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The New Millennial Dad: Understanding The Paradox of Today's Fathers

Authors:
Boston College 2016
THE NEW DAD
Understanding The Paradox of Today’s Fathers
Brad Harrington
Jennifer Sabatini Fraone
Boston College Center for Work & Family
Jegoo Lee
Stonehill College
Lisa Levey
Libra Consulting
Millennial
v
To Fred Van Deusen:
For your 10 years of outstanding contributions as a Senior Research Associate
at the Boston College Center for Work & Family. Your focus, expertise, and
exemplary teamwork made The New Dad research series possible, contributed
greatly to the national dialogue on the changing roles of fathers, and made the
Center a much richer and more enjoyable place to work each day. Best wishes
in your retirement! We’ll try not to call for advice (too often)!
Copyright 2016 Boston College Center for Work & Family
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THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
I. Introduction ...............................................................................................2
II. Methodology ............................................................................................ 4
III. What Changes When Millennial Men Become Dads? ...........................5
IV. Challenges For Millennial Fathers ........................................................... 6
a. Traditional gender norms and expectations ..................................... 6
b. Career decision making ......................................................................7
c. The Influence of corporate culture .................................................... 8
d. The desire to “have it all” .................................................................. 9
V. Three Paradigms Of “The New Dad” .................................................... 11
VI. Signs of Change ......................................................................................19
VII. Summary.................................................................................................. 21
2
I. Introduction
Since 2009, our Center has been exploring the changing role of fathers in America. In our series called The New Dad,
we have examined a diverse set of issues including the transition to fatherhood, the experiences of at-home dads,
shared caregiving, and paternity leave. We believe this work has dramatically increased a long-overdue dialogue on the
role of fathers in contemporary families and the work-life-family struggles that these men face. Through this process
we have developed a more rich and accurate representation of today’s fathers and hopefully have mitigated some of
the outdated and inaccurate stereotypes of fathers and their role in the American family. We have endeavored to accu-
rately portray the desire and commitment of today’s fathers to play an important role as parents and family members,
not simply as financial providers.
When discussing the changes we observe, we have often been asked, “Is this all a Millennial thing?” Are the changing
attitudes about fatherhood the result of a generational shift that is underway, as this next generation (i.e. Gen Y or Mil-
lennials) becomes the largest age cohort in the workplace? This is why we set out to explore the attitudes of “Millen-
nial dads” to see how these young men view parenting, careers, and work-family balance and how their views compare
to those of Millennial moms.
Much has been written and said about the Millennial generation. Perhaps no age group has generated more articles,
books and blogs than our present crop of young adults (ages 18-36) or been saddled with more labels, clichés and ste-
reotypes. As Professor Jeffrey Arnett and his colleagues have observed in the journal Emerging Adulthood, “Although
denigrating the young is an ancient tradition, it has taken on a new vehemence in our time” (Arnett, Trzesniewski
and Donnelan, 2013). “Generational consultants” have become a cottage industry with a variety of experts charging
sometimes exorbitant fees to help organizations understand how to communicate with and manage Millennials (Wall
Street Journal, 2016). The problem is these “experts” often make conflicting assertions about this generation of young
adults, labeling them variously as lazy, hard-working, entitled, ambitious, self-centered, socially responsible, disloyal,
and committed…take your pick. It sometimes seems that if you apply enough contradictory labels to any large group of
individuals, some of those are bound to be accurate some of the time. At the very least, they will have the ring of truth
to those who are disposed to that point of view. But they hardly equate to knowledge grounded in rigorous research.
But as we pointed out in our 2015 study, How Millennials Navigate Their Careers (Harrington, Van Deusen, Fraone and
Morelock, 2015) generalizations about large groups of people, especially those connected only by arbitrary birth date
specifications, are bound to be fraught with problems.
It is reasonable to believe that the times we are raised in, and the accompanying societal trends, do impact individuals
and groups. Most researchers would agree there are changes that have occurred in the last two decades that have im-
pacted this generation. These include, for example, the rise in pervasive technologies (especially handheld devices such
as smart phones), changes in the career contract, and the impact of globalization on consumers and the workplace.
Two trends seem particularly noteworthy in terms of this report on Millennials fathers. One is the delays in Millennials
making “adult commitments.” Millennials are less likely than previous generations to have completed the traditional
milestones of “adulthood” by age 32. Today, young adults get married later, have children later, and are less likely to
own a home by age 30 than was the case a generation ago (Taylor et al., 2014).
The other relates to changing gender roles, particularly in relation to higher education, the workplace, and in homes.
Women now earn the majority of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees awarded in the U.S. (National Center for
Education Statistics, 2012). In one quarter of dual-career couples’ households, wives earn more than their husbands,
and if one looks at all U.S. households, women are now the primary breadwinners in 2 of 5 (Wang, Parker, and Taylor
2013). These striking statistics call into question our long-held stereotype of “the male breadwinner.” Millennial men
are far more likely to have a spouse working full-time than was the case a generation ago (EY, 2015). As a result, young
3
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
men today express a strong need and desire to be involved parents and see their role in the family as being an equal
balance between breadwinner and caregiver (Harrington, Van Deusen, and Humberd, 2011).
This study explores the experience of Millennial fathers. We sought to better understand the attitudes and aspirations
of Millennial dads and to contrast those with three reference groups – Millennial mothers, Millennial men without
children, and fathers who were aged 22-35 in 2011.
Throughout the seven years that we’ve been conducting our fatherhood research, we’ve heard many questions about
this emerging group of young dads. Are they really more involved? Do they all want equally active roles as parents?
