Content uploaded by Mareike Buenning
All content in this area was uploaded by Mareike Buenning on Apr 17, 2019
Content may be subject to copyright.
Make Your Publications Visible.
A Service of
Leibniz Information Centre
Article — Accepted Manuscript (Postprint)
What Happens after the ‘Daddy Months’? Fathers’
Involvement in Paid Work, Childcare, and Housework
after Taking Parental Leave in Germany
European Sociological Review
Provided in Cooperation with:
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Suggested Citation: Bünning, Mareike (2015) : What Happens after the ‘Daddy Months’?
Fathers’ Involvement in Paid Work, Childcare, and Housework after Taking Parental Leave in
Germany, European Sociological Review, ISSN 1468-2672, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
Vol. 31, Iss. 6, pp. 738-748,
This Version is available at:
Die Dokumente auf EconStor dürfen zu eigenen wissenschaftlichen
Zwecken und zum Privatgebrauch gespeichert und kopiert werden.
Sie dürfen die Dokumente nicht für öffentliche oder kommerzielle
Zwecke vervielfältigen, öffentlich ausstellen, öffentlich zugänglich
machen, vertreiben oder anderweitig nutzen.
Sofern die Verfasser die Dokumente unter Open-Content-Lizenzen
(insbesondere CC-Lizenzen) zur Verfügung gestellt haben sollten,
gelten abweichend von diesen Nutzungsbedingungen die in der dort
genannten Lizenz gewährten Nutzungsrechte.
Documents in EconStor may be saved and copied for your
personal and scholarly purposes.
You are not to copy documents for public or commercial
purposes, to exhibit the documents publicly, to make them
publicly available on the internet, or to distribute or otherwise
use the documents in public.
If the documents have been made available under an Open
Content Licence (especially Creative Commons Licences), you
may exercise further usage rights as specified in the indicated
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 738
What Happens after the ‘Daddy Months’?
Fathers’ Involvement in Paid Work, Childcare, and
Housework after Taking Parental Leave in Germany
WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Reichpietschufer 50, 10553 Berlin, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
The German parental leave reform of 2007 created a new incentive for men to take parental leave by
introducing ‘daddy months’: 2 months of well-remunerated leave exclusively reserved for fathers. Against the
backdrop of the reform, this study examines how fathers’ uptake of parental leave affects the amount of time
they spend on paid work, housework, and childcare after the leave has ended. It investigates whether the effect
of parental leave differs by the length of leave taken and by whether fathers took the leave alone or at the
same time as their partners. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel from 2006 to 2012 and
Families in Germany from 2010 to 2012, the results of fixed-effects regressions indicate that fathers who took
parental leave subsequently reallocated their time from work to home. They reduced their working hours and
increased their involvement in childcare even after short and joint periods of parental leave. But only those
who took >2 months of leave or were on leave while their partner was working subsequently increased their
participation in house-work. Hence, fathers increased their involvement in childcare already after short leaves,
whereas enhanced gender equality in couples’ division of labour especially emerged after longer or solo leaves.
Over the past two decades, several European countries have introduced parental leave schemes in which a
portion of paid parental leave is reserved for the father (O’Brien and Moss, 2010). These ‘daddy months’ have
two aims: strengthening the father-child relationship and promoting gender equality in couples (Bekkengen,
2006). During parental leave, fathers have the opportunity to bond with their children, which can form the basis
for fathers’ long-term involvement in childcare. Increased paternal involvement in childcare has been shown to
have multiple benefits for both fathers and children. In children, it is associated with increased cognitive
competences, increased empathy, and fewer behavioural problems (Lamb, 2010). Fathers who are more
involved with their children have been found to
This article was published in
European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, pp. 738-748 (2015/07/29):
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 739
have happier marriages, experience better health, and to be more active in their communities (Snarey, 1993;
Knoester, Petts and Eggebeen, 2007).
Moreover, fathers’ use of parental leave may be conducive to increased gender equality in couples. The
birth of a child often leads couples to adopt a more traditional division of labour: By taking parental leave and
reducing their working hours, mothers shift time from work to home after childbirth, whereas most fathers leave
their time allocation unaltered (Craig and Mullan, 2010; Grunow, Schulz and Blossfeld, 2012; Ku¨hhirt, 2012).
However, when fathers take parental leave, they may share the additional burden of childcare and housework
more equally with their partners.
Taking the introduction of two daddy months in Germany as a starting point, this study asks whether fathers
who took parental leave subsequently reallocated their time from paid work to housework and childcare. In 2007,
flat-rate parental leave benefits were replaced with earnings-related benefits at 67 per cent of the previous
income, and 2 of the 14 months of this paid parental leave were reserved exclusively for fathers. After the
reform, the proportion of fathers who took parental leave increased from 3.5 per cent in 2006 to 21 per cent in
2008, and is currently close to 30 per cent (BMFSFJ, 2012). But does taking parental leave also have a lasting
effect on fathers’ time allocation even after they return to work?
