Growing importance of men in families

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The perceptions of the role of women and men in families have changed over the past few decades. Men are no longer perceived as the economic providers to families. The role of men in the family has undergone many “diverse demographic, socio-economic and cultural transformations” impacting the formation, stability and overall well-being of families.

“Traditionally most international organizations have looked at gender issues from a women only perspective and have not thoroughly examined the real issue in including gender equity and harvesting the well being of children contributing to family life” said Professor Margaret O’Brien, Co-Director, Centre for Research on the Child and Family, University of East Anglia, U.K.In light of this development, DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) launched a new publication on “Men in Families and Family Policy in a Changing World” on 17 February focusing on the shifting roles and views of men in families. Aligning with the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Families, the publication intends to provide a global review and analysis of trends in men’s participation in family life and their importance in achieving gender equality.The publication notes an information gap on fathers’ activities in the home. It is necessary to improve the demographic data about fathers to enhance the development of support. For instance, we do not know how many male prisoners are fathers. As a result, it is difficult to develop family support and parenting support systems.

To bridge this gap, Ms. O’Brien stated the importance to promote “more contact between policy makers and academics to uncover and discover the realm of fathers in family life, their caring, responsibilities and economic obligations and their emotional commitment and contributions to family life.”

Many policies have been created to encourage greater participation of men in families, in the labor market, family law, health and social services as well as education and media. Perhaps one particularly important impact has been the introduction of paternity leave for men in many countries. 

In a rapidly changing world, we will continue witnessing the growing momentum and recognition of the importance of men for gender equality, reconciling work-family life and impacting the future of their children.

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