As researchers, we often felt uncomfortable making generalizations based on our research. It seemed that on aver-
age, new dads were more involved as fathers, or at least aspired to be. We could also observe families in our own lives
exhibiting this new approach to shared parenting.
But do all Millennial dads fit this description? This year’s analysis has led us to conclude that the answer, in short,
is no. What became necessary was an exploration of a “paradox” in which some Millennial men find themselves,
namely the desire to be an equal parent, which is espoused by 67% of the Millennial dads in the study. This figure is in
contrast to the 30% who report that this is what actually happens in their homes. We wanted to understand how the
experience and awareness of this “paradox” impacts men’s career and life satisfaction.
We hope that our analysis will provide new insights into the group of men becoming fathers today. They do not all fit one
mold, and in fact, our exploration has led us to identify three paradigms of today’s young fathers. We look forward to
sharing our interpretation of these findings, and hope they provide a better understanding of “The New Dad.”
4
II. Methodology and Research Sample
In 2015, the Boston College Center for Work & Family published How Millennials Navigate Their Careers: Young Adults
Views on Work, Life and Success (Harrington, Van Deusen, Fraone, and Morelock, 2015), research aimed at better
understanding the ways in which Millennials navigate their careers and prioritize their career-life choices. This study
surveyed individuals, aged 22-35 with at least two years of professional work experience, who were employed at one
of five large, global corporations. All organizations were members of the Boston College Workforce Roundtable and
included employers engaged in the insurance, financial services, accounting and consulting business sectors.
The study included both a quantitative and a qualitative element. The quantitative survey was conducted on-line. While
all of the businesses were global in scope, the survey was only administered within their US operations. A total of
1,100 employees completed the survey across the five companies. The companies used their employee databases to
randomly select participants who met the study criteria. Employees’ participation in the study was voluntary.
For this exploration of Millennial fathers, we will draw mainly from the responses from the 33% of study subjects (327
participants) who were parents and especially the 151 fathers. We will, however draw from the larger sample (n =
1,100) for the purposes of comparison (e.g. comparing the responses of single men with fathers).
The sample of parents had the following characteristics:
Mothers Fathers
Number 176 151
Average age 32 32
Years of work experience (avg.) 9.9 9.6
Number of employers (avg.) 2.24 2.05
Percent working full-time 94% 100%
Education
Bachelors 60% 66%
Masters or Doctorate 30% 28%
Average earnings (range) $55,000-75,000 $75,000-100,000
Race/ethnicity
White 80% 90%
Black 7% 3%
Hispanic 3% 2%
Asian or Pacific Islander 10% 6%
5
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
In our analysis, we compared the responses of Millennial dads to those of their single counterparts to discern significant
differences between the two groups. We discovered a number of major differences that were particularly noteworthy.
Regarding their professional roles, Millennial dads reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their workplace
and their career achievement when compared to the male-singles. Millennial fathers also were significantly more likely to
indicate an intent to stay with their employer and to agree that the “organization’s problems are their own” (66% of Mil-
lennial fathers agreed / strongly agreed with this statement vs. 37% of single men). They also indicated a very high level
of involvement with their job.
The only “downside” from an organizational perspective is not entirely surprising. While Millennial dads are more loyal and
feel greater ownership for the organization’s challenges, it appears they are not willing to go to the same lengths as their
single counterparts to advance in the organization. For example, the dads were less willing to relocate to advance their ca-
reer (dads 40% willing vs. single men 58% willing), were less likely to seek international assignments (dads 43% would seek
vs. single men 61% would seek), and much less likely to pursue advancement if it meant less time for their family / personal
life (dads 16% likely to pursue vs. single men 40% likely). But at the same time, fathers were less likely to judge their success
based on salary growth rate (67% dads vs. 81% single men) or in comparison to their peers (28% dads vs. 51% single men).
Perhaps most notable, Millennial fathers reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than their unmar-
ried male counterparts. As the chart below demonstrates, fathers scored significantly higher than the single men on
a range of important life satisfaction indicators including positive responses to statements such as “I’ve gotten the
important things I want in my life,” “My life conditions are excellent,” and “In most ways my life is close to my ideal.”
The difference between the two groups was highly significant and responses ranged between 20-40% more positive
for the fathers on these important questions. These results once again stress the tremendous impact that meaningful
family relationships have on an individuals overall sense of well-being.
III. What Changes When Millennial Men Become Dads
Life Satisfaction (comparing Dads and Single Men)
Dads
Singles
Dads
Singles
Dads
Singles
Dads
Singles
I am
satisfied
with my
life
My life
is close
to my
ideal
My life
conditions
are
excellent
I’ve gotten
the
important
things
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
strongly agreeagree
6
As is the case for nearly all parents today (e.g. mothers and fathers, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, etc.),
the struggle to achieve work-life balance or fit is a near constant. When discussing this challenge, it appears that Mil-
lennial fathers confront obstacles that reinforce the divide between their desires to be fully engaged fathers and the
realities they face juggling their work and family priorities. These challenges include:
The persistence of traditional gender expectations and norms
Their approach to career decision making
Their sensitivity to corporate cultural norms
Their belief in the ability to “have it all”
a. Traditional gender roles
Traditional gender expectations and norms continue to exert a strong influence on the experiences of Millennials, even
those who espouse the value of gender equality. A substantial divide persists between their espoused egalitarian ide-
als and their actual behavior. Among Millennial parents in our sample, childcare followed more traditionally gendered
patterns with 62% of men reporting they provided less care than their spouses and 40% of women reporting they
provided more than their spouse.
