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Making Caring Common Releases Report on Fathers' Relationships with Their Children

The new research suggests fathers in the United States have become closer to their children during the pandemic.
Father with child

New research published today suggests that almost 70% of fathers across race, class, educational attainment, and political affiliation in the United States feel closer to their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Published by the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children examines the impact of the pandemic on fathers’ relationship with their children.

“Despite women having entered the workforce in high numbers over the past 50 years, mothers have remained the primary caregivers of children,” said Richard Weissbourd, senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, faculty director of Making Caring Common, and co-author of the report. “What we’re seeing here is that fathers, many of whom had previously been consumed by their work, have developed a new sense of closeness to their children during the pandemic.”

Making Caring Common researchers conducted two surveys that explored the family experiences and values of adults in the United States. One survey of a diverse cross-section of 1,319 American adults — including 284 fathers — asked parents how their relationships with their children have changed during the pandemic. Sixty-eight percent of fathers feel closer or much closer to their children since the pandemic, with 20% of those reporting that they feel “much closer” and only about 1% reporting that they feel less close or much less close. Thirty-one percent reported no change in their closeness to their children.

The second survey of 1,297 parents, including 534 fathers, asked fathers in what ways they felt closer to their children. Common responses included having more meaningful conversations with their children, getting to know their children better, and sharing more with their children about their own lives. Dads are also appreciating their children more and discovering new, shared interests with their children. Additional findings include:

  • 57% of fathers report that they are appreciating their children more. (37% report no change.)
  • 54% of fathers report that they’re paying more attention to their children’s feelings. (42% report no change.)
  • 52% percent of fathers report that their children are talking to them more often about “things that are more important to them.” (40% report no change.)
  •  51% report that they’re doing more activities with their children based on their children’s interests. (41% report no change.)

Many fathers shared that the increased amount of time spent at home has led to some combination of deeper conversations with their children and more time to play together, as well as more opportunities to engage in creative activities at home. “I think that it has reinforced the importance of family as we try to spend time together every day now,” shared one father who participated in the survey. Another stated, “Staying and working from home has greatly helped in improving my bond with my little girl. It has brought us together closer than before. She freely shares her thoughts with me, what interests her and what she wants from me. We play games together nearly every other day and I have become her partner in so many other things too. This is a remarkable improvement.”

“These gains in closeness could, of course, easily evaporate after the pandemic,” said Weissbourd. “This report underscores the importance of fathers developing rituals and routines with children that they can continue long after the pandemic is over.”

For the full report and additional information, visit Making Caring Common.