“Most dads see themselves as playing an equally important role in helping their children as mothers do,” says Kevin Shafer, co-author of the study. This recent discovery is thought to be connected to changing views of masculinity and gender norms in general.
The study surveyed over 2,000 fathers, seeking to learn their opinions on traditional masculine behaviors and their impact on the family. Although there is a rise in fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives, researchers note that the study found that dads still gravitate towards traditionally “masculine” roles, often acting as a disciplinarian or breadwinner. Furthermore, there seemed to be a correlation between fathers who embodied these traditional roles and fathers who play a smaller role in their children’s lives.
Shafer points out that “there are some very beneficial aspects of masculinity,” but the study investigated a separate set of behaviors, like a hesitation to show emotion. “These are negative aspects of traditional masculinity, and our research suggests it hurts families,” he continues.
These results indicate that it may be challenging for some fathers to balance expected gender “norms” and being emotionally available for their children. Still, hopefully as more dads are embracing the idea of being nurturing and emotionally available, we are getting closer to a time where co-parenting is free from the heavy influence of traditional gender norms. “As we teach boys and men to be more emotionally aware and cultivate emotional well-being, these men and boys will be able to become better fathers for their children,” says Lee Essing, co-author of the study. “They will be able to provide for them not only through financial contributions, but by being emotionally and mentally present for their children and their wellbeing.”