Fathers find financial crisis hits family life

19 June 2011

Much coverage of the economic downturn has focussed on its immediate impact, yet it is likely to hold long-term implications for family life. A research study 'Changing Lives and Times' funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at Cardiff University has explored the impact of the financial crisis on the daily lives and future plans of new fathers, finding that several men were making significant life changes.

New dad William described how he and his wife decided to stick with one child rather than have the three children they originally planned for, because they could not afford to do so in the current financial climate. William describes this as an experience shared by others "a friend of mine was definitely having two kids, he’s only having one now ‘cause when you sit down and look at it, it’s really expensive, especially with the recession."

Following men through their partner's pregnancy and over the first year of fatherhood, the study found that men appeared to be particularly anxious about money. "Our research shows that even in situations where women earn similar or greater amounts than their partners, men often see themselves as responsible for providing financially for their families" says Professor Karen Henwood, who conducted the research.

"In the current climate, where parents are expected to provide a great deal for their children materially alongside these constrained finances, this led some men to take financial risks so their children did not miss out". The result of these changes sometimes meant men working longer hours or away from the home so they had less time to spend with their children.

Jeffrey, dad to one year-old Gethin, has had to work away from the family home during the week since the company he works for downsized "It's just annoying 'cause you’re not around, especially now 'cause he's starting to stand up and he's almost walking and he's almost talking, you kind of think you’re missing out a bit really".

These changes suggest a step backwards for shared parenting, which may become further pressurised in light of recent changes to state support for families. "Our research shows the significant impact of the recession on middle-income earning men in both the short and longer-term" says Professor Henwood.

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Notes for editors:

  1. The study is part of Timescapes, an ESRC qualitative longitudinal study and the release is based on the early finding from 'Changing Lives and Times: Relationships and Identities Through the Lifecourse' funded by the ESRC and carried out by a team led by Professor Karen Henwood, Dr. Fiona Shiraniand and Dr. Carrie Coltart at Cardiff University.
  2. The researchers interviewed 46 men during their partner's pregnancy and over the first year of fatherhood to explore in detail their experiences of this significant life change. Unlike one-off studies, this enabled us to track changes in participants' lives and expectations over time in relation to their changing life experiences. Participant names used are pseudonyms. 
  3. Based on an article Henwood, K. Shirani, F. and Coltart, C. (2010) 'Fathers and financial risk-taking during the economic downturn: Insights from a QLL study of men’s identities-in-the-making. Contemporary Social Science (formerly 21st Century Society)'. 5 (2) 137-147
  4. The ESRC is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues.  It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2010/11 £218 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at: www.esrc.ac.uk
  5. Timescapes is directed by Bren Neale, Professor of Life Course and Family Research in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. Professor Janet Holland is co-director for Timescapes based at London South Bank University. Timescapes is documenting people’s experiences of growing up, relationships, having children, living in families and growing older through carrying out seven different research projects based at five different University institutions across the UK – Leeds, London South Bank, Cardiff, Edinburgh and the Open University. More at www.timescapes.leeds.ac.uk