but, through their work patterns, fathers potentially are, the fathers cannot access any PPL. While mothers can potentially transfer leave, most do not decide to. In fact, of the small number of mothers who return early from PPL, most forfeit the remainder of their payment rather than transferring it to a spouse/partner. The survey of fathers, however, indicated that if PPL existed specifically for fathers, half would take it up (Ibid:61).
The quote above illustrates that, assuming that mothers are eligible for leave, fathers' access to leave still relies on mothers transferring part of their leave to their partners. Similarly, Whitehouse, Diamond and Baird (2007), in their research on fathers' use of unpaid parental leave in Australia, note that, while fathers' eligibility to leave is not dependent on mothers' labour force status, accessing the entitlement reduces the mother's leave period, thus placing a powerful restraint on men's take-up of leave. As such, in both Australia and New Zealand, the structure of the leave policy impedes men's ability to participate in the day-to-day care of their newborn baby.
O'Brien, Brandth and Kvande (2007) note that the gendered nature of such policies may act as a barrier to men's participation in care to varying degrees, depending on factors such as a family's financial situation. They argue that:
...in the absence of paid job-protected leave, poorer and less economically secure fathers may be less able to spend time with their infants and partners during the transition to parenthood. It is possible that, from the earliest period of life, infants in poor households experience less paternal investment than infants in more affluent households (Ibid:379).
The structure of such policies also contributes to reinforcing the traditional division of care and paid work, which, in turn, has an impact on labour force segregation and pay equity. Lewis (2006:110), commenting on leave schemes where the leave is available to be shared by couples, argues that:
...state programmes to support family care by parents are mostly taken up by women, which does have a profound effect on gender equality in the labour market; the Scandinavian countries are marked by high levels of horizontal occupational segregation. The unequal gendered divisions of paid and unpaid work are intimately linked. If the aim is to provide genuine choice to men and women to engage in both forms of work, and if women's choices are necessarily constrained by those of men, then policies that result in women combining ''work and family'' such that they work long part-time (in Scandinavia) or short part-time (in the UK, The Netherlands and Germany) can only be considered to be a first step.
Similarly, Himmelweit and Land (2007:30) contend that:
Fathers need plenty of encouragement to take parental leave. Taking part of a mother's leave is not popular. Even where parental leave has a non-gendered name and is the right of the couple, and thus either parent can take it, most couples are likely to conform to current gender norms so that the mother takes most of the leave. Economic pressures, where there is unequal pay, reinforce this tendency.
Separating couples and the applications of family law
While some separating couples do negotiate equitable caring arrangements, post-separation custody decisions and other applications of family law such as supervised access may also impact on the ability of men to participate in the care of their children.
Gregory and Milner (2007:70) note that
...it is still nevertheless the case that when it comes to determining the place of residence and care of the children of divorced parents, judicial decisions continue to be made on the basis of societal norms relating to maternal competence in the care of (especially young) children. Consequently, many fathers... lose contact with their children after divorce and/or are left with a residual financial role.
Most separated or divorced fathers will find themselves in a secondary parenting role. In New Zealand, as at 30 June 2006, of the parents liable for child support, about 24,500 were female, compared to 115, 500 males. There are over 220,000 children in the child support liable assessment records. However, IRD child support data indicate 7,685 children were in shared custody in February 2008 (Catherall, 2008). Under the Child Support Act 1991, shared care is considered as "an arrangement when both parents care for their children substantially equally. This generally means that the paying parent cares for the children for at least 40 per cent of the nights in a year" (Inland Revenue Department, 2004). Catherall also gave a figure for 1995 of 7,320 children. This does not suggest much change in the amount of shared care.
The data in Table 8 also indicate little change in award of custody by the Family Court over the past 20 years, with most cases of sole custody involving mothers, and little change in shared custody. No data were collected for the years 1990-2006.
The terms used in the Guardianship Act 1968 were 'custody' and 'access', with the possibility of shared custody. Under the Care of Children Act 2004, references are to 'day-to-day care' and 'contact', with the possibility of shared care. There does seem to be a slight switch from mother to shared care by 2006. However, 2006 data are for day-to-day care, not custody, and shared care may not be shared between the mother and the father.