While the majority of Millennial dads believed in equally sharing childcare with their spouses, at the same time they
signaled in various ways that caring for their children was less of a priority than was the case for their female peers.
Nearly one-in-four dads maintained that the main reason for providing childcare was to help his partner rather than to
assume parental responsibility. For example, 62% of Millennial dads disagreed with the statement, “It is more my re-
sponsibility than my partner’s to care for our sick child.” Men more often portrayed themselves as helpers - or backup
- rather than primary care givers for their children.
IV. Challenges For Millennial Fathers
If child is sick, I have responsibility to care for him/ her
OK to be at home if partner made enough money for family
Uncomfortable if partner provided more care than me
More my responsibility than partners to care for sick child
Main reason for caregiving to help partner
OK if partner wanted to do all the care
Mothers
Fathers%agree / strongly agree
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
Spousal Sharing of Childcare
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THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
While gender equality was the goal for most fathers and mothers, the belief in equality differed substantially by gender.
Nearly one-in-three Millennial fathers, in contrast with only 2% of Millennial mothers, thought their spouse should
provide the majority of childcare.
Although many Millennial dads expressed some ambivalence about being full partners in shared caregiving, we were sur-
prised to find that over half of Millennial dads (more, even, than Millennial moms) said they would be willing to consider
being a stay-at-home parent if their spouse made enough money to support the family (51% of fathers agreed with this
statement vs. 44% of mothers). Given many fathers’ indication that the locus of childcare responsibility lay primarily with
their spouses, it is noteworthy that so many fathers reported they would be comfortable being the at-home, primary care
provider if their spouse could financially support the family. This would clearly seem to indicate a growing acceptance of
the at-home parent role for men.
b. How dads make career choices
The drive for career success, as defined by more traditional motivators such as status and salary, remains powerful for
Millennial men. Fathers have high career aspirations and seek professional success, though they are willing to make
some important tradeoffs in the process.
One way to understand how men navigate their careers is to explore what their priorities as they contemplate leaving a
current employer or joining a new one. For Millennial parents, recruitment and turnover drivers revealed some gender
differences in their approach to career decision-making.
Millennial parents were asked to assess the importance of a wide variety of criteria for selecting an employer ranging
from salary to flexibility to the opportunity to do meaningful work. Career growth was rated highest by fathers while
mothers put work-life balance at the top of their list. Despite this difference, fathers and mothers selected the same
top 5 criteria for employee selection albeit in a slightly different order of priority.
We also asked respondents what reasons would most likely cause them to leave their present employers, with 15 differ-
ent possible factors provided.
Mothers
1. Work-Life Balance (86%)
2. Job Security (81%)
3. Salary (80%)
4. Benefits (80%)
5. Career Growth Opportunities (77%)
Fathers
1. Career Growth Opportunities (83%)
2. Benefits (76%)
3. Work-Life Balance (75%)
4. Salary (74%)
5. Job Security (71%)
Top Criteria for Employer Selection (% very important/ extremely important)
Mothers
1. To Make More Money (81%)
2. Time with Family (67%)
3. Work-Life Balance (66%)
4. Advancement (64%)
5. Growth Opportunities (62%)
Fathers
1. To Make More Money (87%)
2. Advancement (75%)
3. Growth Opportunities (71%)
4. Time with Family (61%)
5. Work-Life Balance (56%)
Top Reasons for Leaving an Employer (% somewhat likely / likely / very likely)
8
When considering leaving their current employer, fathers prioritized money, career advancement, and growth oppor-
tunities as their top three potential reasons. In comparison, mothers also rated money as the most important factor,
although to a lesser degree than men. Mothers reported a greater inclination to leave for issues related to integrating
career and family, although men also cited this in their top 5 factors considered.
c. The Influence of corporate culture
As Millennial dads strive to reach their professional goals, they seem to be keenly aware of, and perhaps influenced by,
their workplace culture. In our study, fathers indicated greater awareness and sensitivity to the demands of their em-
ployers and to the vision of the ideal worker than their female counterparts. Men were more likely to characterize their
work environments as requiring a great deal in terms of time, energy, and focus.
Fathers were more likely than mothers to characterize their work environments as requiring work to be primary. Con-
stant availability was seen as the expectation for one-third of fathers (vs. 20% of mothers) and nearly half of fathers
saw 50 hours as the baseline commitment expected in order to “get ahead.” Slightly more Millennial dads than moms
believed keeping their personal life out of the workplace was important for advancement. Relative to their female
peers, Millennial fathers were more likely to believe that turning down a promotion or transfer would seriously hurt
their careers and were more inclined to believe that their employer felt work should be primary in one’s life.
Despite the high hurdles for career success, fathers indicated a greater willingness to do what was necessary to succeed
professionally and to make tradeoffs impacting their personal and family lives. Nearly 87% of men with children were
willing to put in a great deal of effort at work beyond what was normally required (compared to 77% of mothers). Fathers
characterized themselves as highly engaged with their work and expressed a deep sense of professional responsibility. 4
out of 5 described themselves as being very involved personally with their jobs and over half experienced their organiza-
tion’s problems as their own. Importantly, dads were twice as likely as mothers to want to advance if it meant less time
with their children (although that number was still quite small at 16%) and nearly twice as likely to be willing to relocate.
