Fathers, parental leave policies, and infant quality of life: International perspectives and policy impact

Margaret O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


Infant care is no longer purely a private family matter. As more mothers return to paid employment in their child's first year, governments develop provisions to support working parents with very young children. Statutory parental leave and flexible working provisions for fathers are expanding rapidly, particularly in Europe. The author compares fathers' patterns of leave-taking across twenty-four countries from 2003 to 2007 to present new types of father-care-sensitive leave models. Findings show that fathers' use of statutory leave is greatest when high income replacement (50 percent or more of earnings) is combined with extended duration (more than fourteen days). Father-targeted schemes heighten usage. Although studies are limited, parental leave has the potential to boost fathers' emotional investment in and connection with infants. Differential access to statuary leave raises the possibility of a new polarization for infants: being born into either a parental-leave-rich or -poor household and, indeed, country.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-213
Number of pages24
JournalThe ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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