There is both the actual law and the application of family law. Historically, the debate on father involvement has been specified in such a way that it required fathers to justify their parenting by arguing that father absence is harmful. It has had an effect on court deliberation, where a presumption that one parent is sufficient resulted in parents being required to compete, each trying to show the deficiencies of the other. In line with this, O'Brien (2004:19) notes that:
Fathers' lobbyists often complain that courts tend to underplay their child-caring competencies whereas mothers' lobbyists declaim fathers' desires for contact without responsibility.
The outcome of such a competition was largely predetermined given the concept of women as 'primary caregivers' and gendered patterns of care before judgement. It was made more problematic in that 'conflict' was viewed by Judge Patrick Mahony, when Principal Family Court Judge, as harmful to children (Haines, 2000). The conflict may be a disagreement between the parents as to whether the father should be an active parent, in which case, the mother could have an effective power of veto by refusing to cooperate. Fathers who had been most involved could justifiably have wanted to continue as active parents. For them, the common alternative weekend arrangement may have seemed most unsatisfactory. However, if they were less willing to accept it, then they were more likely to find themselves in a conflict situation. In other words, the Family Court may have been giving worse treatment to those fathers who had been taking their parenting role more seriously (Hubin, 1999).
Friedman has suggested that there were additional reasons for favouring mothers besides suitability as a parent. These included continuing fathers' financial obligations when not living with the mother and maintaining ties between mothers and children into mothers' old age, both with the aim of avoiding placing a financial burden on taxpayers (Friedman, 1995:121).
The Child Support Act 1991 has been criticised as being inequitable to many of the liable parents, primarily fathers (Birks, 2000). There are several grounds for this. The formula does not consider the income of custodial parents. There is no change in child support liability as contact increases from zero to 145 nights in a year. There are no guidelines as to how child support money should be spent, and the custodial parent is not accountable for its use or misuse. There is no clear explanation as to why the particular formula was chosen, nor whether the custodial parent is expected to make any financial contribution to the costs of children (Ibid).
The area of child support is a prime example of an issue where language is important. The term 'deadbeat dad' is an expression more common in the US (for example, Reichert, 1999; Sorensen, 1997) but for which examples of use can be found in New Zealand (Pierard, 2006; TV3, 2008). When researchers, policy-makers and the general public refer to a group of separated fathers as 'deadbeat dads', it is generally because they are not paying child support. Yet, such a focus on dads as being 'deadbeat' also ignores the fact that a not insignificant number of mothers are also not paying their full child support payments. For instance, as at March 2008, there were 99,780 New Zealand fathers who had a child support debt but also 24,082 mothers. These mothers are not referred to as being 'deadbeat'. The focus on enforcement of child support awards from fathers ignores many important issues including whether such men are facing financial hardship themselves. Callister and Birks (2007) suggest a more balanced view would include thinking about whether there were ways to bolster their earning power or ways to recognise potential contributions from social involvement with the fathers' separated children. A more balanced view would also require a change in language (see discussion in Introduction above).
Finally, while much attention has been given to financial contributions by fathers following divorce, other aspects have been given little attention. In general, in debate on positions post separation and fathers' contributions to their children, "...nonmonetary contributions are all but ignored by researchers" (Parke and Brott, 1999:71).
Portrayals of domestic violence
The framing of domestic violence has shaped attitudes about the role of men in families. Portrayals of domestic violence affect social norms, including how we view how risky individual fathers might be in a family setting, which can then affect family law. Domestic violence is a very complex area, both with regard to research and in determining public policy. Not surprisingly, the debates in the academic literature are very intense and can elicit quite differing responses to similar data.
Debates within the domestic violence literature include: levels of violence; the frequency versus the prevalence of violence; whether violence against children is more common by mothers than fathers and, in turn, whether this relates to the time spent with children by mothers versus fathers; and differences in violence and sexual abuse by step-parents versus biological parents. All these areas are underpinned by a growing literature but it is beyond the scope of this paper to fully address these important debates. Perhaps in part due to the complexity of this issue, there is much information and, at times, misinformation, about domestic violence. For example, Issue 2 of the New Zealand Families Commissions newsletter Family Voice stated that "two out of three men do not physically abuse their partners", that is, one in three do. This is despite research that indicated that 26.4 per cent of women who had ever had a partner had been a victim of domestic violence over their lifetime versus 18.2 per cent of men (Morris, Reilly, Berry and Ransom, 2003). In fact, the incidence rate for women in the previous 12 months was 3 per cent and for men, 1.8 per cent - orders of magnitude lower than the one in three.
