Traditional Parental Roles are Changing

By Jazelle Hunt Washington Correspondent | 6/27/2014, 4:59 p.m.
A cache of new research from the Pew Center paints a picture of the modern American family—a picture in which ...
One paper reports that 27 percent of all fathers live apart from at least one of their children. For Black men, that figure is 44 percent. Further, 55 percent of Black children were living in a single-parent home, according to 2011 Census data.

The shift in attitudes and norms is affecting moms, too.

“Since 1965, mothers have almost tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, but they still lag fathers who work, on average, 37 hours a week,” it explains. “Meanwhile, fathers have increased their housework and child care time, but still only do about half of what mothers do.”

Black children are least likely to grow up with a stay-at-home mom (23 percent, compared to 37 percent for Asians, 36 percent for Latinos, and 26 percent for Whites). This is likely because egalitarian views about breadwinning are not new for African Americans.

“According to the survey, blacks are far more likely than whites to see earning a living as a top responsibility of dads and moms. Fully half (51 percent) of blacks say providing income is “extremely important” for fathers compared with 40 percent of whites,” say the researchers. Black respondents felt the responsibility was just as great for mothers, compared to 21 percent of Whites who agreed.

The changes in family roles are also reflected in public attitudes, although the attitudes seem to be changing more slowly. For example, 58 percent of respondents believe that the ideal situation for kids is to have a working mother—though most (42 percent) believe that she should only work part-time. In reality, moms are the breadwinners in 40 percent of households.

“There are also some differences in the way the public weighs the roles of mothers and fathers, especially when it comes to being an income provider,” says one report. “Just 25 percent of survey respondents say this is an extremely important role for mothers, compared with 41 percent who feel that way about fathers.”

Interestingly, public policy doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times, according to Garrow.

“Our social system is not making it particularly easy for fathers to receive assistance, for example, if they’re the single head of their household. And a lot of our fathers have complained…when there’s custody disputes, their input or response is not considered by judges,” he says. “But when we bring fathers back into their child’s lives they are sharing roles in raising their child. It’s always collaborative.”