Previous research has shown that fathers who took (longer periods of) parental leave were subsequently more
involved in childcare than fathers who did not; this was the case in Sweden (Haas and Hwang, 2008), the
United Kingdom (Tanaka and Waldfogel, 2007), the United States (Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel, 2007), and
Germany (Schober, 2014), although in the German study, the effect was restricted to the first year after
childbirth. The evidence on housework is more mixed. Whereas Schober found no effect of parental leave in
Germany, Kotsadam and Finseraas (2011) showed that Norwegian fathers increased their participation in doing
the laundry after the introduction of the daddy month. Concerning working hours, Cools, Fiva and Kirkebøen
(2015) found no evidence that uptake of parental leave increased part-time work among Norwegian fathers. But
Rege and Solli (2013) found a negative effect of parental leave on earnings, which they assumed was the
result of a reduction in working hours. In Sweden, the length of leave was negatively associated with working
hours (Duvander and Jans, 2009).
These previous studies used two basic types of research designs. The first design used cross-sectional data
and inferred an effect of parental leave by comparing fathers who took (different lengths of) parental leave with
fathers who did not take leave (Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel, 2007; Tanaka and Waldfogel, 2007; Haas and
Hwang, 2008; Duvander and Jans, 2009). This approach makes it difficult, however, to distinguish a causal effect
of parental leave on men’s time allocation from a spurious effect caused by the selection of highly involved
fathers into parental leave. The second design used the introduction of daddy month(s) as an instrument to
establish causality (Kotsadam and Finseraas, 2011; Rege and Solli, 2013; Schober, 2014; Cools, Fiva and
Kirkebøen, 2015). Studies in this second category were better able to establish causality, but as a drawback,
they did not capture differences between fathers with different leave-taking behaviour.
Combining the strengths of the two previous approaches, this study extends the literature in three ways. First,
it uses panel data to compare fathers’ time allocation before taking parental leave to their time allocation after
taking leave based on fixed-effects regression models to estimate whether fathers change their time allocation
after taking parental leave. Second, this study explores not only whether the length of leave matters but also
whether fathers who took parental leave simultaneously with their partners differed from fathers who took solo
leave. Finally, whereas most previous research has concentrated on individual dimensions of time use, this study
analyses the relation between parental leave and fathers’ time spent on three activities—paid work, housework,
and childcare—to provide a broader picture of whether fathers shift their time allocation from work to home after
The Policy Context
West Germany long had one of the most entrenched male breadwinner cultures in Europe. Policies such as joint
taxation, coverage of dependents in the public health insurance scheme, and long periods of parental leave with
low benefits encouraged a division of labour in which men specialize in paid work and women in homemaking
(Kreyenfeld and Geisler, 2006; Cooke, 2011). With German reunification in 1990, West German policies went into
effect in East Germany, as well.
Prior to 2007, parents could take parental leave for 36 months, and they received means-tested parental
leave benefits for the first 24 month at a flat rate of 300 euros. Even then, fathers were eligible to take parental
leave. They could do so simultaneously or alternately with their partners and also had the option of taking part-
time leave while working up to 30 h per week
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 740
(Gerlach, 2010). Yet, <5 per cent of fathers used parental leave.
This changed with the parental leave reform of 2007, which introduced earnings-related parental leave
benefits. Parents now receive 67 per cent of their previous earnings (65 per cent since 2011) for the first 12
months of parental leave, and can take unpaid leave for another 24 months afterwards. Furthermore, parents
receive paid leave for two additional months if each partner takes at least 2 months of leave. Thus, 2 months of
well- remunerated parental leave are reserved for the father and forfeited if he does not use them. After the
reform, the proportion of fathers who took parental leave increased from 3.5 per cent in 2006 to 21 per cent in
2008, and is currently close to 30 per cent. Fathers who took paid parental leave did so on average for 3
months (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2013). The average duration of paid leave for mothers whose partners also
took parental leave was 11 months (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2012a). There are no statistics on uptake of unpaid
In addition, a law dating from 2005 aimed at expanding public childcare for children under the age of3 years,
so that parents can place their children in public day care after the leave has ended. The proportion of children
aged 0–2 years in public childcare increased from 16 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2012 (Statistisches
Two different strands of theory argue that parental leave matters for fathers’ time allocation: the transformative
perspective, and the bargaining perspective. The transformative perspective is commonly used in research on
fatherhood, whereas the bargaining perspective is prominent in research on couples’ division of labour. Both
perspectives hypothesize that fathers reallocate their time from work to home after having taken parental leave.
The transformative perspective (Snarey, 1993; Knoester and Eggebeen, 2006; Knoester, Petts and Eggebeen,
2007) holds that parenthood presents developmental challenges to adults, and that meeting these challenges
can permanently transform men’s lives. Being responsible for a child can encourage fathers to reevaluate their
values and priorities, potentially leading to profound reorganization of life and personal growth.