When a parent is accused of violence towards their partner or their children, their access to their children may be affected. This can be done by denying or restricting contact with their child, awarding responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child to the other parent (usually the mother) or ensuring supervised contact with their child. As being violent towards a partner does not necessarily mean that they are violent towards their children, this can be perceived as being unfair and may impact on some men's ability to care for their children.
Men, prisons and caring
The justice system, particularly imprisonment, has a significant impact on men's caregiving activities, both directly through time away from children and indirectly through the impact of imprisonment on lifetime earnings, reductions of which are correlated with men being less likely to live in couple families raising children.
In New Zealand, as in some other industrialised countries, notably the United States and the United Kingdom, the prison population has been rising. Long-term prison data show that, at the turn of the 20th century through to the late 1960s, the prison population as a rate per 1,000 population varied between 0.60 and 1.0. However, since this time, it has risen steadily to reach a rate of 1.8 by 2007. More than three-quarters of OECD countries have prison population rates below New Zealand's, which ranks seventh highest in the OECD, just below Mexico. Data drawn from the Department of Corrections indicate that, in 1992-1993, there were just over 4,300 men incarcerated, but this had risen to just under 8,000 by 2007-2008. While the female prison population has been rising, in 2008, males still formed 94 per cent of the New Zealand prison population. In New Zealand, Māori and, to a lesser degree, Pacific men are highly over-represented within the prison population. While data are not available, this suggests that a significant proportion of Māori children are likely to have had a father in prison at some point in their childhood.
The justice system, but particularly imprisonment, can have a major impact on men's caregiving activities. This includes active parenting. There are two main routes - one direct and the other indirect. The direct route is through time away from children through fathers being in prison. The indirect route is through the long-term impact of imprisonment on lifetime earnings. As an example, using US longitudinal data, Western and Pettit (2005) show that the low-skilled minority men (in the US context, primarily African American and Hispanic men) who face high risks of imprisonment also have lower earnings over a lifetime. This is both through time out of the labour market while in prison and reduced earnings through having a prison record. In a New Zealand context, low income, along with low education, has been associated with men being less likely to live in couple families raising children (Callister, 2000). Research would be needed to assess whether a time in prison in New Zealand can be directly linked to lower levels of contact with children post-release.
In a discussion of public policy in relation to fathers in prison in the US, Hairston (2001) suggests that the parenting roles and responsibilities of incarcerated men have not traditionally been considered an important public concern but that this needs to change. Factors to consider include location of prisons, communication regulations and the post-release environment. Qualitative studies undertaken in the US have also investigated the experiences of incarcerated fathers, their perceptions of fatherhood and the nature of their involvement with their children (Arditti, Smock and Parkman, 2007). This analysis has revealed participants' feelings of helplessness and the difficulties of being a 'good father' while in prison. Release signified an opportunity to 'start over' with their children but such a start over often faced a number of problems. Father involvement was very much constrained during incarceration, and men were entirely dependent on non-incarcerated mothers or caregivers for contact with children. Many fathers perceived mothers' gate-keeping, or efforts to prevent contact, and saw this as putting them in a powerless position in terms of parenting. Other qualitative research suggests some real complexities and difficulties of father-child relationships and how to maintain them both in prison and after release. Issues of drug-taking, sometimes difficult relationships with mothers, limited income earning capacity and having children with different partners all add to difficulties in parenting (for example, see Day, Bahr, Acock and Arditti, 2005).
It has also been suggested there may be complex relationships between prisons, parenting by fathers and the prospects of children themselves ending up in prison. For example, Brenner (1998) notes theory that suggests that, if a father comes out of prison more committed to his children, he may choose not to commit more crimes and risk another separation from them. In addition, Brenner suggests there is potential for a decrease in future crime rates if more children grew up in homes with their fathers. In his review of father support programmes across US states, he finds some tentative support for these ideas.
There is also a parallel, but more extensive, literature in relation to mothers in prison. This includes issues of how to manage incarcerated pregnant mothers and what arrangements should take place on the birth of the child (for example, Baunach, 1985; Myers, Smarsh, Amlund-Hagen and Kennon, 1999; and in New Zealand, Kingi, 2000). In New Zealand, the Corrections (Mothers with Babies) Amendment Bill was passed into law in September 2008. The Bill sets out provisions for mothers to keep their children with them in prison up to 2 years of age, an arrangement that could be considered to discriminate against fathers, who do not have such provisions available to them. While, overall, there seems to be less attention given to the connection prison fathers have with their children in New Zealand, there have been some small-scale programmes with, for example, local based programmes to encourage prison fathers to read to their children (Department of Corrections, 2008).
