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Consumer Research


Jo Rigby: Get to know the ‘New Dad’

Jo Rigby: Get to know the ‘New Dad’

OMD Sense research 

Did you know that the Aka Pygmy men do more care-giving than fathers in any other know society?  On average they hold or are within arms’ reach of their infants 47 per cent of the time.

Some anthropologists suggest that in prehistoric cultures this was the accepted way of fathering, and we’ve actually spent the last 10,000 years moving away from such involvement from fathers.

What we do know for sure is that the role of fatherhood is undergoing a cultural revolution.  Countries all around the world are showing increased levels of actual engagement by fathers (ie time spent actually doing things with kids).

For example, in the US, in the 1960s, fathers did about 25 per cent as much as mothers – by the late 1990s that had risen to between 55 and 70 per cent. A typical UK dad now contributes a third of the parental childcare.

A number of trends are converging and resulting in this seismic shift in fathering:

-people are having children later, resulting in better educated and more affluent fathers with a more involved approach to child-rearing

-more women than ever are returning to the workplace after having children, 55 per cent of mothers of children under five now work, this was 25 per cent in the 1970’s

-Celebrity culture has thrown up new fathering role models such as David Beckham and Brad Pitt

-An overall move towards work/life balance sees many fathers questioning priorities their own fathers may have placed on careers

The Equal Opportunities Commission recently undertook research which identifies the New Dad, as opposed to the more traditional fathering approach.  They asked mothers and fathers to rate their agreement with the following three statements:

– Going out to work and being the breadwinner is the most important aspect of being a father

– Women are naturally better at caring for children

– I would be happy to stay at home and care for my children on my own

Depending on the responses mothers and fathers were classified as Modern or Traditional.  In 36 per cent of families both parents were Traditional, 25 per cent of families had parents who were both Modern and the remaining families held conflicting views.

There was strong correlation between Traditional families and low income, low educational attainment and Black/Asian families.  Overall 32 per cent of White families were Traditional, compare to 83 per cent of Asian families.

The extreme ‘New Dad’ gives up his job to provide the majority of childcare to his infants; this is the case for one-in-ten fathers.

It’s a trend set to rise as the gap between male and female salaries narrows (currently women earn 17 per cent less per hour then men, this was 29 per cent in the 1970’s), and decisions about child-rearing become more complex.

A new study shows that almost eight out of ten fathers said that they would be happy to stay at home and look after their baby, given the choice.

The new fathers of the 21st century are behaving in ways which would shock their Victorian forefathers.

Fifty years ago very few fathers attended their children’s births today 98 per cent of fathers living with partners do so, 48 per cent attend antenatal classes and 86 per cent at least one ultrasound scan.  No less than 94 per cent of fathers took time off work when their baby was born.

Back in the Seventies dads spent just 15 minutes a day with their children, this figure grew to 45 minutes in the eighties and now stands at two hours a day. Nine out of 10 men with babies now agree that they are as confident as their partners in caring for their new children.

Within the organisation this trend has already impacted on employers who are now obliged to offer up to two weeks paternity leave for new dads.

The new Parental Rights Bill includes a measure whereby mothers can transfer a portion of their maternity leave to their partners, creating a new dynamic within the workplace.

Setting aside legal requirements, in the last two years 1.2 million men, around 10 per cent of the male workforce, have asked their employer if they can work flexibly.

Snapshots shows us that 67 per cent of young dads change their baby’s nappy everyday, compared to 20 per cent of men whose kids were babies in the ’70’s.

So it makes sense that both Huggies and Pampers have created ‘parent neutral’ digital spaces which use inclusive ‘mum and dad’ language, recognising the role that dads play in choosing brands for their babies.

Compare the Oxo family of the eighties with the non-nuclear family of the BT ads, showing the positive involvement of a stepfather.

Snapshots revealed that 58 per cent of young dads think that brands don’t recognise the role which fathers play these days.

So next time we get a brief for ‘Mums with kids’, let’s remember the quiet revolution that fathers are leading!  There are lots of really innovative ways that we could encourage brands to celebrate the New Dad and really connect with the modern consumer.

Comment or feedback? Please contact

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