This study applies the transformative perspective to parental leave and argues that not only the transition to
parenthood in general but especially the experience of taking parental leave can have a transformative effect
on fathers’ priorities and hence their time allocation. Exiting work temporarily gives fathers the opportunity to
bond with their children and to develop the necessary competence and confidence in parenting (Rehel, 2014).
Taking parental leave may also transform fathers’ gender role attitudes (Tanaka and Waldfogel, 2007; Haas and
Hwang, 2008) because they experience parenting as a learnable skill rather than as a natural ability of
mothers. Because of these experiences, fathers may develop a greater desire for work–family balance (Pfahl
and Reuyß, 2009; Rehel, 2014).
We therefore expect that taking parental leave permanently shifts men’s priorities from work to home, leading
fathers to work fewer hours after parental leave and to maintain a higher involvement in childcare and
housework. The longer the duration of fathers’ parental leave, the stronger we expect the transformative
impact to be. Furthermore, we expect greater shifts in time allocation among fathers who take leave alternately
with their partner than among those who take leave simultaneously. Here, we assume that when both parents
are at home together, fathers are more likely to remain the secondary caregiver. When fathers take solo leave,
however, they have full responsibility at home during the leave and may maintain a higher involvement in
housework and childcare after the leave has ended (Possinger,2013).
Bargaining theories hold that couples negotiate over the household division of labour (e.g., Evertsson and
Nermo, 2007). The partner with the better economic resources has greater bargaining power and can thereby
negotiate his/her way out of domestic work. From a dynamic perspective, couples renegotiate their division of
labour whenever there is a change in the demand for paid and unpaid work or in the couple’s relative resources.
One crucial turning point is the transition to parenthood. Children increase the demand for childcare and
housework. Furthermore, the birth of a child often weakens the mother’s bargaining position. After childbirth,
mothers usually interrupt employment and then often return to work only part-time, which reduces their
economic resources and weakens their bargaining power. Fathers can use this as an argument to impose the
additional responsibilities of housework and childcare on their partner.
The use of parental leave by fathers, however, alters parents’ relative resources. If fathers take parental
leave simultaneously with mothers, both partners temporarily have a reduced amount of resources available,
and this in turn reduces fathers’ relative advantage. If fathers take leave alternately with their partners, the
responsibility for housework and childcare is temporarily shifted
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 741
to the mother for the duration of her parental leave. But once the mother returned to work and the father is at
home, men find themselves in the weaker bargaining position. The mother now has greater economic resources,
and part of her domestic responsibilities are shifted to the father (Possinger, 2013). Thus, we hypothesize that
fathers’ use of parental leave decreases the risk of traditionalization associated with parenthood.
The expected outcome is the same under the bargaining perspective as under the transformative
perspective, with the difference that with the latter, fathers reallocate their time because they want to, whereas
with the former, it is because they have to. Which perspective is more appropriate probably depends on the
indicator studied. Qualitative research suggests that fathers want to be more involved in childcare (Pfahl and
Reuyß, 2009), whereas the case may be different for housework.
Finally, it is possible that there is no causal effect of parental leave on fathers’ time allocation. Associations
between parental leave and fathers’ time allocation could also result from the selection of specific fathers into
parental leave. Previous research has shown that fathers’ uptake of parental leave varies by socio-demographic
factors such as fathers’ level of education, income, the number of children, and region of residence (Geisler
and Kreyenfeld, 2011, 2012; Trappe, 2013). Furthermore, a specific group of men may exist who are more
committed to family life and less committed to paid work than other men. This commitment to family life is
reflected in both their uptake of parental leave and their reallocation of time from work to home after having
children. Any positive correlations found between fathers’ use of parental leave and their subsequent time
allocation would then be spurious, the result of underlying differences in commitment to work and family life.
Data and Methods
This analysis combines data from two German household panel studies, the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and
Families in Germany (FiD). The SOEP is representative for the adult population living in private households in
Germany. It started in West Germany in 1984 and in East Germany in 1990 (Wagner, Frick and Schupp, 2007).
FiD is a supplement to the SOEP that provides larger case numbers of families. It started in 2010 with the aim of
providing a comprehensive evaluation of German family policies. To do so, it sampled four types of families:
families with young children born since 2007, large families with three or more children, low-income families, and
single-parent families. In both studies, households were randomly selected using a multi-stage stratified sampling
procedure, and all adult household members were interviewed on an annual basis. The two data sets are similar
in content and structure, and the data are provided with weights for analyses using the combined data.
This study used SOEP data from 2006 to 2012 and FiD data from 2010 to 2012: the year prior to and the
years since the parental leave reform. The inclusion of data from 2006 was necessary to observe time use
before parental leave for fathers with children born in 2007. The sample for this study included fathers of children
born since 2007. We want to observe how working fathers change their time allocation after taking parental
leave. Therefore, it is important to observe the fathers’ time use before and after they took leave. The sample
thus only contained observations of fathers who were observed at least twice. For these fathers, all observation-
years where they lived together with the child’s mother and worked were included in the sample, except
observation-years where fathers were on (part-time) parental leave at the time of interview. Another restriction is
that fathers have already had at least one child in the first year of observation, meaning that the effect of
parental leave is not confounded by the transition to parenthood. As outlined above, family-oriented fathers may
be particularly likely to take parental leave but may also reallocate their time as soon as they have children.