3.4 Non-resident fathers
Marsiglio, Amato, Day and Lamb (2000), in their review of research on fathering, argue that divorce is often followed by a decline in the quality and quantity of contact between fathers and children, with never-married fathers even less likely than divorced fathers to keep in contact with their children following relationship break-up. Nevertheless, some non-resident fathers manage to see their children frequently and maintain positive relationships.
There are particular obstacles faced by fathers who do not live in the same household as the mother(s) of their children. Wallerstein and Kelly (1980:123) describe the particular difficulties of parenting when limited to being a 'visitor' in a child's life:
[T]he father-child relationship rests entirely on what can be compressed into the new and limited form. The difficulties inherent in this compressed funnelling process have been insufficiently appreciated.
Amato (1993) has suggested that, rather than just contact between a parent and a child, 'authoritative parenting' is important (Amato, 2004; Amato and Gilbreth, 1999). A separated father is generally placed in a secondary role. Hence, it is hard for him to maintain an active 'authoritative parenting' style unless he has support from the mother. Amato also recognised the part played by a mother in enabling this, arguing that "[d]ivorce does not bring an end to the triadic relationship between parent, child and parent. Instead, a good deal of research indicates that the quality of one relationship impacts on the others" (Amato, 1993:34).
Similarly, Marsiglio et al (2000) comment that contact between non-resident fathers and children tends to be recreational rather than instrumental. They note that, compared with fathers in two-parent households, non-resident fathers provide less help with homework, are less likely to set and enforce rules, and provide less monitoring and supervision of their children. They conclude that
...non-authoritative fathering within the context of minimal inter-parental cooperation is the pattern observed in most [separated parent] families. For this reason, non-resident fathers may have a difficult time making positive contributions to their children's development (Ibid:1184).
Davey (2006) notes that the timing of divorce may be important. If separation occurs when children are young and the father loses contact with them, then these ties are rarely resumed in later life. However, if the divorce occurs when the children are adults and a good relationship between parents and children has been formed and maintained, then ties between fathers and their children are more likely to remain unaffected.
3.5 Women can be a barrier to men's participation in care
Women have some influence over the time men spend in the care of their children, because mothers are partners and sometimes gate-keepers in the father-child relationship, both in intact relationships and separated or divorced families (Doherty et al, 1998). For example, Doherty et al (Ibid:286-287), in their review of 'responsible fathering', contend that:
...even within satisfactory marital relationships, a father's involvement with his children, especially very young children, is often contingent on the mother's attitudes toward, expectations of, and support for the father, as well as the extent of her involvement in the labour force... studies have shown that many mothers, both inside and outside marriage, are ambivalent about the father's active involvement with their children... Given the powerful cultural forces that expect absorption by women in their mothering role, it is not surprising that active paternal involvement would threaten some women's identity and sense of control over this central domain of their lives.
Similarly, O'Brien (2004) notes that fathers' care of children is embedded in a network of family relationships, from which it can not be easily separated. She notes:
...the vital mediation role mothers play in facilitating men's parenting... Men's attempts to become more involved in childcare are contingent on maternal beliefs and mothers' assessment of its benefits (Ibid:8).
Women's preferences may act as a barrier to increasing men's participation in care. Women who prefer to stay home full-time to care for children may rely on men's paid labour force participation, with long hours of work for men being a possible cost of 'purchasing' time at home for women.
In addition, women's preferences to provide care impact on the take-up of leave policies and flexible work, which, in turn contribute to further barriers for men to participate in care. For example, the Department of Labour's (2007) evaluation of paid parental leave found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of mothers did not consider transferring any of their parental leave to their partner, with the most common reason for this being that it was more important for the mother to be bonding with the baby. The evaluation showed that fathers supported this decision. Similarly, Smeaton (2006) found that mothers were significantly less likely than fathers to support transferring the leave and pay associated with parental leave.
Perhaps reflecting these preferences, the literature suggests that men are more limited in their opportunities to experience providing independent care to their young children. As noted, Craig (2006), in her analysis of time-diary data, found that men's time with children is most often mediated by the presence of women, with mothers present for more than 90 per cent of the time fathers are with their children.
