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Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Social importance of parental leave for fathers

By Pia Schober (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-04 08:17

Social importance of parental leave for fathers

Fathers-to-be learn to how to hold newborn babies in Handan hospital on June 15, 2014. [Photo/IC]

One of the biggest policy reforms that will fundamentally change Chinese people's lives is the universal two-child policy that has been in effect since Jan 1, 2016.

Parental leave policies which encourage greater fathers' involvement in child care and domestic work may facilitate having a second child in several ways.

Firstly, several studies from the UK, Sweden, Hungary, and Italy suggest that a more gender-equal division of domestic work may facilitate having a second child for couples. One of my studies of British couples finds a positive relationship between fathers' involvement in domestic work and a faster transition to a second birth among double-earning couples but not among couples where mothers do not work.

Secondly, in terms of family harmony, several studies point to consequences for the quality of mother-father-relationship and the likelihood of a breakdown in the relationship. Two specific studies on British couples with young children show that fathers' greater involvement in child care is associated with greater relationship quality between partners and lower risk of separation.

Thirdly, fathers' involvement in child care may have positive effects on child wellbeing, especially when it offers children interactions that are different from what mothers provide.

A recent Norwegian study used a quasi-experiment of a four-week paternal leave quota in 1993 to identify the causal effects of fathers' greater involvement in child care for children's cognitive outcomes. It found that children's school performance at the age of 16 improved if the fathers were more highly educated than the mothers.

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