Perceptions of Work Culture
Work should be
the primary
priority in life
“%agree / strongly agree
If highly
committed to
personal lives
can’t be
committed to
work
The way to
advance is to
keep personal life
out of work
The ideal
employee is
available 24/7
Is expected to
work 50+ hrs to
get ahead
Refusing promo/
transfer will
seriously hurt
career
Mothers Fathers
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
9
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
The heightened sensitivity of fathers to organizational norms might be explained by the reality that men reap greater
professional rewards - with regards to opportunities and compensation – than mothers. Research has shown, for
example, that while women experience a “motherhood penalty” in terms of diminished earning after becoming a par-
ent, men receive a “fatherhood bonus” (Hodges and Budig, 2010, Budig, 2014). This sensitivity may also come from
understanding the costs that can be associated with more conspicuous family focus. While research indicates the
motherhood penalty is steep, the penalty for highly involved fathers may be even steeper. (Williams, 2010; Berdahl and
Moon, 2013). For fathers who are the sole or primary breadwinners, the risks of prioritizing family at the cost of focus
on work, may simply seem too high.
While fathers portrayed the terms of engagement for professional growth as very demanding, and with attendant
costs, they were more willing to meet those terms in their pursuit of career success. This leaves fathers with less time
and energy for active involvement as care givers and equal partners at home, thwarting their efforts to get closer to an
egalitarian ideal.
d. Trying to “have it all”
While in the past, being a “good father” may have been more equated with being a good financial provider, supporting
the family financially is no longer considered the ideal. Today, most men define being a good father more in terms of
both active involvement with their children and meeting their family’s financial needs (Harrington, et. al, 2011). As a
result, it appears that many of today’s fathers are in the throes of learning how to combine work and family more pro-
actively and effectively. When we compared mothers’ and fathers’ responses to the demands of combining work and
family, we see surprisingly similar results. 15% of Millennial moms and 19% of Millennial dads report finding it difficult
to combine work and family in their current roles and fewer dads than moms report that combining work and family
is “easy.” It seems that as Millennial fathers increasingly experience the challenge of integrating their work and family
lives, they experience greater work-family conflict.
It is easy to combine work and personal life/family
Millennial Moms Millennial Dads
Disagree/Strongly Disagree
Neutral
Agree/Strongly Agree
15%
17%
68%
19%
21%
60%
10
Compared to Millennial mothers, dads prioritize wanting greater challenges (dads 88%, moms 74%), responsibility at
work (dads 87%, moms 73%), and advancement (dads 82%, moms 69%). Moms, alternatively rated work providing a
feeling of security (dads 68%, moms 76%) and career progress (dads 66%, moms 73%) higher than dads.
At the same time that Millennial men have high aspirations for their professional lives, they also want more time for
their lives outside of work. They want time for activities they enjoy and the flexibility to get involved with community
service. Nearly three out of four fathers (74%) want more time with their children than they have at present (78% of
mothers said the same). Men’s desire to have more time with their children while also seeking work roles with greater
responsibility, would seem to indicate that men have joined the struggle to “have it all” - greater career success, more
active family involvement, and more time to pursue passions and priorities beyond work and family.
While dads are struggling to figure out how to combine work and family in new ways, they do report high levels of
life satisfaction. To a greater extent than the mothers in the study, fathers report that they are satisfied with their lives
(dads 80%, moms 60%), the conditions of their lives are excellent (dads 71%, moms 60%), and their lives are close to
their ideals (dads 70%, moms 62%).
Men indicated a willingness to make tradeoffs for their careers, but in response to the statement, “I want to advance
in my career even if it means spending less time with my family or on my personal life” 64% of fathers disagreed that
this was the case (compared with approximately 82% of mothers who disagreed.)
When dads considered how important their career was to their identity compared with their life outside of work,
personal life and family were reported to be significantly more important. Of the fathers surveyed, 72% indicated that
their life outside of work was very or extremely important to their identity and how they define themselves. In contrast,
only 21% of fathers reported that their career was very or extremely important to their identity and how they define
themselves. Rather than being work-centric, these dads report being dual-centric with a strong desire for a meaningful
life and an identity based on much more than job titles or organizational status.
It seems that Millennial fathers have joined Millennial mothers in the quest to “have it all.” The good news is that as the
rules of engagement are changing for men, they have an enormous opportunity to drive the evolution of work cultures to
allow caregivers to thrive professionally and to make gender equality a far greater reality at work and at home.
11
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
In order to understand whether and how Millennial fathers have different views toward caregiving at home, we further
analyzed three groups of fathers based on their responses to the following two survey questions. The first question
targeted each respondent’s current caregiving situation while the second targeted his aspirations toward caregiving.
“In your family, how IS the care-giving for children divided?”
“In your family, how do you believe the care-giving for children SHOULD be divided?”
Among Millennial fathers who are involved in caregiving, we classified three groups of fathers as presented in the logic
tree below.
V. Three Paradigms Of “The New Dad”
In our survey, the first group of fathers responded “both provide equal amounts of caregiving at home” for both ques-
tions, i.e., “IS divided” and “SHOULD BE divided”. This group of “egalitarian” fathers believes that they should provide
equal caregiving at home and perceives that they are doing so. They comprised approximately 32% of the sample.
Another group of fathers replied that their “spouse provides more caregiving at home,” for the first question (IS
divided), but answered “both provide equal amounts of caregiving at home” for the second question (SHOULD BE
divided). Regarding their caregiving-at-home issues, these “conflicted” fathers have a dissonance between their aspi-
ration (SHOULD be) and reality (IS). They comprised approximately 30% of the sample.
The last group of fathers answered “spouse provides more caregiving at home” for both “IS divided” and “SHOULD
BE divided” questions. This father group has a consistent viewpoint that their spouses are providing as well as should
be providing more caregiving at home. Compared to the first two groups, this group has a more “traditional” perspec-
tive toward caregiving. They comprised approximately 30% of the sample.
