Is Daddy Coming to Dinner? Working Schedules and Father’s Time with Children

Annalisa Donno, University of Padova

The process of gender roles redefinition in parenting management is spreading all over Europe. Fathers are no more expected to be financial providers only, but they are supposed to be engaged in childrearing activities too.

The aim of this work is to analyze daily fathers parenting activities by underlining the importance of chronology in time use analyses. The daily time allocation among different activities, driven by personal wants and attitudes, is also shaped by culturally constructed societal rhythms allowing to identify similarities in people’s daily schedules.

Our hypothesis is that performing parenting activities in ‘uncommon moments’ of the day might represent a social cost for fathers, bringing them to homologate their behaviors, by following a crowd-effect, preventing them from social stigma and economic consequences.

By using Italian Time Use survey data, we warp time, by identifying a ‘social duration’ of fathering, through the identification of a weighting scheme, taking into account each father’s childrearing timing, in the light of the ‘global’ parenting attitudes of all the other analyzed fathers. We use OLS regression models for understanding which individual-level characteristics influence the social duration of father’s parenting activities.

We expect fathers time allocation scheme to be mainly shaped by macro-context elements such as the working time regulations of the local labor market. We moreover test the hypothesis that, beyond working-related aspects, also cultural one act, bringing fathers to perform parenting activities by following homogeneous time-allocation schemes.


The steep increase in the female labor forceparticipation from the 60s has given origins to a process of gender rolesredefinition both in the household and in parenting tasks management. Fathersare no more expected to be financial providers only, but to be actively engagedin parenting activities too.

The daily allocation of time among differentactivities, driven by personal wants, needs, and constraints, is also shaped bythe societal rhythms culturally constructed. Basic similarities in people’sdaily schedules are generally observed that go beyond the individualdeterminants. Moreover, time has not the same social value (for a desirableactivity) /social cost (for a less desirable activity) according to the timingof each activity carried out.

Fathers tend to perform parenting activities inquite homogeneous ways, following a ‘crowd effect’; thus, a father’sparticipation at uncommon moments might have asocial cost, both from a working point of view and also because the gender normmight be transgressed.

This study proposes an original analysis of thefathers'' time with children, that goes beyond most of the existing studies thatdescribe fathers time use in terms of average duration in childrearingactivities.

We focus on Italy, a country where the malebreadwinner model is still well rooted, and the relation with job is still apivotal trait shaping men’s identity. Our hypothesis is that the expression offather''s role is influenced by the workplace rules,that might constitute a major determinant of why some fathers do not follow“the crowd”, but also by some cultural elements,like the social expectations on men as fathers. So, when men are asked tochange their time allocation scheme breaking with already consolidate dailyrhythms and social norms, have fathering activities a ‘social cost’? Which arethe variables influencing the way fathers allocate their time in parentingactivities? Who are the fathers who take care ofchildren at ‘uncommon moments’?

Data and methods

We use data from the Italian Time Use Survey (2008-2009)and focus on a sub-sample of 2,481 fathers of 0-14 years old co-resident child/children.We estimate OLS regression models to understand which are the individualdeterminants of fathering behaviors.

Two indicators are used: the total amount of timefathers spend with children and the social engagement rate, defined asfollows.

Our hypothesis is that spending time with childrenis more/less costly, from a ‘social’ point of view, when it is outside/withinthe usual parenting time of other fathers. In time use diaries, the 24-hoursperiod is split in 144 time slots, each lasting ten minutes. Our idea is towarp time, by identifying a new ‘social duration’ through the identification ofa weighting scheme, taking into account each father’s parenting activities allocation,in the light of the ‘global’ parenting attitudes of all the other analyzed fathers.

We use the weighting system at the individual levelto compute new durations of fathering time.

The ‘social duration’will be higher than the real one if the father isdoing his parenting activities in moments not socially shared by other fathers,and lower otherwise.

Weuse the normalized difference between the originalduration and the weighted amount of time Italian fathers spend with theirchildren.



By following a chronological approach, focusing onthe timing of fathering activities, defined as doing an activity in presence ofchildren (Fig. 1), it emerges that meal time is the main moment in whichfathers are available for children. Two main structures can be identified,shaping the fathers time allocation with children: the workplace-related rules,mainly defining the fathers availability during the week day, as well as somecultural norms, expecting fathers to spend time during the main family socializingmoments.

Fig.1 Chronograms of activities Italian fatherscarry out with their children. Week day and week end.


Regression models results (Table 1) confirm that inItaly the fathers’ work related features strongly influence both the durationand the schedule of their time with children, above all during the week days.

The partner working schedule has an effect too.Having a partner working by following atypical time schedules makes fathersbeing more engaged, and making the effort to alleviate the female burden ofwork-family balancing, even during less common moments.

The number of children, even if not influencingfathers’ engagement in terms of duration, has an effect on the allocationscheme, thus requiring fathers who have more than two children to behavedifferently from the ‘average’ father: they are more likely to have less commonsequences of time allocation in childrearing activities.

During the weekend, when fathers are lessconstrained by work and can decide how to organize their daily life, an effectof education emerges, showing that socio-cultural aspects also contribute indetermining the fathers’ time with children allocation scheme.

Table 1: OLS regression results.

*p<0.0001;**p<0.001; *p<0.05; +p<0.1


Presented in Session 1102: Families and Households