Excluding observations before the transition to parenthood ensures that observed changes in fathers’ time use
after parental leave are not in fact the result of the transition to parenthood.1
Of the 1,926 fathers, 202 took at least 1 month of parental leave. The proportion of fathers who took parental
leave in this sample is thus lower than the population average. Of the fathers who took parental leave, 116 had
already taken parental leave in their first year of observation. These were mainly fathers from the FiD sample,
as these data were collected for the first time in 2010. Hence, the estimates of how fathers’ time allocation
changed after parental leave were based on the 86 fathers who were observed before and after taking
parental leave. The numbers are large enough to allow some first analyses of the effects of parental leave, but
limit the possibilities for testing whether the effect of parental leave varies across subgroups of fathers.
Dependent variables: The three dependent variables are fathers’ time allocation to paid work, housework, and
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 742
childcare. Hours in paid work are measured as fathers’ actual weekly working hours including overtime. Hours in
childcare and housework refer to the number of hours men report spending on these activities on a normal
weekday. The question read ‘How many hours do you spend on the following activities on a typical weekday?’,
and the activities included ‘housework (washing, cooking, cleaning)’ and ‘childcare’. Housework hence covers
the routine, female-typed tasks that German men are least likely to perform (Tai and Treas, 2013), whereas no
specific tasks were given as examples for childcare.
Explanatory variables: Three measures are derived from fathers’ reported monthly employment status to
capture fathers’ leave-taking behaviour. The first indicator is a dummy variable indicating whether a father ever
took parental leave for 1 month or more. The second indicator captures different lengths of parental leave,
distinguishing between one or two daddy months and longer periods of leave. The third indicator considers
whether fathers took their entire leave simultaneously with their partner or whether they took at least 1 month of
leave alone while the mother worked. If fathers took parental leave for more than one child, all their parental
leave episodes were added up to construct the indicators.2
Control variables: All models control for number of children (one, two, and three or more), the age of the
youngest child, marital status (married or cohabiting), level of education (basic (Hauptschule with or without
vocational training), secondary (Realschule or Abitur with or without vocational training), and tertiary education
according to the Casmin Classification), fathers’ net monthly income, partners’ employment status (full-time (>30
h), long part-time (20–30 h), short part-time (1–19 h), not working), year (dummies), and region of residence (16
Bundesla¨nder). The models estimating time spent doing housework and childcare also control for men’s working
This study uses fixed-effects panel regression models to estimate how fathers change their time allocation after
taking parental leave. In fixed-effects regression, the individual-specific mean of each variable is subtracted from
its actual value in each period, which means that the fixed-effects estimators are based solely on intra-individual
change. Therefore, the estimates of the relationship between parental leave and fathers’ time allocation are
based on differences in fathers’ average time use before and after taking parental leave, net of control variables.
This procedure nets out the influence of time-invariant observed and unobserved traits that may be associated
both with fathers’ uptake of parental leave and with their time allocation. This is important because fathers who
take parental leave differ from fathers who do not in several characteristics, of which some—e.g., commitment to
family life—are unobserved.
Observations of fathers who do not take parental leave are used to control for time trends that affect all
fathers equally. For example, Schober (2014) found that even fathers who did not take parental leave increased
their participation in childcare after the 2007 parental leave reform. Nonetheless, the generalizability of results
should be regarded with caution as the models can only estimate how uptake of leave affects those fathers
that select into parental leave.
Fixed-effects models eliminate bias resulting from time-constant heterogeneity, but they may still be biased by
endogeneity as a results of time-varying heterogeneity or reverse causality. To reduce the bias of time-varying
heterogeneity, the models control for several time-varying covariates. It would be desirable to also include
interaction effects between the control variables and up-take of parental leave. However, given the small
number of fathers who take parental leave, this is currently not possible.3 Furthermore, the causal relation
between some of the control variables and the three dependent variables is not evident, which may introduce
reverse causality to the models. For example, fathers’ involvement at home may enable mothers to work more,
result in a wage penalty, or affect the decision to have another child. The causal link between fathers’ paid and
unpaid work is also unclear: long working hours might limit the time fathers have available for unpaid work,
whereas high involvement in childcare and housework might restrict the time fathers can spend in paid work (see
Evertsson and Nermo, 2004). As a robustness test, I therefore compare the results of the full models to more
parsimonious models that do not control for partners’ employment status, number of children, age of the
youngest child, income, and—for models on childcare and housework—fathers’ working hours.