As can be seen, our sample of fathers was split nearly evenly among the three paradigms (a small percentage of dads
did not fit into these three categories). These results led us to explore the question of whether all Millennial fathers
experience a paradox in their work-family life integration (i.e. aspiring to do more but not living up to their aspira-
tions). Approximately one-third of the fathers fit a more traditional breadwinner model and one-third have achieved a
more egalitarian, shared-caregiving model. The final third of the fathers, who we refer to as the conflicted dads, is the
group that is genuinely experiencing the “paradox” of Millennial fathers: they aspire to be an equal caregiving partner,
How Millennial Fathers Approach Caregiving Differently
In your family, IS the
caregiving divided equally
with your spouse? Conflicted Fathers
Traditional Fathers
Egalitarian Fathers
In your family, SHOULD
the caregiving divided
equally with your spouse?
YES
NO YES
NO
12
yet they are have not achieved that objective. As we review the differences between these Millennial dad paradigms, we
will explore the impact of these fathers’ feelings of conflict on both their professional and personal lives.
Our study found two broad issues or factors associated with different attitudes toward caregiving held by Millennial
fathers, their relationships with spouses, and their satisfaction with jobs/careers/lives.
Millennial Fathers’ Spouses
Spouses Educational and Economic Backgrounds
We examined the backgrounds of Millennial fathers’ spouses such as their education, employment status, working
hours, annual income, and contribution to family income.
Overall, 78% of the Millennial fathers’ spouses had completed at least a bachelor’s level education. Conflicted fathers’
spouses had the highest level of education levels of the three groups with nearly 60% holding a master’s or above
compared to 44% of egalitarian fathers and 20% of traditional fathers. This result implies that spouses’ education
levels impact the struggle Millennial fathers experience between the aspiration and the reality of their caregiving. If
the spouse has attained an advanced degree, it seems to increase the likelihood that fathers will be expected to share
caregiving more equitably. Unlike the egalitarian fathers who do in fact share caregiving equally, conflicted fathers are
caught in a dilemma: whether to follow the traditional gendered roles or to seek a more equitable caregiving arrange-
ment with their spouses.
We also investigated economic activity and work-related issues of Millennial fathers’ spouses. Regarding their spouses’
employment status, 96% of egalitarian fathers and 82% of conflicted fathers’ spouses are employed for pay outside of
the home. By contrast, only 36% of traditional fathers said that their spouses are working outside the home.
Spouses’ Education Levels
High school or less Some college Bachelor degree Master degree Doctoral degree
Egalitarian Conflicted Traditional
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
13
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
When asked, “How many hours does your spouse work per week?” responses from three groups of fathers also dif-
fered markedly. Of the spouses that worked outside the home (full-time mothers are not factored into the average hours
worked or average salaries in the following paragraphs), spouses of egalitarian fathers’ worked an average of 40 hours
per week, spouses of conflicted fathers 36 hours per week, and spouses of traditional fathers 27 hours per week.
Next, we explored the spouses’ contributions to family income to better understand whether their spouses’ income
levels influenced Millennial fathers’ attitudes toward caregiving. To explore this dimension, we analyzed two relevant
topics: the spouses’ income and the percent of contribution the spouse was making to family income overall. The
spouses of egalitarian fathers contributed 46% of their family income on average; the spouses of conflicted fathers
contributed 36% of their family’s income; and spouses of the traditional fathers’ contributed 26%. (This percentage
of family income only includes those spouses that worked. If we included all spouses, the percentage contribution of
spouses to family would be lower in all groups, but that would be especially true in traditional couples where nearly
two-thirds of spouses are not employed).
Spouses’ Employment Status
Spouses’ Contribution to Family Income
Employed for pay Not employed
Egalitarian Conflicted Traditional
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Egalitarian Conflicted Traditional
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
14
Egalitarian fathers’ spouses have the highest level of income --- they share nearly equally in both breadwinning and
caregiving responsibilities. Traditional fathers’ spouses are far more likely to be either an at-home parent or part-time
employee and have the lowest income level among the three groups, thereby reinforcing the fathers’ primary bread-
winner status. In these more traditional arrangements, the fathers focus more on work and do so feeling their spouses
are responsible for the majority of the caregiving responsibilities.
Again, the conflicted fathers seem to be suspended in between the other two groups. Their highly educated spouses
make a significant contribution to family income, yet the father retains the role of primary breadwinner. These fathers
state their desire is to be equal partners in caregiving, yet they may also feel pressure to earn greater income and en-
sure job security in the workplace
Millennial Fathers’ Satisfaction Levels
Job Satisfaction/Commitment
In order to better understand how these paradigms impact work and life satisfaction, we examined three broad and
important issues regarding job satisfaction of Millennial fathers. These included their perception of dignity at the
workplaces, their sense of belonging, and their ability to balance their professional and personal lives. These three is-
sues relate to Millennial fathers’ feelings of enrichment in their professional lives.
Job Satisfaction and Commitment
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
At my
workplace,
I am treated
with respect
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
I feel a part
of the group
of people I
work with
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
Easy to
combine
work &
personal life
strongly agreeagree
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
15
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
First, for the statement “at the company or organization where I work, I am treated with respect,” the conflicted father
group showed lower agreement level (84%) than the egalitarian group of fathers (93%) and traditional fathers (89%)
in their perception of being treated with respect at work.
