Researchers say pressure to improve father-child interactions has led fathers to be more involved with their children’s sporting activities.
In turn, women continued to perform a majority of household chores and other parenting responsibilities. The rub comes from the fact that in our current society, the norm is for both parents to work.
This domestic inequality is causing stress among women.
“Women may be unhappy about this inequality, but at the same time they value the fact that their partners are involved with the kids — even if it is mostly manifested on the soccer field,” says Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, co-author of the new study and director of Programs of the Social Sciences Division at UCLA.
Drawing on a large research project conducted by the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families, the study ran from 2002 – 2005. It included middle-class families in the Los Angeles area, each with two to three children and both parents working.
Investigators discovered that while fathers often push their children to overachieve in sports, they use the time with their children to become emotionally closer. Fathers often take a leadership role serving as coach of the team and the parent responsible for bringing the child to the game.
However, when researchers studied how these families dealt with housework and childcare, they found that women “did the lion’s share of these tasks.”
“Critical research on men, masculinities, and fathers’ involvement in youth sports is limited. Many studies have looked at men and sports, but not how sports relates to fatherhood,” says Kremer-Sadlik.
“The fathers we studied are finding ways to create a new ideal of fatherhood, but they are not creating a new ideal with their partners.”
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the researchers found some fathers may even use involvement in their children’s sports to get out of household chores and other parenting tasks.
The study is published in the journal Gender & Society.