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Caregiving fathers stigmatized at work, says UofT study

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Traditional fathers -- those who focus on being "breadwinners" and leave the caregiving to someone else -- are still held up as the ideal, suggests a new study. (iStock)

Fathers who participate in child rearing and housework are likely to be labelled slackers and "failed men" at work, according to a study spearheaded by researchers at the University of Toronto and Long Island University. 

The report, which was recently published in the Journal of Social Issues' special series on the "flexibility stigma," suggests that men who defy gender roles and get actively involved at home pay a steep penalty at work.

"Results showed that caregiving fathers experience more harassment and mistreatment than traditional fathers and men without children," note the authors, including Jennifer L. Berdahl from UofT's Rotman School of Management.

The authors found that employed fathers who spent a notable amount of time caring for their children defy the ideals for men as well as for workers.

Caregiving fathers are still seen as anomalies, study suggests.
"Men who do the low-status 'feminine' work of childcare and housework are likely to be seen as failed men. They are also likely to be seen as having their dedication split between work and home, and therefore as bad workers," the authors note, adding that caregiving fathers are often seen as "wimps" with wives who "wear the pants."

Their report draws conclusions from existing literature as well as two field studies of middle-class employees. They found that actively involved fathers faced overt backlash - like teasing or disrespect - but also more subtle challenges, such as suspicion that "family emergencies" are an excuse to play hooky from work.

The first study looked at what the authors called "not man enough harassment," while the second probed the negative consequences more generally. Both built on previous research that focused on mothers' struggles with establishing work-life balance, and also took a closer look at the kind of stigma that heteosexual men face when seeking flexibility.

Does your workplace offer flexible scheduling, telecommuting, paternity leave and similar benefits?

Do you know a father who has raised eyebrows or taken heat for prioritizing family responsibilities?

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies.)

Tags: Canada, community, parenting, POV

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