The role of women in creating and maintaining barriers to parenting by fathers has been recognised and is sometimes referred to as gate-keeping. Mothers play the role of mediator or 'gate-keeper' by either facilitating or curtailing the father's involvement, and maternal gate-keeping is typically defined as "a collection of beliefs and behaviours that may inhibit a collaborative effort between men and women in family work" (Schoppe-Sullivan, Brown, Cannon, Mangelsdorf and Sokolowski, 2008:389). Gate-keeping behaviours include assuming primary responsibility for child-rearing tasks or criticising the father's actions when he is involved and may stem from a variety of reasons, including "belief in the appropriateness of differentiated family roles, the need for validation of a mothering identity, a pessimistic assessment of fathers' competence in child care, or the adoption of particularly high standards for child care" (Ibid.) Schoppe-Sullivan et al argue that mothers may shape father involvement through their roles as gate-keepers, but stress that this may include both inhibitory and facilitative behaviours engaged in by mothers with the goal of regulating fathering behaviour (Ibid).
Gate-keeping may be a more significant barrier following an acrimonious separation or divorce, when mothers who are not supportive of fathers' parenting can additionally constrain father-child relationships, especially given current family law and its interpretation. At a more extreme level, parental alienation may occur, where a child is encouraged to develop an aversion to a parent, perhaps forming an alliance with an alienating parent (Rand, 1997a, 1997b). Such actions have been described as a form of child abuse (Blaikie, 1994), but for many years, they were not given much attention by the New Zealand Family Court. The issues have been highly politicised. This has had an impact on research, with some being openly critical of groups trying to give separated fathers a voice (Kaye and Tolmie, 1998: Nash, 1992). The argument has been presented that fathers' groups are concerned with their own rights, rather than the interests of their children. In response, on the basis that it is difficult to be a responsible parent when hardly seeing a child, Hubin (1999) described 'fiduciary rights' - rights that are needed for people to fulfil their responsibilities.
3.6 Attitudes and skills of professional services
In the late 1980s, Sagi (1987) reported that international literature on welfare services provided for children and families suggested that helping professionals (physicians, public health nurses, social workers and so on) were not prepared either ideologically or organisationally to encourage paternal involvement in the family. More recent research from both Australia and New Zealand suggests there continues to be some challenges for support services to engage with fathers. A 2008 Australian review article notes:
Incorporating fathers into established family-related services, however, has not proved to be straightforward. Everything from publicity (in which the language and images may be pitched at mothers) to opening hours, referral procedures and staff training has required rethinking or, at least, reviewing. Simply advertising programs for "parents" instead of for "mothers" has not brought dads flocking to the services, and highly trained practitioners have not always found it easy to interact with fathers (Fletcher, 2008:1).
Fletcher (2008) examines research undertaken both in the United States, the UK and Australia and notes that there are a wide range of settings through which fathers could potentially be supported. These include health, welfare, education and counselling. In each of these areas, there is also a diverse set of services. For example, in health, there can be the standard services that support new parents through to specialist services such as neo-natal intensive care units. In terms of parenting programmes, Fletcher notes that these need to cover a variety of groups including expectant fathers, fathers of children with a disability, fathers in prison, indigenous fathers and fathers of primary school-age children.
Overall, Fletcher suggests services for families have often not successfully engaged fathers. He states that health, early education and welfare services aiming to support families are mostly staffed by women and accessed by mothers. In summarising how services could change, Fletcher suggests there is a need to:
- change from mother-focused to father-inclusive publicity
- recruit males as staff or volunteers
- develop father-sensitive models of service delivery.
In addition, he provides recommendations from Head Start strategies for including fathers, which include:
...revamping services' policies (including a clear expectation that fathers should and will participate), registration forms (providing information on fathers), hiring practices (having more male staff), physical environment (providing positive images of fathers) [and] referral pathways and staff training.
Fletcher suggests that knowledge about fathers is less important than the ability for practitioners to be self-reflective in relation to fathers. This requires service providers to be reflective about their beliefs and attitudes. Drawing on the work of Russell, Barclay, Edgecombe, Donovan, Habib, Callaghan and Pawson (1999), Fletcher illustrates that the attitudes of service providers towards male behaviour, particularly in the areas of competency to care for children and child abuse, can be far more negative than the actual data show. For instance, he cites that over half the female staff and one-third of male staff believed that up to one in four of fathers physically abuse their children, a finding that is significantly different from the true statistics of domestic violence.