Second, regarding the sense of belonging fathers perceive in the workplace, Millennial fathers responded with their
agreement / disagreement levels to the statement “I feel I am really a part of the group of people I work with.” 56%
of the egalitarian father group strongly agrees with this statement, as compared to only 18% of conflicted fathers and
29% of traditional fathers. Meanwhile, 65% of conflicted fathers agree with it, and 47% of traditional fathers and 42%
of egalitarian fathers did so. Again, the egalitarian fathers felt attachment to their workplace colleagues more than the
conflicted fathers.
Finally, we asked Millennial fathers’ about the ease of balancing work and personal life. When given the statement “In my
current role it is easy to combine work and personal life,” 33% of egalitarian fathers strongly agreed as compared to 14%
of conflicted fathers. Perhaps surprisingly, only 16% of traditional fathers also strongly agreed. However, when we look
at agreement with this statement overall (combining agrees and strongly agrees) both egalitarian and traditional fathers
were much more likely to agree that it was easy to combine work and family (67% and 63% respectively compared to only
47% of conflicted fathers. In addition, 25% of conflicted fathers disagreed with this statement, as compared with only 9%
of traditional fathers and 11% of egalitarian fathers. Thus it seems that conflicted fathers perceive significantly greater dif-
ficulty as they strive to balance their work and personal lives.
We conjectured that the conflicted father group’s lower satisfaction level with these job characteristics would be asso-
ciated with pressure from their workplaces. Thus, we studied three more factors about organizational culture. Specifi-
cally, we asked Millennial fathers to respond to three statements regarding organizational culture.
For the statement, “To be viewed favorably by top management, employees in this organization must consistently put
their jobs ahead of their families or personal lives,” 39% of conflicted fathers agreed / strongly agreed. This compares
with only 16% of egalitarian fathers who agreed / strongly agreed. Traditional fathers’ responses were only slightly
higher than those of egalitarian dads.
We also asked the fathers to mark their level of agreement / disagreement with the statement, “To get ahead at this
organization, employees are expected to work more than 50 hours per week, whether at the workplace or home.” We
found that, either for success or survival, the group of conflicted fathers regarded longer working hours as important.
57% of them agreed or strongly agreed that they “are expected to work more than 50 hours per week.” By comparison
only 31% of egalitarian and 48% of traditional fathers agreed / strongly agreed that this was the case.
In summary, it appears that on many measures conflicted fathers were the least satisfied with their jobs, especially
when compared to egalitarian fathers. The conflicted fathers felt less respected and less of a sense of “belonging”
than fathers from the other two groups. They also found it more difficult to combine their personal lives with work.
Feeling a dilemma regarding their contribution to caregiving seems to reduce Millennial fathers’ satisfaction levels in
the workplace. In addition, the group of conflicted fathers seem to be more sensitive toward the cues imbedded in the
organizational culture which stress long work hours and working at home and on personal time.
Career Satisfaction
We also investigated Millennial fathers’ career satisfaction in two areas – advancement and income.
First, we looked at the Millennial fathers’ agreement/disagreement with a statement “I am satisfied with the progress
I have made toward meeting my goals for income.” As the following chart shows, 62% of traditional fathers agreed
/ strongly agreed with this. However, less than half of the other two groups of fathers agreed or strongly agreed with
this (47% of egalitarian fathers and 47% of conflicted fathers). 35% of conflicted fathers disagreed / strongly disagreed
that they were satisfied with progress toward income goals versus 16% of traditional fathers and 22% of egalitarian
fathers who were not satisfied with their incomes.
16
Second, we asked Millennial fathers to respond to the statement “I am satisfied with the progress I have made to-
ward meeting my goals for advancement.” Interestingly, 78% of traditional fathers agreed / strongly agreed with this
statement compared to 51% of conflicted fathers and 58% of egalitarian fathers. 29% of conflicted fathers disagreed
/ strongly disagreed that they were satisfied with their goals for advancement, compared to only 9% of traditional
fathers and 18% of egalitarian fathers.
With regard to their progress toward income and advancement, again the conflicted fathers’ level of satisfaction was
lower than either of the other two groups, especially the traditional fathers. This would seem logical since most of the
traditional fathers are the primary breadwinners and therefore feel they are more able to focus on their careers while
their spouses retain the role of primary caregiver.
Life Satisfaction
Next, we analyzed the three Millennial father groups’ attitudes toward life satisfaction, specifically how the conflicted
group of dads are different to other two groups of fathers. We asked Millennial fathers how much they agreed or dis-
agreed with the following statements about life satisfaction:
I am satisfied with my life.
The conditions of my life are excellent.
In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
First, Millennial fathers responded to a statement “if I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.” 82%
of egalitarian fathers and 56% of traditional fathers agreed / strongly agreed with this statement, as compared to only
33% of conflicted fathers. Moreover, 35% of conflicted fathers disagreed with this statement while only 4% of egalitar-
ian fathers and 13% of traditional fathers disagreed.
Satisfaction with Progress Toward Income
Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
Egalitarian Conflicted Traditional
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
17
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
The next two statements asked how Millennial fathers think about the conditions of their lives. 20% of egalitarian
fathers and 16% of traditional fathers strongly agreed that their lives are close to their ideal. By contrast, only 6% of
conflicted fathers strongly agreed that this was the case. Moreover, 17% of conflicted fathers disagreed / strongly dis-
agreed that their lives are close to their ideal, as compared to 7% of egalitarian and traditional fathers.
In response to the statement “the conditions of my life are excellent,” 25% of egalitarian fathers and 18% of traditional
fathers strongly agreed this was the case compared to only 2% of conflicted fathers. 10% of conflicted fathers dis-
agreed / strongly disagreed with this statement versus only 2% of traditional and egalitarian fathers who did so.