The data are weighted using the person-specific weights that are provided for analyses combining SOEP and
FiD data. Households in the sample have different sampling probabilities, for example, because SOEP over-
samples Eastern Germans and FiD only targets certain groups of families. Therefore, and to adjust for non-
response and panel attrition, it is necessary to weight the data to obtain unbiased estimates. A drawback of
weighting, however, is that the estimators are less efficient, i.e., the standard errors are larger. Using weights
therefore results in conservative tests (Pfeffermann,
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 743
1996). As fixed-effects models require the weights for each person to be constant across time, the analyses
use the weights for the first year a person appears in the sample.
Table 1 displays descriptive statistics for the first- and last-year fathers were in the sample—separately for fathers
who took parental leave during the observation period and fathers who did not. The last column of Table 1 also
displays average values across all fathers and years. Fathers who took parental leave during the observation
period reduced their working hours by >3 h per week, increased their childcare time by >1.5 h per day, and
slightly increased their involvement in domestic work. Fathers who did not use parental leave, by contrast,
increased their weekly working time on average by 1 h over the observation period, only slightly increased
their involvement in childcare, and did not change their involvement in housework. The descriptive statistics
provide little evidence that fathers who take parental leave are more involved in childcare and housework and
less involved in paid work from the start. In fact, in the first year of observation, fathers who eventually took
parental leave had longer working hours and were less involved in childcare than fathers who did not later take
In line with previous research, fathers who took parental leave were more highly educated, more likely to
have only one child, and more likely to live in Eastern Germany (Geisler and Kreyenfeld, 2011, 2012).
Furthermore, the partners of fathers who took parental leave were less likely to be non-employed and more likely
to work full-time than the partners of other fathers, both in the first and last year of observation. They were also
more likely to start working during the observation period.
Among those fathers who took parental leave, about half only took 1 or 2 months, whereas the other half
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 744
took longer periods of leave. Fifty-five per cent of fathers took all their leave simultaneously with their partner,
whereas 45 per cent took at least 1 month of leave while their partner was working. A comparison with official
statistics from 2010 reveals that fathers who took only the two daddy months were under-represented in this
sample compared with the national average of three quarters. Furthermore, fathers in this sample took solo
leave more often than the national average of one third (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2012a). This could result from
differences in classifying those fathers who took part of the leave simultaneously with their partner and another
part alone: Official statistics classify these fathers as taking leave jointly with the mother, whereas they were
counted here as taking solo parental leave. Cross-tabulating length of leave with solo/joint leave reveals that
roughly half of the fathers on both short and long leave were on joint parental leave, whereas the other half were
on solo leave.
The results of the fixed-effects regression models on fathers’ weekly working hours (Table 2) support the
expectation that fathers reduce their working hours after parental leave. On average, fathers worked 4 h less per
week after taking parental leave than before the leave. Fathers who took only 2 months of parental leave or
who were on leave simultaneously with their partner reduced their working hours by 3 h, whereas fathers who
took longer or solo leave reduced their working hours by 5 h. Hence, the point estimates suggest that fathers
reduced their working time more after longer periods of leave or after taking on greater responsibility for childcare
during their leave because their partner was working. However, given the small number of fathers who took
parental leave, the 95 per cent confidence intervals are rather wide and the confidence intervals for long and
short periods of leave as well as solo and joint leave overlap considerably. The effects should therefore be
interpreted with caution.4
As displayed in Table 3, fathers who took parental leave also spent on average one more hour per weekday
on childcare than they did before taking leave. This holds for fathers on short leave as well as for fathers on
long leave, and for fathers who took leave simultaneously with their partner as well as for those who alternated
with their partner in taking leave. The effect sizes were somewhat larger for fathers who took longer or solo
leave, but the differences from fathers who took shorter or joint leave were not statistically significant. Hence,
parental leave is positively associated with fathers’ involvement in childcare irrespective of the length of leave
taken or level of responsibility held during the leave.
As displayed in Table 4, fathers on average did not change the amount of time spent on housework after
taking parental leave. But distinguishing between the different types of leave revealed that fathers increased their
housework time after long and solo parental leave.
Several additional analyses were performed to check the robustness of the results. The results of these
additional analyses are displayed as supplementary online material. Supplementary Tables S5–S7 in the online
material present the results of the more parsimonious models described in the methods section. Findings on
the effect of parental leave are robust in these models. Supplementary Tables S8–S10 in the online material
explored whether the shift in fathers’ time allocation persists, because Schober (2014) found that fathers’
increased involvement in childcare was restricted to the first year after parental leave. In Supplementary Tables
S8–S10, all effects of parental leave were estimated separately for the first and subsequent years after the
leave. Most coefficients were of similar magnitude in the first
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 745
and subsequent years after the leave. Some even became stronger over time. Only the effect of short parental
leave on working hours decreased in magnitude and became statistically insignificant after the first year. Hence,
in general, fathers’ changes in time use persist for at least 2 or 3 years.