In New Zealand, Mitchell and Chapman (2001) have investigated the support given by Plunket to new fathers. In the literature review for the research, the authors found evidence that, while fathers are becoming increasingly involved in childcare, services that support families have not effectively adapted to this change. The services were seen to be continuing to target the mother as the primary caregiver and to treat fathers as a support person. The actual research was based on focus groups of Plunket nurses. These participants felt the nature of their work with families provided an ideal opportunity to involve new fathers more directly in their services, but the nurses acknowledged that practices tended to focus on the needs of mothers. As an example, initial referral processes tended to exclude fathers. While the participants in the focus groups were adamant there was considerable benefit if increased effort was made to involve fathers, they found it difficult to identify specific strategies that would increase the involvement of fathers.
In a recent study, Chapman, McIntosh and Mitchell (undated) undertook a study of new fathers in the Nelson area. The research involved a small survey of new fathers supplemented by focus groups. The survey showed a high degree of involvement and satisfaction by fathers was evident in the environments prior to birth and during preschool. In contrast, the focus groups raised some concerns about the support of fathers. Fathers were often seen as 'helpers' but not a central figure in parenting. In addition, many new fathers found it difficult to communicate their sense of isolation and felt that support services were unable to assist them.
The main recommendations of the report were:
- There is a need to reduce the effect of myths and negative stereotypes about fathers.
- More research is needed to identify specific skills and processes that would enable service providers to best meet the needs of fathers. The authors also suggested that men are involved in all aspects of this research.
- There is a need to develop educational programmes that focus on the needs of fathers.
- There is a need to develop an advocacy service for fathers.
3.7 The support of fathers in settings such as Playcentre and playgroups
Literature on the support, or otherwise, of fathers in playgroups primarily relies on case studies or small-scale qualitative research - for example, in the US, Radin (1988), in Australia, Grbich (1992) and in New Zealand, Callister (1994). Based on similar methods, a history of Playcentre in New Zealand provides some guide to attitudes to fathers, as well as attitudes by fathers, to being involved in settings designed to support both children and parents (Callister, 1998). In parallel, Playcentre itself has undergone some transformations reflecting primarily changing roles for mothers and, to a lesser degree, fathers. After a long period of growth, there have been declining enrolments, reflecting primarily the decline in the traditional 'mother at home' two-parent family and little growth in the 'father at home' couple (Callister, 1999).
Fathers have been involved, in a variety of ways, in Playcentre since its foundation. However, their main involvement has been in fund-raising and providing labour for building projects. By 1976, a survey of 1,362 parents who assisted in caring for children at Playcentre indicated only six were male, or 0.4 per cent. By 2007, 31 years later, males as a percentage of unpaid caregivers had risen only to 3.1 per cent, and when hours were considered, the males put in 2.4 per cent of total time., While the numbers are still extremely small, they are significantly higher than the numbers of paid male caregivers in early childhood education (ECE) facilities in New Zealand (Farquhar, 2007).
A number of themes emerge out of the literature around men and Playcentre.
Over a long time period, there have been mixed reactions to father involvement in Playcentre. Men have been universally welcomed as fund-raisers and builders. The perceptions of fathers are that some fathers have felt very welcomed, some have felt their presence has been tolerated and some have felt unwelcome (Callister, 1999). Women in Playcentre have also expressed a range of opinions. Many have worked very hard to involve fathers, but some have seen Playcentre as primarily an institution supporting mothers and have not welcomed male involvement (Ibid).
There have been language and institutional barriers to men's involvement. Terms like 'mother help certificate' have now disappeared from the official language. There had also been a long debate about whether Playcentre needed to change to make men feel comfortable, or men themselves needed to change to feel comfortable at Playcentre.
The traditional hours of Playcentre have not suited most men (and increasingly women) in paid work. Those fathers who have been able to be involved in the day-to-day running of centres have been shift-workers, full-time caregivers, those working part-time, the self-employed who have some flexibility over hours worked or unemployed fathers.
While there have been attempts to set up separate 'father-friendly' playgroups within the movement, these have not tended to last long. A number of New Zealand commentators have noted that 'father only' playgroups have not met with much success, indicating that either these have not been set up in a way that is attractive to fathers or that this is not what most fathers are seeking.
Paralleling trends in paid childcare provision, there is some indication that fathers became more conscious of the potential impact of being accused of child abuse in the 1990s (Callister, 1999). This may have affected their participation, but also their engagement with children in these settings. In 2008, it was proposed to amend the Education Act to police check all parents volunteering in groups such as Playcentre, an indication that society also has concerns about potential abuse.