Lastly, regarding overall life satisfaction, only 4% of conflicted fathers strongly agreed that they are satisfied with their
life overall. 36% of egalitarian dads and 24% of traditional dads strongly agreed. In addition, 26.5% of conflicted
fathers disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement, indicating that they are not satisfied with their life in gen-
eral. So the conflicted fathers are not only less satisfied with their lives in general, but are also more dissatisfied with it
in comparison with the other two groups of fathers.
Millennial Fathers’ Life Satisfaction Levels
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
I would change
almost
nothing
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
My life is
close to
my ideal
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
Satisfied
with my
life
strongly agreeagree
Traditional
Conflicted
Egalitarian
Life conditions
are excellent
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
18
In short, more than half of the conflicted fathers would like to change something in their lives. Meanwhile, less than
half of traditional and egalitarian fathers would do so. Regarding the conditions and current status of life, the con-
flicted father group is not as satisfied as the other two groups of fathers are. However, both egalitarian and traditional
father groups are more satisfied with and less dissatisfied with the conditions of their lives.
The egalitarian group of fathers appears most content with their current life situation, and perhaps we can conjecture
that they feel they are “having it all” in some manner that works well for their professional and family life. The tradi-
tional dads are also quite satisfied with their lives, and although we did not ask what aspects they would change in
response to the first question above, it seems that nearly half would wish for their lives to be different in some capac-
ity. The conflicted fathers are clearly struggling the most.
19
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
We now shift gears to review a separate analysis, in which we compared data from a previous study to explore possible
differences between the fathers we surveyed in 2011 (those aged 22-35 at the time) and the Millennial dads we studied
in 2015. While the samples are limited and come from different sets of companies, many of the same questions were
asked of the two groups of fathers.
VI. Signs Of Change
The results over time provide us with cause for cautious optimism. Men in the 2015 research played a slightly larger
role in caring for their children than their same-aged peers from the earlier study. A greater percentage of fathers in the
2015 sample were “equally involved” in providing care for their children (30% vs. 25% in 2011) while there was a cor-
responding decrease in the number of couples where the spouse provides more care (62% in 2015 vs. 69% in 2011).
There was also a slight increase (67% in 2015 vs. 65% in 2011) that indicated they should be equally involved in provid-
ing care. One-in-four fathers from the 2015 research reported they would be uncomfortable if their spouse provided
more care than they did while less than 20% of dads from the 2011 research had an issue with this inequality.
The research suggests another area of promise in the continuing evolution of work cultures. Fathers in the 2015
sample experienced their work cultures more positively and as less punishing than dads in the same age cohort from
2011. For example, dads from the 2011 research were twice as likely to report that attending to personal needs was
frowned upon and while 28% of the 2015 fathers believed being viewed favorably at work required putting one’s job
before one’s family, over 40% of 2011 dads reported this result. The 2015 dads perceived their work environments as
more favorable to combining their work and family lives. As men have become increasingly vocal about their desire to
be involved fathers, perhaps it has paved the way for other men in the workplace to do the same.
My spouse/partner should provide more care than me
We should both provide equal amounts of care
My spouse/partner provides more care than me
We both provide equal amounts of care
Dads 2015
Dads 2011
(Dads aged 22-35 at time of survey)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80%
Perceptions of Caregiving Roles
20
The final observation to note is related to the willingness of men to consider the role of at-home parent. In the 2015
study 51% of dads compared with 44% of moms would consider being a stay-at-home parent. This may indicate that
men’s feelings about being an at-home parent have become more positive, and that they would be open to this fulfill-
ing this role themselves.
In addition, we have seen a shift in perceptions of the father’s role in caregiving at the societal level. The stream of
announcements from companies who are offering or increasing paternity leave or gender-neutral parental leave has
become nearly a weekly occurrence. In one year, between 2015-2016 the companies that were named on Fatherly’s
50 Best Companies for Working Dads have increased paid parental leave from offering an average of four weeks to an
average of 7.5. Connections are being made at the organizational and government levels between men’s involvement
in caregiving and women’s professional advancement. Prominent CEO’s are taking parental leave sending a positive
signal about fathers’ involvement in caregiving. All of these are encouraging signs and will make it increasingly accept-
able for all dads to follow suit.
Turning down a promotion/transfer will
significantly hurt career progress
Employees who participate in work-family programs
are viewed as less serious about their careers
To be viewed favorably, employees must put their
jobs ahead of their families/personal lives
It is assumed that the most productive employees
are those who put their work before their family life
The way to advance is to keep non-work
matters out of the workplace
Dads 2015
Dads 2011%agree / strongly agree
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Perceptions on Combining Work and Family
21
THE NEW MILLENNIAL DAD: UNDERSTANDING THE PARADOX OF TODAY’S FATHERS
To summarize the highlights of this study, we would make the following key points:
When Millennial men become Millennial fathers, there are a few clear trends. Millennial fathers’ satisfaction with their
jobs and their lives is significantly greater than that of their childless counterparts. Dads express a markedly higher
sense of success and satisfaction at work. They feel very committed and invested in their jobs, and feel a high level of
ownership for the problems of the organization they work for. They express a significant preference to stay with their
current employer. The only “negative” characteristic from the employer’s perspective is that fathers are more tempered
in their ambition and their willingness to pursue success at a significant personal / family cost than their single coun-
terparts.
