Study: Dads Caring For Kids

Study: Dads Caring For Kids

   WASHINGTON, September 21 (AP) -- For more and more American
preschool children, it's Dad who pours the breakfast cereal
and tucks them in for their afternoon naps.
   Fathers with working wives in 1991 were the primary
caretakers for one-fifth the children under age 5, a Census
Bureau demographer said Tuesday. Just three years earlier the
share was one in seven.
   Raising children that way is a nod to financial reality,
with a bow to the traditional notion that children are best
cared for by their parents.
   Changes in the way Americans work have encouraged fathers
to stay home and care for the kids, said demographer Martin
O'Connell. He is the author of a study based on Census figures
and released by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington
educational organization.
   As women knock down barriers in the workplace, the old
pattern of fathers working and mothers rearing the children
makes less economic sense, O'Connell said.
   And the big bite that child-care services take from a
paycheck -- on average $3,300 a year in 1991 -- gives parents
incentive to keep the children home, he added.
   Moreover, the younger generation of parents simply doesn't
like day care very much, said William Dunn, author of a study
of the generation now in its 20s, "The Baby Bust: A Generation
Comes of Age."
   These parents, some of whom grew up as latchkey kids in an
era of rising divorce, dislike "putting the child in the care
of a stranger," Dunn said. "They want to be more involved. If
that means the father taking on more of what has been seen as
the mother's role -- fine, they'll try it."
   For example, Diane Frea of Columbia, S.C., works full time.
Her husband, Marc Rapport, works part time. He cares for their
3-year-old daughter Hannah.
   "I think economic times are such that everybody works now,"
said Rapport. "This way, she always has one of us at breakfast
and at supper. It was important enough for me to basically
give up my career."
   The biggest problem for Rapport has been getting used to
not having a fulltime job to identify with. "It's sort of
tough readjusting my own role," he said. "It's great being
with the kid all the time, but it gets old."
   The study also found:
   --Husbands of working mothers were the primary caretakers
of 13 percent of children under age 15.
   --Men's involvement in child care declines as children grow
older. Fathers were the primary caretakers for only 8 percent
of children age 5 to 14.
   --Fathers who were out of work were most likely to provide
child care. Fifty-six percent of preschoolers whose fathers
were jobless for long periods were cared for by their fathers,
the study said.
   --Families in which husbands of working wives cared for the
preschool children had a variety of schedules.


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