In her Australian setting, which appears to have much common ground with New Zealand, Grbich argues that most of the men in her study faced considerable reaction from their social groups - some responses were positive, some were positive with reservations, while the majority, initially, were negative (Grbich, 1992).
New Zealand research and media articles around the 1980s and 1990s support the idea that male caregivers faced a variety of reactions from positive to negative (Kedgley, 1985; Nelson Evening Mail, 1993; New Zealand Herald, 1992; The Listener, 1993). Hutchins (1993) writes of his experiences as a primary caregiver in small town New Zealand in the 1980s. He gives examples of men in hotel bars making derogatory comments and notes indifference and rudeness when he made contact with local parents at meetings and daycare centres (Hutchins, 1993:55). However, he goes on to note that, by the early 1990s, some attitudes had changed.
While overall attitudes may have changed, the Playcentre data indicate that, for whatever reason, only a minority of fathers want to engage, or can engage, in this type of parent-staffed ECE centre. More recent British research also indicates that, for many of the reasons set out for Playcentre, it is difficult to attract fathers to playgroups or related father support groups (Ghate, Shaw and Hazel, 2000; Lloyd, O'Brien and Lewis, undated). The Ghate et al study specifically noted that while fathers' part of 'father only' support/playgroups valued them, they were not popular. They note that "[p]roviding a men's group alone is unlikely to be a successful way to recruit large numbers of fathers" (Ghate et al, 2000:48).
3.8 Structural barriers to men's greater participation in care
There are numerous other barriers to men's increased participation in care, many of which may appear insignificant or minor in themselves, but send out negative messages about men as carers. These include, for example, private sector policies prohibiting men sitting next to unaccompanied minors on planes, the habitual placing of infant change tables in women's rest rooms, the tendency of schools to call mothers first when children are injured during the day or not include separated fathers in school newsletter distributions, as well as the language that is sometimes used when framing discussions around men and care. While each of these factors appear minor, all these factors work in the same direction to undermine the validity of men as carers and, thus, together form a significant set of mutually reinforcing barriers to men's greater participation in care.
3.9 Culture and ideology
Gendered ideologies about appropriate roles for men and women are a significant barrier to men's greater participation in care. Gendered assumptions and expectations of men and women shape what constitutes appropriate behaviour, such as perceiving women as the 'nurturers' in families and men as peripheral to the nurturer role. This flows through to non-parental care, with research showing that family members, especially those of older generations, act according to strong gender norms and thus discourage sons from performing traditionally female caring tasks (Campbell and Martin-Matthews, 2003).
Broad cultural ideals of appropriate roles for men and women act to exacerbate and reinforce the structural conditions they create. Singley and Hynes (2005:380) argue that"
...biological, cultural, interactional, and institutional forces come together to influence men's and women's work and family involvement... These forces may sometimes be in conflict with each other, but often act in concert to reinforce a traditionally gendered division of labour. For example... the gender gap in earnings - an institutional factor - intersects with the dominant cultural imagery of women as primary caregivers to reproduce the traditional division between female caregiving and male breadwinning.
In discussing the impact of culture and ideology on participation in paid work and care, they go on to state that:
...multi-level factors... are filtered through the couple context itself, producing variation in the work arrangements of the individual men and women involved. Each spouse in a dual-earner couple brings a set of opportunities and constraints from his or her own work environment, which includes the work-family policies specific to the firm, informal relationships with supervisors, pay, access to other employer benefits such as health insurance and workplace norms. Both partners' workplaces and the partners themselves are also embedded in a wider institutional and cultural context that includes the relative pay levels of women and men, federal- and state-level policies, and the dominant cultural imagery related to gender and parenting roles (Ibid:394).
Negative views of fathers
Research indicates that norms about fathers can act as a barrier to men's participation in the care of their children. A study in New Zealand reported beliefs amongst new fathers that there are pervasive negative stereotypes regarding fathers and fathering, with the media reinforcing a variety of negative images of fathers (Mitchell and Chapman, 2006). Norms about the roles of fathers may also act as barriers to men's greater participation in care, with some research finding that fathers tend to be viewed as a support person for their partner, rather than as a parent in their own right (Ibid).
