New dads want to be present and involved from the first days of their child's life, according to a new study from the Boston College Center for Work and Family.
Of the more than 1,000 fathers surveyed, 89 percent said paternity leave is important, with many suggesting their employers currently don’t offer enough time off.
On average, most fathers questioned were offered about two weeks off, but Harrington says it varies with each company.
“The shortest amount of time was three days,” Harrington said. “The longest amount of time was 12 weeks.”
Harrington says paternal leave can impact a child’s development from a very early age, and can dictate the roles each parent plays in the family.
“When we have men taking a day of leave for every month that their spouse is taking, you automatically get into a scenario where the wife is defacto the primary caregiver and the father gets less of an opportunity to immerse himself in the caregiving than the mother does,” Harrington said. “As a result, from the beginning of the child's life, the mother is cast in the role of the primary caregiver and the father is sort of a supporting player.”
Harrington says the U.S. is an “outlier” when it comes to providing paternal leave.
“For fathers, about 70 countries have some kind of paid paternity leave, and we don't,” Harrington said. “When you compare the United States to all the other developed countries in the world, we are an absolute outlier and very much standing alone.”
The U.S. is only one of four countries in the world that does not offer paid paternity leave, the others including Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Lesotho.
Critics say offering paid paternal leave across the board could hurt the economy. Harrington dismisses the argument, calling it “played out.”
“Of course we can afford to do it – just depends on where your priorities are,” Harrington said. “[If] being with your children and bonding with them … early in their life is an important priority, then it’s something you spend money on and if it’s not, you don’t.”
Watch the full interview with Dr. Brad Harrington above.