Fathers' Time Spent with Sons and Daughters

  • Luke, Nancy Kay (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project Summary Parents are instrumental in the development of their children, and growing research in the U.S. points to the pivotal role of fathers. Father involvement?including time spent with children?has positive impacts on child outcomes. Nevertheless, father involvement is not always equally distributed across sons and daughters. Research in the U.S. finds that fathers spend more time with sons and more time with all children if they have a son. Gender discrimination in fathers' time investments could be even larger in high son-preference settings across Asia, and have a greater impact on the relative well-being of girls and boys. Yet there is scant work on fathers' time investments in high son-preference settings, such as India. The first goal of this project is to conduct analyses using large-scale data from South India to document fathers' time investments in children overall, in sons versus daughters, and by gender composition of siblings in the family (Aim 1). The second goal is to understand what propels fathers' time bias against daughters. We focus on fathers' gender ideology, broadly defined as beliefs toward men's and women's roles in society. Men with egalitarian attitudes view their roles more equally to women's and, therefore, are expected to spend more time in childcare than those who espouse traditional attitudes. Gender theories are completely silent regarding the link between fathers' gender ideology and bias against daughters, however. We suggest that egalitarian fathers will treat sons and daughters more equally and therefore narrow the gender gap in fathers' time investments. Further, our approach recognizes that these relationships could be shaped by mothers' gender ideology. Many mothers in India and elsewhere, given their central responsibility for childrearing, act as gatekeepers who regulate fathers' involvement with children. Thus, mothers' attitudes could influence fathers to curb their time with children, or encourage them to increase their involvement, particularly with daughters. To measure gender ideology, we create a new, multi-dimensional typology using latent class analysis (Aim 2). Using this typology, we tease out which fathers invest more time with their children and display less bias against daughters (Aim 3). We also recognize that any investigation of father involvement with children is incomplete without attention to the larger family context, specifically the extended family in India, including children's grandparents. These individuals could serve as alternative caregivers to fathers and influence fathers' behavior toward sons and daughters. Therefore, accounting for their caregiving time and proximity are crucial. The analysis uses rich data on time use, gender ideologies, and caregiving from the South India Community Health Study (SICHS) in Tamil Nadu, where new roles for fathers coexist with patriarchal preferences for sons. The proposed research addresses a seemingly intractable challenge to health equity globally?gender bias in child investments. Findings regarding how and why fathers treat boys and girls unequally will have important implications for policies and interventions targeting persistent gender disparities in child inputs and outcomes worldwide.
Effective start/end date8/15/187/31/21


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $199,278.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $283,122.00


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