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Swedish fathers who share parental leave equally with their partner report less parental stress

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​​​​​​​Fathers who share parental leave equally with their partner until the child is 18 months experience less stress in their parenting and are more satisfied with the family situation, shows a new study from the University of Gothenburg.

Parents in Sweden have had the opportunity to share the parental leave for more than 45 years, yet we know little about how it affects the parents and the interaction in the family.

In a recently defended dissertation, Monica Lidbeck has studied parental leave from a psychological perspective. In her dissertation, she has investigated how shared parental leave affects parents' experiences of their parenthood, the interaction between the parents and how satisfied they are with the balance between family life and work life.

- Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes in life and who takes care of the child during infancy affects both the parental roles and the dynamics in the family, says Monica Lidbeck, PhD in psychology.

The results showed that shared parental leave seemed to have the greatest significance for fathers. The fathers who had taken about half of the parental leave during infancy experienced less parental stress and felt more secure in their parental role than those who had taken less parental leave than their partner. They also perceived the quality of their relationship as better than the fathers who had not shared the parental leave equally.

The fathers who had taken a shorter period of parental leave reported the highest parental stress.

- It may be related to the fact that they spent less time with the child, while at the same time feeling both their own expectations and the environment's requirement to be a committed and present father. To become confident as a parent you need to get to know your child and get the opportunity to develop your parenting skills, says Monica Lidbeck.

Unlike the fathers, it was not possible to see a corresponding connection among the mothers who participated in the study. One possible explanation may be that mothers who have an influence on how the parental leave is distributed feel satisfied if the parents share in line with their wishes, regardless of whether it is equally or not.

In the couples where the parents had shared the parental leave equally, both parties perceived the balance between work and family life more positively than the couples who had not shared equally. They also felt that they had good support from each other cooperated well as parents.

More information:

The project Family life and distribution of parental leave (Familjeliv och fördelning av föräldraledighet) is a collaborative project between the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg and R&D Primary Healthcare Gothenburg and Södra Bohuslän, Västra Götaland region. The purpose was to explore how parents' distribution of parental leave reflects in parenting and family life.

The survey study involved 280 parents when their children were 6 months and 18 months old. In the survey, they answered questions about their family situation, how they felt as parents, how they experienced the support from each other in parenting, how they perceived the balance between work and family life, and how they experienced their relationship.

Twelve parental couples who shared the parental leave equally were also interviewed about their experiences of changing parental leave during the child's first year.

The dissertation:
Sharing & Caring - Division of parental leave from a psychological perspective, Monica Lidbeck (2020), Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.

Download the dissertation:
https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/66192

Contact: 
Monica Lidbeck, psychologist and PhD in psychology  
E-mail: monica.lidbeck@vgregion.se
Telephone: 0727-21 36 70