A recent collaborative study led by Leeds Trinity University indicates that young fathers want to play a more active role in family life and receive fairer treatment when in or seeking employment.
The Connected Young Fatherhood report focuses on young fathers’ experiences of employment since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the implications of this for a post-pandemic future.
It also highlights the challenges faced by both employers and professionals who provide support services to young fathers, and calls for changes to national and local policy to better meet their needs.
The study found that providing financially as a parent is important, but young fathers do not see breadwinning as their only role. It identifies positive outcomes resulting from the pandemic for some young fathers who spent more time with their families, worked more flexibly and were able to fulfil more active roles in their children’s lives.
The research also highlights that young fathers are greatly affected by inequality in the workplace in terms of employment opportunities, pay and conditions.
Recommendations include the need for employers to do more to protect young fathers through changes to employment policy, offering flexible working and time off for parental leave. The report calls for more choice and support around paternity leave to enable fathers to better support their families, in line with the Women and Equalities’ Committee’s previous recommendation to make paternity a protected characteristic.
Public services for families are urged to meet the needs of fathers as well as mothers, suggesting more joined-up work between professionals, employers and other key stakeholders is needed, with the availability of support found to be inconsistent across the country. The report calls for these issues to be urgently addressed at a national and local level and highlights the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda as an opportunity to do so.
Spearheaded by Leeds Trinity’s Professor Carmen Clayton, the project is a collaboration with Leeds City Council, the County Councils Network and parenting website DaddiLife, designed to influence policy makers and affect change in employment and public services who support young fathers.
Carmen Clayton, Professor of Family and Cultural Dynamics at Leeds Trinity University said: “This research highlights the many challenges faced by young fathers in employment, which in many cases are the result of inequality and a system that is not always set up to meet their needs. Working with our partners on this and other similar projects has demonstrated the value of a collaborative approach to addressing these issues. However, to really make a difference, we need a multi-faceted approach, backed by carefully implemented policies and with adequate funding in place.”
At an online launch event for the study, professionals, policy makers and other key stakeholders working in the family sector discussed the new research and considered how the findings can be implemented. Guest speakers included young father advocate organisations Dads Matter (Norfolk) and Young Fathers Project (Salford) as well as insights from young fathers.
Andrew Gwynne MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, who introduced the report at the event said: “Becoming a mum or dad changes your life. But it comes with its challenges too, especially for younger parents. It is very important that workplaces are an inclusive place for dads and encourage them to take up their share of parental responsibilities.
“Learning more about fatherhood through research projects is vital in helping policymakers make informed decisions. So, I’d like to say a big thank you to Professor Carmen Clayton and her team for embarking on this project. Their past work over the last few years – from the report on young fathers in higher education to the investigation into the lives of British families during lockdown – has been invaluable.”
Alison Hadley, Director Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, University of Bedfordshire, who gave a keynote presentation said: “This research builds on the excellent New Pathways for Young Fathers study. It provides further insight into what helps and hinders young fathers achieve their ambition of being the best dad they can be, a supportive partner, and securing stable, fulfilling, decently paid employment.
“Importantly the study focuses on two new important aspects: the different experiences of young fathers in rural and urban areas, and the impact of the pandemic which we know has increased poverty and taken a toll on mental health. The findings have important implications for all policies aimed at reducing inequalities.”
Connected Young Fatherhood is the latest in a series of research projects led by Professor Clayton over the past four years and was included as part of Leeds Trinity University’s submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The REF 2021 results showed that Leeds Trinity produces impactful research across all of its academic disciplines.