Increasingly, fathers and mothers aim for equality in working hours and involvement in childcare. However, most couples never achieve their work-care ambition: fathers work more hours and spend less time on childcare. Although these fathers aspire to be more involved in childcare and work fewer hours, not many achieve this. Since most research and measurement instruments are mother-oriented, the reasons for this paternal ambition-behaviour gap remain a scientific puzzle. To understand how fathers can achieve their work-care aspirations, this proposal focuses on four work- care arrangements: part-time work, parental leave, flexible hours and homeworking. These, together with paternal care, form work-care behaviour. In this NWO-VENI project I will research: What determines the relationship between fathers’ work-care ambition and work-care behaviour?
To tackle this puzzle, I introduce three innovations. First, while current approaches focus on the household or the organization, my Opportunities and Restrictions Model takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining insights from different disciplines to focus on multiple levels simultaneously. Second, I will develop and test a more father-oriented measurement instrument for work-care ambition and behaviour of fathers of pre-school and school-aged children. Third, I will thoroughly test fathers’ work-care ambition and behaviour in a longitudinal setting, to ascertain whether fathers’ use of work-care arrangements does indeed increase their involvement in childcare. Combining focus groups, a diary study and surveys in the Netherlands with panel data in five countries provides the ultimate test for my Opportunities and Restrictions model.
This project will substantially improve our understanding of the opportunities and restrictions fathers face when deciding whether to make use of work-care arrangements, and the influence of work-care arrangements on their involvement in childcare. It has the potential to further interdisciplinary research in work-family studies, improve the alignment between fathers’ work-care ambition and behaviour, and inform the public debate about fathers combining work and care.