Millennials dads experience similar levels of work-family conflict to Millennial moms. While work-family balance is
the most important criteria considered in employer selection for Millennial mothers and not for Millennial fathers, it
is fathers’ third most important criteria with three quarters of Millennial dads rating is as very / extremely important.
When it comes to reasons why a Millennial parent would consider leaving his or her employer, making more money is
the top criteria for both moms and dads, while greater work-life balance and time with family are among the top five
reasons given by both genders for considering a change.
While the differences seems to be lessening over time, Millennial dads continue to have a stronger focus on career
advancement and seem to be more sensitive and impacted by the expectations of “the ideal worker” than their female
counterparts. Millennial dads perceive that their workplace cultures encourage thinking that includes the ideas that
work should be primary, that the ideal employee is available 24/7, and that good employees work long hours.
It is clear that most men do face conflict in trying to rectify their desire to be engaged fathers and spend more time
with their children and their desire to “climb the corporate ladder” – advancing in the organization, seeking jobs with
greater responsibility, and pursuing a career in senior management. This results in the dilemma that women have
faced for many years, can one really “have it all?“
Not all fathers face the same level of conflict or stress when it comes to the career-life challenges they face. Traditional
fathers (those who think their wives should do more at home and they actually do) and egalitarian fathers (those who
think care giving should be divided equally and indeed do this) show markedly higher levels of life satisfaction than
conflicted fathers, who are caught in a state of dissonance. These fathers feel they should be doing more to share care
giving but admit to not doing so. Conflicted dads report significantly lower satisfaction with their careers and their
lives outside of work. This speaks more to the importance of congruence in one’s life between one’s values and ac-
tions. Egalitarian fathers have the highest quality of life overall, including for the most part, their lives at work. It would
seem reasonable to suggest that fathers who have high levels of conflict regarding shared caregiving with their spouse
should seek ways to address this conflict as it clearly has a detrimental impact on the quality of their (and no doubt
their spouses’) lives.
This study echoes many of the findings of our past research on fathers, once again making the point that Millennials
are not so different from the previous generation of fathers in terms of what they value at home or in the workplace.
While traditional gender roles and values continue to exist in significant numbers, it is clear that for the majority of
Millennial dads, there has been significant movement toward greater gender equality and the need for fathers to find
a way to share more equally in caregiving and on the home front. The egalitarian fathers in our study give evidence to
the fact that doing so will very likely yield the highest levels of career and life satisfaction.
VII. Summary
Boston College Center for Work & Family
22 Stone Avenue • Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Phone: (617) 552-2844 • E-mail: cwf@bc.edu
On the web: www.bc.edu/cwf • www.TheNewDad.org
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Kali H. Trzesniewski and M. Brent
Donnellan. 2013. The Dangers of Generational Myth-
Making: Rejoinder to Twenge. Emerging Adulthood,
Vol. 1 Iss 1 pp. 17-20.
Jennifer L. Berdahl and Sue H. Moon. 2013. Workplace
Mistreatment of Middle Class Workers Based on Sex,
Parenthood, and Caregiving. Journal of Social Issues,
Vol. 69 Iss 2 pp. 341-366.
Michelle Budig. 2014. The Fatherhood Bonus and the
Motherhood Penalty: Parenthood and the Gender
Gap in Pay, The Third Way
EY. 2015. Global Generations: A Global Study on Work-Life
Challenges Across Generations. Published by EYGM
Limited.
Brad Harrington, Fred Van Deusen, Jennifer Sabatini Fra-
one and Jeremiah Morelock. 2015. How Millennials
Navigate Their Careers: Young Adult Views on Work,
Life and Success. Research report published by the
Boston College Center for Work & Family.
Brad Harrington, Fred Van Deusen and Beth Humberd.
2011. The New Dad: Caring, Committed, and Con-
flicted. Research report published by the Boston
College Center for Work & Family.
MJ Hodges and Michelle Budig (2010). Who gets the
daddy bonus? Organizational hegemonic masculinity
and the impact of fatherhood on earnings. Gender &
Society 24 (6), 717-745
National Center for Education Statistics. 2012. The Con-
dition of Education 2012.
Paul Taylor, Kim Parker, Rich Morin, Eileen Patten and
Anna Brown. 2014. Millennials in Adulthood. Pew
Research Center, March 7, 2014.
Wall Street Journal. 2016. Helping Bosses Decode Millenni-
als—for $20,000 an Hour by Lindsay Gellman. May
18, 2016.
Wendy Wang, Kim Parker and Paul Taylor. 2013. Bread-
winner Moms- Mothers Are the Sole or Primary Pro-
vider in Four-in-Ten Households with Children; Public
Conflicted about the Growing Trend. Pew Research
Center, May 29, 2013.
Joan C. Williams. 2010. Reshaping the Work-Family
Debate: Why Men and Class Matter. Published by
Harvard University Press.
References
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Using the 1979-2006 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we investigate how the earnings bonus for fatherhood varies by characteristics associated with hegemonic masculinity in the American workplace: heterosexual marital status, professional/managerial status, educational attainment, skill demands of jobs, and race/ethnicity. We find the earnings bonus for fatherhood persists after controlling for an array of differences, including human capital, labor supply, family structure, and wives’ employment status. Moreover, consistent with predictions from the theory of hegemonic masculinity within bureaucratic organizations, the fatherhood bonus is significantly larger for men with other markers of workplace hegemonic masculinity. Men who are white, married, in households with a traditional gender division of labor, college graduates, professional/managerial workers and whose jobs emphasize cognitive skills and deemphasize physical strength receive the largest fatherhood earnings bonuses.
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