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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Family Time Keeps Working Dads Happier

Family Time Keeps Working Dads Happier
Credit: Ollyy/Shutterstock

Working dads who want to be happier at work should try spending more time with their children, new research suggests.

The more time working fathers spend with their kids each day, the happier they are with their jobs, the less likely they are to want to find a new employer and the less work-family conflict they experience, according to a study that will be published next month in the Academy of Management Perspectives journal.

In addition, the research revealed that the more hours men devote to their children, the less central their careers are to their identities.

"Men's increased involvement in child rearing is at odds with the notion of the ideal worker as one [who] puts work above all else," the study's authors wrote.

This notion can cause working dads to feel as if their dedication to the job is diminished, but employers can counter such feelings by actively promoting a better work-life balance, the researchers found.

"Ideally, individuals should be able to foster a strong sense of involvement at home and still feel connected to their careers," the study's authors wrote. "Analysis revealed that strong support from an organization via its management can mitigate the negative relationship between involved-fathering and career identity."

Jamie Ladge, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at Northeastern University, said that within companies there is pressure toward traditional understandings of fatherhood, which conflict with men's desire to be more involved at home than male breadwinners have been in the past. [5 Work-Life Balance Tips for Dads ]

"Instead of promoting ideals based on outdated gender norms, firms need to recognize fatherhood as a serious and time-consuming activity, both through formal flex programs and through encouraging supervisors to support fathers in fulfilling family commitments," Ladge said in a statement.

The researchers said these outcomes for working dads are the opposite of what working mothers typically experience.

"While working fathers experience ambiguity around their fathering identity, they do not seem to experience threat to their work identities in the same way women do as mothers," the study's authors wrote. "Perhaps men don't experience the same level of guilt that working mothers feel and don't view caring for children as a source of stress."

The study was based on online surveys of 970 fathers employed full-time as managers or professionals at four Fortune-500 companies.

The researchers said their study shows that society is transitioning from a view of fathers as predominantly breadwinners to one that equally embraces work and family. As evidence of this, the study's authors point to the part of the survey that asked dads to name the most important aspects of being a good father. Those surveyed rated "providing love and emotional support" an average of 4.6 on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important), while "providing financial security" and "providing discipline" each received 4.0.

Based on their research, the study's authors say it's important for employers to recognize that many of today's fathers desire to be more than the traditional definition of a workingman.  

"On an individual level, this is clearly a work in progress for today's fathers. Yet, it appears to us to be more of a period of transition than one of demise or maintenance of the status quo," the study's authors wrote. "As men transition from a narrow definition of fatherhood to one that embraces work and family, they must find a happy medium between doing meaningful work and living meaningful lives, so that they can be effective as both workers and caregivers."

The study was co-authored by Beth Humberd, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; Marla Baskerville Watkins, an assistant professor at Northeastern University; and Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.