Additional analyses estimated the effect of taking parental leave on fathers’ share of childcare and house-
work rather than their absolute number of hours spent on both activities (Supplementary Tables S11 and S12 in
the online material). The results were similar to the ones presented in Tables 3 and 4, although slightly
weaker. Fathers increased their share of childcare after taking all but short periods of parental leave, and
increased their share of housework after taking solo parental leave.
The results of the fixed-effects regressions were also compared with the results of ordinary least squares
(OLS) models to determine the extent of selection (Supplementary Tables S13–S15 in the online material). For
these analyses, the effects of taking parental leave were based on all 202 fathers who took parental leave
rather than only on the 86 fathers who were observed before and after taking leave. According to the OLS
models, fathers who took parental leave worked 2 h less per week than fathers who did not, and fathers who
were on long or solo leave did more housework. But there was little evidence that fathers who took parental
leave spent more time on childcare than fathers who did not. Hence, contrary to expectations, the OLS effects
were weaker than the fixed effects. As already foreshadowed by the descriptive statistics in Table 1, the data
thus provide no evidence that fathers who took parental leave were already less committed to work and more
committed to childcare and housework before they went on leave. All in all, the supplementary analyses provide
further evidence that fathers who take parental leave reallocate their time from work to home, especially after
long or solo parental leave.
Discussion and Conclusions
Previous research has argued that family policies influence parents’ division of labour and fathers’ time with
children. In particular, long parental leaves for mothers reinforce a traditional division of labour (Hook, 2010). In
Germany, long leaves of 3 years after childbirth in combination with a joint taxation system have long favoured
the male-breadwinner model. Yet, with the
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 746
parental leave reform of 2007, German family policy has shifted towards supporting a dual-earner, dual-carer
model. Introducing earnings-related parental leave benefits and reserving 2 months of paid parental leave for
the father incentivized fathers to share the leave with their partners.
This study asked whether men reallocate their time from work to home after taking parental leave. The
results showed that fathers reduced their weekly working hours and took on more childcare and housework
after they returned from parental leave. This is in line with the transformative perspective’s expectation that the
experience of taking parental leave strengthens fathers’ involvement in family life at the expense of time spent
at work. However, it may also be that fathers’ reallocation of time is due to a reduction in their bargaining
power after parental leave. This study cannot discriminate between these two possible mechanisms. Results
from qualitative research suggest that fathers who took parental leave want to be less involved in paid work
and more involved in childcare (Pfahl and Reuyß, 2009), but the case may be different regarding housework.
When asked about their motives for taking parental leave, two thirds of fathers said that developing a close
relationship with their children was very important to them. Only 20 per cent said that they wanted to support
their partner in her career (Pfahl and Reuyß, 2009). This suggests that child-orientation is a stronger motive for
fathers’ uptake of parental leave than aspirations of gender equality (Bekkengen, 2006).
In line with these motives, fathers reduced time in paid work and spent more time with their children even
after short and joint periods of parental leave. However, fathers only increased the time spent on housework
after they took either more than 2 months of leave or solo leave. Hence, children benefit from all types of leave,
whereas enhanced gender equality in couples especially emerged after longer or solo leaves. This is in line
with Coltrane’s (1997) finding that fathers who become more involved at home often begin with childcare, and
only over time become more involved in housework.
The results underscore the importance of distinguishing between different parental leave patterns. Whereas
previous research has already established that the length of parental leave matters for fathers’ subsequent
working hours and participation in childcare (Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel, 2007; Haas and Hwang, 2008;
Duvander and Jans, 2009), this study is the first to show differences between solo and joint leaves. Fathers on
solo leave have to take full responsibility at home and change their daily routines more profoundly than fathers
who take leave simultaneously with their partners and likely remain the child’s secondary caregiver. These more
profound changes undertaken during solo leave may then explain the more persistent changes in fathers’ time
allocation after the leave has ended.
The results are clear and robust to alternative specifications despite the small number of fathers whose time
allocation was observed before and after they took parental leave. However, the small case numbers restrict
the possibilities to explore whether the effect of taking parental leave differs between groups of fathers. As more
waves of SOEP and FiD become available, future research will be able to conduct more elaborate studies
exploring, for example, differences by fathers’ level of education, child parity, and region of residence.
Another limitation of this study is that the estimates on time spent in housework and childcare are based on
self-reported time use, and respondents are known to overestimate their time spent in these activities in self-
reports. This does not bias the results if fathers consistently overestimate their time in unpaid work or if the
extent of overestimation varies randomly. But the results could be biased if fathers have a greater tendency to
over-report the time spent on housework and childcare after taking parental leave. Without comparable time
diary data, it is not possible to assess whether this is the case. But the fact that fathers not only increase their
time in domestic work after taking parental leave but also reduce their time spent on paid work supports the
assumption that the shift in time use is real, as self-reported working hours have been found to be consistent
with working hours obtained from time diaries (Juster, Ono and Stafford, 2003).
