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Stay-at-home dads

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Over the past two decades, the proportion of single-earner husband-wife families(f.1) with children at home has decreased from 59% to 31%. During this period, some characteristics of these families have also changed. For example, in 1976, wives were breadwinners in only 4% of all single-earner husband-wife families with children; 21 years later, that figure had increased to 16% (see Data sources and definitions).

Does this imply a rise in the number of "stay-at-home" dads? There may well be more fathers without a paid job and at home -- both by choice and by default (because they are unemployed or have returned to school). Whatever the reason, a rise in the number and proportion of families with a father at home has social and economic implications. The reversal of traditional sex roles, for example, even if positive in the long term, may initially create personal and family tension or provoke social discrimination.(f.2) Furthermore, family finances may be affected. Families headed by female breadwinners have traditionally reported lower annual incomes.

Based on a selected definition of "stay-at-home" (see In search of the stay-at-home parent), this article examines the characteristics of fathers who stay at home in husband-wife families with children under 16. Some comparisons are made with stay-at-home mothers and with employed parents. An overview of recent changes in family types, use of parental leave, and time use among single-earner families puts the analysis in context.

Changing families and the roles within

Since the advent of industrialization, women have been largely responsible for most household and family work, and men for paid work. However, with the long-term rise in women's labour force participation, and more recently, men's growing involvement in child care, parents' roles are becoming less traditional (see Parental leave and Time use of stay-at-home parents).

The shift in roles reflects the...