In addition, while evidence about the positive benefits for child development associated with positive contact with fathers is increasing, there is also evidence that the rise in female-headed households is changing ideologies about the necessity of contact with fathers. Some understanding of the current situation of fathers may be gleaned from views expressed in the past. A Listener/Heylen poll conducted in New Zealand in 1994 found: "Only about half the women surveyed this year thought that children needed both parents; in 1985, nearly two-thirds thought so." (Listener/Heylen, 1994). Dr Gabrielle Maxwell of the Office of the Commissioner for Children explained this change:
Many more women are solo parents now than in 1985, "and they know the reality that they can provide for their children without a man". These attitudes translated into the view that children need 'one home base' and that should be with their 'primary caregiver'.
Hassall and Maxwell, in making the point, describe a primary caregiver according to the tasks performed, with a clear emphasis on those things usually undertaken by a mother and especially with younger children (Hassall and Maxwell, 1992). In response, Henaghan and Ferguson (1992:90) made the following statement on the issue:
The Hassall-Maxwell primary caregiver rule [defining the primary caregiver] is promoted as a child's right. The main proponents of such a principle internationally have been writers who take a feminist perspective. The rule has been supported by such writers not on the basis of children's rights but women's rights in relation to their children.
 Since 2005, this is no longer the case.
 The review was conducted before the eligibility criteria were extended to include self-employed mothers.
 In 2008, the Australian Productivity Commission was asked to examine options for a paid parental leave scheme. This included considering the merits of the New Zealand scheme. Amongst its September 2008 draft recommendations, the Commission recommended that, when the mother was not eligible for paid parental leave and the father was eligible for job protection, then he should have an independent right to take paid leave.
 Parliamentary Question for Written Answer No 12589(2006).
 Parliamentary Question for Written Answer No 11826(2006).
 This does not take into account families that make their own arrangements following separation.
1985-1990 data from the answer to 1995 parliamentary question for written answer no.9879. 2006 data from answer to 2006 parliamentary question for written answer no.9643. The latter are for day-to-day care, not custody. The 2006 figures for shared care, at 12.7 per cent of orders involving parents and 10.8 per cent of all orders, are much lower than those given by Catherall (2008). She states: "In the Family Court in the year to May 2007, parents were ordered to share child care in 18 per cent of parenting orders". Such a large difference is suspicious. However, if there really has been a major shift in award of care, does this mean that today's fathers are different from those of a few years ago? Alternatively, would past cases be viewed differently if considered now? What does that say about the ongoing consequences of past decisions?
 This position is frequently strengthened due to mothers being awarded interim custody before the issues are addressed in detail. Subsequent delays in resolution merely add to that advantage.
[23 ]Parliamentary question: 6349(2008): How many parents have a child support debt broken down by region and gender? Hansard.
 An earlier figure showed that there were 24,500 women liable for child support. This figure of 24,082 women who had a child support debt is similar, but they are two different measures. Those potentially with debts will be a larger group as it includes all parents who have been liable in the past but have not fully paid their support.
 An example of such debates was an article based on New Zealand's Christchurch longitudinal study in the highly ranked Journal of Marriage and Family in 2005. This article prompted a series of very strong responses and counter responses in the journal.
 Little is known about men’s preferences in this area. Even Hakim (2000, 2002) only briefly mentions men’s preferences, and where she does, notes that only about 10 per cent of men have ‘home-based’ preferences.
 Difficulties arising from the constraints of their position are described in the section on non-resident fathers’ experience in Wilson (2006:301-304).
 Note also: “The new parental rights in Section 2 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 exist ‘only to enable him [the parent] to fulfil his parental responsibilities in relation to his child’ (Section 2.1)” (Wilson, 2006:287).
 It is recognised that playgroups and Playcentre are different in terms of structure and regulation. Playcentres are formally recognised, licensed, parent-led institutions that require NZQA-qualified members. Playgroups are informal institutions, exempt from licensing, and funded quite differently to Playcentres. However, a similarity is that they are both parent-led institutions relying heavily on parents as teachers.
 McDonald, G. (1982). Working and learning: A participatory project on parent-helping in the NZ Playcentre. Wellington: NZCER.
 Data are not available on the gender breakdown of parent helpers at kōhanga reo.
 While this survey suggests that there were significant changes in attitude between the 80s and 90s, the article is now 15 years old, and it is possible that there could have been an equally large change in attitude over the past 15 years. It is possible that the attitudes described by the Listener article don’t continue today.
 This need only for mothers did not include sole financial provision. In an arguably one-sided arrangement, even those fathers who wish to play a full parenting role are expected to pay for their children, while not necessarily having a relationship with them.