CARE International Balkans and its partners in the region prepared the State of the World’s Fathers: Balkans Review in April 2016, building on the efforts of the global State of the World’s Fathers report by conducting a policy review of gender-equitable fatherhood and caregiving policies in the region. The Balkans Review aims to be used to influence policies and strategies to advance gender equality in the region.
The campaign has one clear message: ‘Fathers matter’. The review outlines the importance of father–child relationships in all communities and at all stages of a child’s life for children which have a lifelong consequences on the status of their relationships.
Huge changes in the workplace and in households are creating the role of men participation as caregivers. Yet this remains far from being completely recognised, with the men’s involvement in caregiving too often missing from public policies, systematic data collection and research, and from efforts to promote women’s empowerment.
This first ever State of the World’s Fathers report brings together key international research findings along with program and policy examples related to men’s participation in caregiving; in sexual and reproductive health and rights; in maternal, new-born, and child health; in violence and violence prevention; and in child development.
Key findings: Involved fatherhood:
- Helps children thrive. As research shows, father’s involved in caregiving has supported higher cognitive development and school achievement, better mental health for children, lower rates of delinquency and the development of empathy and social skills in children.
- Allows women and girls to achieve their full potential, helping to decrease the global gender gap. Research finds that daughters with fathers who share domestic chores equally are more likely to aspire to less traditional and potentially higher-paying jobs. Data from multi-country studies find that men who have seen their own fathers engage in domestic work are themselves more likely to be involved in household work and caregiving as adults.
- Makes men happier and healthier: men report the relationship with their children to be one of their most important sources of well-being and happiness. Studies find that fathers who report close, non-violent connections with their children live longer, have fewer mental or physical health problems, are less likely to abuse drugs, are more productive at work, and report being happier than fathers who do not report this connection with their children.
- Involved fatherhood is increasing in some parts of the world, but nowhere does it equal that of women, who make up 40 percent of the global formal workforce, yet they also continue to perform two to ten times more caregiving and domestic work than men do.
- Fathers want to spend more time with their children. Data from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) show that most fathers (ranging from 61 percent in Croatia to 77 percent in Chile) report that they would work less if it meant that they could spend more time with their children.
- Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children. Globally, about 85 million pregnancies were unintended in 2012, representing 40 percent of all pregnancies. Women’s contraceptive use represents approximately three-quarters of total contraceptive use worldwide, a proportion that has changed little over the past 20 years. More needs to be done to engage men in contraceptive use and decision-making in ways that support women’s reproductive choices, and to ensure that all pregnancies are wanted pregnancies.
- Engaging men – in ways that women want – early on in pre-natal visits, in childbirth, and immediately after the birth of a child can bring lasting benefits on maternal health behaviors, women’s use of maternal and newborn health services, and fathers’ longer-term support and involvement in the lives of their children.
- Promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence. Approximately one in three women experiences violence at the hands of a male partner in her lifetime. Research confirms that some forms of violence – particularly men’s violence against female partners – are often transmitted from one generation to the next. Data showa that men who, as children, witnessed their mother being beaten by a male partner were approximately two and a half times more likely to use violence against a female partner as adults. Research also finds that a more equitable division of caregiving is associated with lower rates of violence against children: a nationally representative study in Norway found that rates of violence against children – by mothers and fathers – were lower in households where men’s and women’s caregiving were more equal.
- Children, women, and men benefit when fathers take parental leave: leave for fathers is a vital step toward recognition of the importance of sharing caregiving for children, and it is an important means of promoting the well-being of children and gender equality in the home, the workplace, and society as a whole. Leave for fathers also appears to lead to improved maternal health – including mental health – and reduced parenting stress.
- Involved fatherhood also brings economic benefits. There is increasing evidence that providing paid family leave is good for business: it improves employee retention and reduces turnover, it increases productivity and morale, and it reduces absenteeism and training costs. At the household level, leave for fathers support women’s participation in the labour market and can increase their income and career outcomes.
Read the full review for more specific examples from the fathers in the Balkans and for recommendations of how to improve the state of the father-child relationships.