Fathers work more and socialise less, throughout the world – photo of girl

We found that more work and less play for fathers has a long history. We studied hunter gatherers and found the same pattern.

Fathers today tend to work harder and spend less time socialising with other men. We found that this pattern has a long history. We studied how men used their time in six small societies – hunter gatherers, horticulturalists and pastoralists – in Congo, Kenya, Indonesia, Peru and Venezuela. Fathers spend more time in commercial activity (e.g. raising cash crops, selling and bartering) and they spend less time socialising with other men.

In most industrialised societies, fathers’ work does not significantly decrease when they become fathers – their earning role continues uninterrrupted. If the mother’s income decreases, the father’s work is more likely to increase. The big exception to this is where there are strong work leave entitlements for fathers. In Iceland, with the most generous entitlements for fathers in the world, 90% of fathers take an average of 97 days off work!

The decrease of fathers’ social time with other men is fairly universal, with the exception of societies, such as some in Papua New Guinea, where there is a high degree of intergroup violence, requiring men to form strong fraternities for protection.

One study in USA found that men who are attractive work less! The theory is that these men are stronger in the mating market, and so can invest less in partners and children.

There have been enormous labour market changes in the world – massive urbanisation with unpredictable paid labour, and also more migratory work with fathers away from home for long periods. These patterns obviously affect fathers’ time with children enormously.

Tension between earning and caring, though very different from that experienced by mothers, seems to be a fairly universal phenomenon – research of men in Mexico, Botswana, Vietnam, USA, Honduras and Russia found a full 27% of fathers had at some time lost pay to care for a sick child.