Paternity Leave, Family Dynamics, and Children’s Behavior

Nanxun Li, National University of Singapore
Wei-Jun Yeung, National University of Singapore

Research has shown that fathers who take paternity leave are more involved in childcare activities, share more housework with partners, enjoy better couple relations, and have a stronger bond with their children in some western societies. However, little is known about the influence of paternity leave policy on family dynamics and children’s behavior in Asian contexts where paternity leave is significantly shorter and patriarchal ideology is prevalent. This study examines how paternity leave-taking is related to children’s behavior and the extent to which family dynamics mediate this relationship in Singapore, where a 2-week paternity leave was initiated in 2017 and women remain the primary caregivers of children despite the phenomenal increase in their educational attainment and labor force participation. We use data from the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study. Results showed that a 2-week or longer paternity leave is significantly related to lower family conflict, maternal depression, and mothers’ parenting aggravation, and positively related to marital satisfaction and father-child closeness. We found that 1 or 2 weeks or longer paternity leave is significantly related to lower behavior problems in children even when socio-demographic characteristics were controlled. Family dynamic covariates fully mediated the impact of paternity leave on children’s behavioral problems.

Keywords: Children and youth, Policy

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session P6.