Comparing the findings of this study with results from other countries is difficult because previous studies
differed in design and dependent variables used. Nonetheless, the findings of this study are consistent with
previous findings from Sweden (Haas and Hwang, 2008; Duvander and Jans, 2009), the United States
(Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel, 2007), and the United Kingdom (Tanaka and Waldfogel, 2007), which show that
taking parental leave (for at least 2 weeks) encourages greater father involvement in childcare and shorter
paternal working hours.
Authors of previous studies expressed concern that their results could be biased because they were cross-
sectional in design and thus at risk of interpreting selection of family-oriented fathers into parental leave as
causal effects. Using panel data, this study tackled selection by comparing the behaviour of the same fathers
before and after they took parental leave rather than drawing conclusions by comparing fathers who took leave
with fathers who did not. Yet, surprisingly, a comparison of
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 747
fixed-effects with OLS models revealed no evidence that fathers who took parental leave were already less
involved in paid work and more involved in childcare and housework before taking parental leave than other
fathers. Selection hence appears to play a much smaller role than expected.
The German parental leave reform is still too recent to determine whether fathers’ reallocation of time will last
or whether it is restricted to the first few years after taking parental leave. Future research needs to determine
whether the effects persist or diminish as children grow older. Furthermore, it is unclear whether fathers’ greater
involvement at home results in disadvantages on the labour market. For mothers, taking parental leave is
associated with lower earnings and reduced career opportunities, and research from the United States and
Sweden suggests that these caregiver penalties may be even more pronounced for fathers (Albrecht et al., 1999;
Coltrane et al., 2013). Many German fathers hesitate to take parental leave because they fear negative effects
on their careers (BMFSFJ, 2007). Future research should therefore determine whether fathers’ reallocation of
time from paid work to domestic work has negative repercussions on their labour market opportunities.
1 This restriction means that only first-time fathers who take parental leave immediately after childbirth are excluded from the
sample, as their time allocation cannot be observed after the transition to parenthood but before parental leave. The time
allocation of first-time fathers who take parental leave when their child is a few months old can be observed in the period
between the birth of the child and the beginning of the parental leave period. These fathers are included in the sample, as
are fathers who have an additional child and take parental leave for this additional child.
2 Of the 86 fathers who took parental leave within the observation period, 78 only took full-time parental leave, 6 only took
part-time parental leave, and 2 used a combination of both. Additional analyses showed that all results were robust against
excluding part-time parental leave episodes.
3 For example, one could assume that the birth of a child affects leave-taking fathers differently than non-leave-taking fathers.
Because of underlying differences in gender role attitudes, the former may increase their participation in childcare whereas
the latter do not, which would bias the effect of leave uptake. By including only observations after the transition to
parenthood into the sample, this study aims to limit possible bias from such selection effects. However, without including
interaction effects between leave uptake and child parity, it cannot rule out that leave-taking fathers increase their time in
childcare to a greater extent than non-leave taking fathers after the birth of an additional child.
4 The effect sizes resemble the effects from the correlational study by Duvander and Jans (2009). Yet, they are considerably
larger than the effects of parental leave on earnings found by Rege and Solli (2013) and Cools, Fiva and Kirkebøen (2015).
One reason for this discrepancy could be that fathers primarily reduced unpaid overtime after parental leave.
This paper benefitted from discussions at the LNU colloquium at Stockholm University, the 2014 spring conference of the
Section for Family Sociology of the German Sociological Association, the ECSR conference 2014, and the USP colloquium at
WZB Berlin Social Science Center. In particular, I thank Katharina Boye, Marie Evertsson, Matthias Pollmann-Schult, as well
as the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.
This study was supported by the DFG German Research Foundation (grant number PO 1569/2-1).
Supplementary data are available at ESR online.
Albrecht, J. W. et al. (1999). Career interruptions and subsequent earnings. A reexamination using Swedish data. The Journal of
Human Resources, 34, 294–311.
Bekkengen, L. (2006). Men’s parental leave. A manifestation of gender equality or child-orientation? In Gonäs, L. and Karlsson,
J. (Eds.), Gender Segregation. Divisions of Work in Post-Industrial Welfare States. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 149–162.
BMFSFJ (2007). Das Elterngeld im Urteil der jungen Eltern. Eine Umfrage unter Müttern und Vätern, deren jüngstes Kind 2007
geboren wurde. Bonn: Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend.
BMFSFJ (2012). Ministerin Schröder: “Das Elterngeld ist ein Erfolgsmodell". Berlin; BMFSFJ.
Coltrane, S. (1997). Family Man. Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Coltrane, S. et al. (2013). Fathers and the flexibility stigma. Journal of Social Issues, 69, 279–302.
Originally published in: European Sociological Review, Vol. 31 (2015), Iss. 6, p. 748
Cooke, L. P. (2011). Gender-Class Equality in Political Economies. New York: Routledge.
Cools, S., Fiva, J. H. and Kirkebøen, L. J. (2015). Causal effects of paternity leave on children and parents. The Scandinavian
Journal of Economics, 117, 801–828.
Craig, L. and Mullan, K. (2010). Parenthood, gender and work-family time in the United States, Australia, Italy, France, and
Denmark. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72,1344–1361.
