The concept of fatherhood has changed dramatically in the last half century. Whereas fathers played the traditional roles of breadwinners and patriarchs, the 21st century Dad is more hands-on involving himself in child care from diaper duty to disciplining. As more millennials join the bandwagon, there is also another aspect to fatherhood that needs a look as an increasing number of these cohorts are having children at a later age.
According to the Millennial Parenthood Brief, 40% of millennials or around 80 million are putting off having children later in life. Just like women who delay starting a family for financial or personal reasons, more millennial men are doing the same. The reasons for deferred parenthood are many, but the most prevalent ones are financial responsibilities (paying back student loans), love of freedom & independence and fear of child rearing & parenting responsibilities.
The Stanford University Report supports this observation revealing that the average age of a father is 30.9 years compared to 27.4 years six decades ago. Across ethnicity, race, education and income levels, millennials are postponing having children in pursuit of better incomes and secure jobs.
Although younger fathers push back starting families, the 21st century Dad is more involved with raising their offpsrings. Traditionally, it has been the woman’s role to take care of the kids even sacrificing careers to stay at home. Today, we see that there is a different aspect of manliness in the 21st century with millennial fathers committed to doing more for kids from spending extra time with them to contributing to household chores. The 21st century Dad spends triple of their time caring for kids compared to 50 years ago. (NIH, 2013). What is clear is that Millennial Dads have a great impact on their kids’ lives. Studies show that an involved father positively influences the development of a child. Young kids whose fathers are present in their lives are better at coping with stress and do better in school. They are less likely to become depressed, obese or experience teen pregnancy.
Challenges of the Millennial Dad
Putting off children has, however, its implications. Not only do women have biological clocks ticking, men likewise could potentially reduce the number of kids they are able to produce. And it’s also about potential medical risks as certain disorders (autism, pediatric cancers and other genetic problems) could manifest in children of older fathers. To illustrate, the risk is 3x more for a child of a 45-year old father to contract autism compared to a 24-year old as the Swedish Report on the relation between paternal childbearing and genetic mutations suggests.
On the bright side, delayed parenting has its benefits for Dads in the form of secure finances, spare time on child rearing and perhaps more patience as maturity kicks in. And, as more support for millennial Dads are forthcoming in a society that approves of equal sharing of duties & responsibilities in households, it is evident that the trend for involved parenting continues. Stuff like better parental leave benefits, extra time off, social & psychological support systems for Dads encourage these millennials to go for it. Delayed fatherhood or not, these millennial and generation X Dads find that parenting is their greatest joy according to a Zero to Three study even though many are probably struggling because of wanting to ‘have it all.’Tweet