Fathers’ involvement in childcare in Italy: the role of cohabitation

Fausta Ongaro, Università di Padova
Silvia Meggiolaro, Università di Padova

This paper considers whether (and how) Italian married and unmarried fathers differ in childcare involvement. The reason of this analysis are twice: the relatively recent increase of non-marital unions also in Italy and the importance of paternal involvement in childcare for children’s development. If some differences exist, indeed, the diffusion of non-marital union could have important consequences for children.With data from two rounds of the survey “Family and Social Subjects” conducted in Italy in 2003 and 2009, the present study analyses i) the differences between married and unmarried fathers in the involvement in childcare activities for babies aged 0-3 years, and ii) whether the differences are attributable to the characteristics of the individuals selecting into particular family forms. The detailed data allow also to distinguish among married fathers those experiencing pre-marital cohabitation, thus identifying an intermediate couple typology. Results confirmed one of the main perspective suggested by literature, according to which unmarried fathers are more involved in childcare than their married counterparts, and this is true also for fathers experiencing pre-marital cohabitation. In fact, these results are due to selection; significant differences disappear, indeed, when some controls are taken into account. In particular, selection seems to operate differently for unmarried fathers and those who got married after a pre-marital cohabitation.

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Presented in Session 63: Childcare, work and family

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