Volume 39 - Article 2 | Pages 33–60  

Fathers on call? A study on the sharing of care work between parents in Sweden

By Marie Evertsson, Katarina Boye, Jeylan Erman

This article is part of the Special Collection 31 "The new roles of women and men and implications for families and societies"


Background: Swedish fathers’ parental leave uptake has increased over time, but progress has been moderate. In relation to this, we ask what factors hinder or facilitate the taking of leave by fathers and how – if at all – the leave influences the father’s relationship with his child.

Objective: To study (i) the reasons for parents’ division of parental leave as well as the consequences this division has for their actual time at home with the child and (ii) the link between the father’s leave and his relationship with the child, as well as the parents’ division of childcare after parental leave.

Methods: A multi-methods approach is used, where OLS regression models of survey data from the Young Adult Panel Study are analysed alongside qualitative in-depth interviews with 13 couples who have had a first child.

Results: Quantitative results show that parents’ leave lengths vary with the reasons given for the division of leave and that fathers’ parental leave is related to long-term division of childcare. Qualitative results suggest that equal parenting is important to the interviewed parents; however, motherhood ideals may stand in the way of achieving it. Several mechanisms by which fathers’ parental leave may influence later division of childcare are suggested, including the development of a closer relationship between father and child.

Conclusions: Policies aimed towards increasing fathers’ parental leave uptake have the potential to strengthen the father–child bond, contribute to a more equal division of childcare, and facilitate both parents’ understanding of each other and what being a stay-at-home parent involves.

Contribution: This article is the first to show how parents alleged reasons for the parental leave links to the actual length of the mother's and father's leave. Results indicate that increasing paternal leave length is linked to improved couple relationship quality and a closer relationship with the child.

Author's Affiliation

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