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New UAB sociological research verifies a change in the modern day father

The results of the study conducted by UAB researchers Tomàs Cano and Marc Barbeta-Vinyes reveal higher educational levels are associated with a "communicative paternity" (the model farthest away from the traditional model), focused on emotional proximity with their children. The study is one of the few in Spain to have been conducted using focus groups.


Fatherhood was analysed from a qualitative sociological perspective, interviewing 64 fathers in Barcelona and Madrid in eight focus groups, with each group representing a different father model according to education level and professional situation.

A UAB research verifies a change in the role of modern day fathers in urban Spain and detects a gap between father with higher educational levels, who consider raising their children a very important tasks, and those with lower educational levels. The study analyses fathers living in urban areas of Spain in order to learn how their involvement with child-rearing has changed.

The involvement of fathers with their children is undergoing a profound change in Spain: the transition from a traditional homogeneous fatherhood is giving way to a more complex and multidimensional conceptualisation, which goes beyond merely being the family's breadwinner.

The study by UAB researchers Tomàs Cano and Marc Barbeta-Vinyes was published in July in the latest edition of the Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, entitled "Toward a New Model of Fatherhood?". The sociologists studied the significance child-rearing had for fathers, the problems and benefits they identified and how this is changing their level of involvement. The article can be viewed here.

In order to do this researchers analysed fatherhood from a qualitative sociological perspective, interviewing 64 fathers in Barcelona and Madrid, divided into eight focus groups, with each group representing a different father model according to education level (low, medium, high) and professional situation (stable, precarious, long-term unemployment).

One of the conclusions reached is a process researchers call the "maternalisation of fatherhood", given that men are taking certain feminine elements as references for their fatherhood. "We can see that this is not alike for everyone, it is based on the father's level of education", Tomàs Cano explains.

A gap can be seen between highly educated fathers, who give great importance to raising their children, and less educated fathers who dedicate less time to child-rearing. "Children whose parents are highly involved usually do better in school and later earn better salaries and have better health", the UAB researcher adds.

This transformation in the father model is the result of two causes: the entrance of women into the workplace and the change in values related to gender equality and the time-affection dedicated to children in today's society. "Fathers are becoming increasingly similar to mothers in their way of taking on child-rearing", the authors state.

The study confirms a weakening of the normative role of fathers, while at the same time a model of fatherhood open to expressing their feelings with their children is on the rise. "A close father is the model seen among parents with a high level of studies, and it is taking over the rest of models, with exception of the unemployed fathers and those with a lower level of studies, in which we can see a demand for the need to recover the "respect for the father and his figure of authority, currently absent as a social model", explains Tomàs Cano.

"Our results are a note of caution to both business policies and legislation. An increase in flexibility, telecommuting and paternity leaves are key elements in gaining more equality, given that the more involved a father is in raising his children, the greater the possibilities of mothers succeeding even more in their careers", the authors explain.

The results of the research have led to visualising four types of fatherhoods which range from the most traditional model (a logistical father) to the most "modern" one (communicative father). The father's level of studies is what determines with what type of fatherhood a man identifies most.

The more traditional "logistical" father is an instrumental conception of a father's duties, focused on being the breadwinner and organiser, and is linked to the routine execution of child-related chores. The most common tasks are accompanying, attending extra-curricular events, helping with meals, getting dressed, hygiene and supervising the children.

The "recognition of needs" father is one who is more affective towards his children, where routine attention acquires a specific meaning associated with the care of a child and not only with a set of tasks to be carried out, and who provides the family with resources. However, these fathers points out their limits when caring for their small children, in which much of the emotional and routine tasks are left to the mother.

The "educational" father is one who facilitates his children's entrance into the social and cultural world, and is in charge of his children's socialisation. Here the father considers himself an educator.

The "communicative" father is based on proximity, developed in opposition and reaction to the traditional, hierarchical father figher, who is distant from his children and how the fathers in the groups identified their own fathers. Here the mother is considered as the main reference and emphasis is put on emotional proximity, in which support and closeness with their children are considered to be the ideal relationship model.

This research presents a novel approach, given that until now studies on child-rearing have focused only the role of women.
Original article: Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas (July-September 2017): "Toward a New Model of Fatherhood? Discourses on the Process of Paternal Involvement in Urban Spain" Tomás Cano (UAB) and Marc Barbeta-Vinyes (UAB)