Jennifer Hook decided to compare fatherhood in various countries after reading a study that found fathers in Norway spend about the same amount of time with their children as do fathers in the United States.
The study concluded that if fathers in two-parent households use about the same amount of child care in very different contexts, policy must not matter.
“Whoa, hold the phone,” Hook said, recalling her reaction. “You have to look at the national context in which these fathers live.”
A quantitative sociologist, Hook designs and analyzes research questions to thoroughly explore context. In this case, in these two countries, what are the regulations on working hours? What role does the mother’s employment play? How does government child care differ? What are the laws on paternal leave?
“All of these things combine to impact the amount of time fathers are spending with their children.”
Hook found that in Norway, father-child time is similar across families. This is because in that country, there is more full-time employment among mothers, shorter work weeks and more support for paid paternal leave.
In the U.S., many fathers are responsive to household conditions, such as the mother’s employment and spend more time with their children. At the same, in the U.S., there appears to be more inequality in father-child time across households, which affects the average.
“Most American families do not have access to the generous policy supports available in Norway, so they have to come up with individualized solutions, which often means dad has no choice but to pick up the slack.”
Her published studies can help to inform policymakers who are looking for ways to encourage fathers to become more involved in raising their children.