Time’s Healthland reported last month that stay-at-home dads are more likely to divorce. It is NOT TRUE.
What’s even worse is the title they chose for the URL. That is downright shameful.
The article, which has been picked up by several other sources, refers to a study led by Dr. Liana Sayer of Ohio State University published in the American Journal of Sociology which found married men who are unemployed are more likely to divorce than men who are working.
“The study doesn’t include a measure of ‘stay-at-home’ dads,” Dr. Sayer told me in an email last week asking for clarification on the link between unemployed husbands and stay-at-home dads. “All we know is if the husband is unemployed and the (lagged) number of months unemployed.”
Attempts to contact Bonnie Rochman, who wrote the article for Time’s Healthland, have been unsuccessful but it seems that she jumped to a conclusion that ‘unemployed husband’ means ‘stay-at-home dad.’
First of all, not all married men are fathers. The study discusses married men; it does not mention how many, if any, are FATHERS.
Secondly, not all married men have young children at home to take care of. Some of them surely have high schoolers or college-aged children. Some may leave the kids in daycare. Some may be married to a stay-at-home MOM who continues to do the primary caregiving while the husband looks for a job, and apparently, a divorce attorney.
Finally, not all stay-at-home dads are unemployed. The latest U.S. Census says that 154,000 men are at-home fathers but they only count men who make no income for one year or go to school while caring for the kids. However, many demographers put the real number around 2 million which is supported, in part, by a different Census report that says 25% of children under 5 are cared for by their fathers while their mothers are at work. By this more accurate definition, up to 90% of at-home dads are actually EMPLOYED, at least part-time (including me) and some full time!
So how could Time’s Healthland journalist Bonnie Rochman conclude Dr. Sayer’s study says at-home dads are more likely to divorce?
She failed to apply logical reasoning to her assumptions by falling victim to the very cultural gender bias found in the study: “Women’s employment has increased and is accepted, men’s nonemployment is unacceptable to many…” Movies like “Mr. Mom” in 1983, which I have previously bemoaned at length, and commercials like this one from Clorox in 2011 perpetuate the stereotype that a man who is not working or is doing what the study called “feminized roles such as household work and emotional support” is a failure as a man. The problem is, this is no more true than saying a woman who choses to work outside of the home instead of stay home with her kids is a failure as a mom.
“I do think (based some on my research) that of course men who become stay at home dads purely based on job loss and not other reasons have their challenges,” says Dr. Aaron Rochlen, associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and author of two recent extensive studies on stay-at-home fathers. However, after reviewing Dr. Sayer’s research Dr. Rochlen concluded that “it is ridiculous the connection they are making” between stay-at-home fathers and divorce.
Unfortunately the connection between stay at-home dads and divorce is not the only “ridiculous connection” Time is making. Incredibly, they have taken it one step further!
“Why-Its-Not-Okay-for-Dads-to-Stay-Home” is the title Time chose for the URL of this article on its website.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
The journalist is so bold as to assumes all unemployed married men are at-home dads, which is NOT TRUE, and then jumps even further out on a limb to characterize this assumption, even if it were accurate, as a reason dads should not become at-home parents?!
It IS okay for dads to stay home. Respected child psychologist, Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale, has found that men who are involved with their children, including dads who are home with them on a daily basis, reduce teen pregnancy and drug abuse and promote a stronger sense of self-assurance in his children.
To suggest that “its not okay for dads to stay home” is FLAT WRONG and, worse, offensive to the proud men who work hard to passionately care for their children and support their wives. Linking research on unemployed married men with an opinion that men should not stay home with the kids is absurd and, frankly, inexcusable for an article described as “news.”
“The role of women has changed a lot,” Dr. Sayer is quoted in Time’s Healthland article, “but we have seen far less movement in the roles of men.” With a supposedly professional media outlet making stereotyped assumptions from clearly stated facts, one does not have to wonder why.