Working paper 07/175 - Abstract

Fathers, Childcare and Children’s Readiness to Learn (PDF, 1,011kB)

Elizabeth Washbrook

This study explores the effects of exposure to regular paternal childcare (without the mother present) in the first three years of life on the academic and social capabilities of boys and girls when they begin school. Innovations in this paper are the use of data on children’s early attributes to explore the issue of reverse causation, and a bootstrap technique that allows us to estimate standard errors on the change in the paternal care coefficient when additional groups of controls are included. The rich nature of our data (the ALSPAC UK cohort) allows us to eliminate many potential sources of bias in the estimates, and identify effects that are robust to numerous different specifications. Fathers are the most widely used form of non-maternal childcare in this period. We find that the effects of paternal childcare, relative to maternal-only parental care, depend on the gender of the child, the age at which care occurred and the weekly hours of paternal care. We find evidence that children’s social development may be enhanced by time alone with fathers, but that boys seem to suffer academically from long hours of paternal care when they are toddlers. Our findings show that the changing social roles of mothers and fathers may have implications for child as well as adult well being.

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