Duvander, A.-Z. and Jans, A.-C. (2009). Consequences of fathers parental leave use. Evidence from Sweden. Finnish Yearbook
of Population Research, 49–62.
Evertsson, M. and Nermo, M. (2004). Dependence within families and the division of labor. Comparing Sweden and the United
States. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 1272–1286.
Evertsson, M. and Nermo, M. (2007). Changing resources and the division of housework. A longitudinal study of Swedish
couples. European Sociological Review, 23, 455–470.
Geisler, E. and Kreyenfeld, M. (2011). Against all odds. Fathers’ use of parental leave in Germany. Journal of European Social
Policy, 21, 88–99.
Geisler, E. and Kreyenfeld, M. (2012). How Policy Matters. Germany’s Parental Leave Benefit Reform and Fathers’ Behavior
1999-2009: MPIDR Working Paper. Rostock: Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.
Gerlach, I. (2010). Familienpolitik. Wiesbaden: VS.
Grunow, D., Schulz, F. and Blossfeld, H.-P. (2012). What determines change in the division of housework over the course of
marriage? International Sociology, 27, 289–307.
Haas, L. and Hwang, C. P. (2008). The impact of taking parental leave on fathers’ participation in childcare and relationships
with children. Lessons from Sweden. Community, Work and Family, 11, 85–104.
Hook, J. L. (2010). Gender inequality in the welfare state. Sex segregation in housework, 1965 -2003. American Journal of
Sociology, 115, 1480–1523.
Juster, F. T., Ono, H. and Stafford, F. P. (2003). An assessment of alternative measures of time use. Sociological Methodology,
Knoester, C. and Eggebeen, D. J. (2006). The effects of the transition to parenthood and subsequent children on men’s well -
being and social participation. Journal of Family Issues, 27,1532–1560.
Knoester, C., Petts, R. J. and Eggebeen, D. J. (2007). Commitments to fathering and the well -being and social participation of
new, disadvantaged fathers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 991–1004.
Kotsadam, A. and Finseraas, H. (2011). The state intervenes in the battle of the sexes. Causal effects of paternity leave. Social
Science Research, 40, 1611–1622.
Kreyenfeld, M. and Geisler, E. (2006). Müttererwerbstätigkeit in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung,
Kühhirt, M. (2012). Childbirth and the long-term division of labour within couples: How do substitution, bargaining power, and
norms affect parents’ time allocation in West Germany? European Sociological Review, 28, 565–582.
Lamb, M. E. (Ed.) (2010). The Role of the Father in Child Development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Nepomnyaschy, L. and Waldfogel, J. (2007). Paternity leave and fathers’ involvement with their young children. Community,
Work and Family, 10, 427–453.
O’Brien, M. and Moss, P. (2010). Fathers, work, and family policies in Europe. In Lamb, M. E. (Ed.). The Role of the Father in
Child Development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, pp. 551–577.
Pfahl, S. and Reuyß, S. (2009). Das neue Elterngeld. Erfahrungen und betriebliche Nutzungsbedingungen von Vätern.
Pfeffermann, D. (1996). The use of sampling weights for survey data analysis. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 5, 239–
Possinger, J. (2013). Vaterschaft im Spannungsfeld von Erwerbs- und Familienleben. “Neuen Vätern” auf der Spur. Wiesbaden:
Rege, M. and Solli, I. F. (2013). The impact of paternity leave on fathers’ future earnings. Demography, 50, 2255–2277.
Rehel, E. M. (2014). When dad stays home too. Paternity leave, gender, and parenting. Gender and Society, 28, 110–132.
Schober, P. S. (2014). Parental leave and domestic work of mothers and fathers. A longitudinal study of two reforms in West
Germany. Journal of Social Policy, 43, 351–372.
Snarey, J. R. (1993). How Fathers Care for the Next Generation. A four-decade study. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University
Statistisches Bundesamt (2012a). Elterngeld - Wer, wie lange, wie viel? Wiesbaden: Statistisches Bundesamt.
Statistisches Bundesamt (2012b). Kindertagesbetreuung in Deutschland 2012. Wiesbaden: Statistisches Bundesamt.
Statistisches Bundesamt (2013). Väter beziehen immer häufiger, aber auch immer kürzer Elterngeld. Wiesbaden:
Tai, T. and Treas, J. (2013). Housework task hierarchies in 32 countries. European Sociological Review, 29, 780–791.
Tanaka, S. and Waldfogel, J. (2007). Effects of parental leave and work hours on fathers’ involvement with their babies.
Evidence from the millennium cohort study. Community, Work and Family, 10, 409–426.
Trappe, H. (2013). Väterzeit - das Elterngeld als Beschleuniger von Gleichstellung. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 25, 238–
Wagner, G. G., Frick, J. and Schupp, J. (2007). The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Scope, evolution and
enhancements. Schmollers Jahrbuch, 125, 139–169.