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A Holiday Is Nice -- But What Fathers Really Need is Paid Leave

FSPH Dean Jody Heymann and the WORLD Policy Analysis Center contributed an opinion piece to The Huffington Post about the importance of paternity leave.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Baby with father

By Dr. Jody Heymann, Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Co-authored by Aleta Sprague, WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

One day a year, we celebrate dads. Chances are, that's one day more than they had to celebrate becoming a father.

At least that's the case in the U.S. - along with nearly 100 other countries around the world that don't provide any paid leave to new fathers.

In recent years, the United States' failure to provide paid maternity leave has met with scorn from everyone from U.S. senators to late night comedians. This is well deserved: the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation that doesn't guarantee at least some paid leave to new moms, despite its proven benefits for both maternal and child health.

Yet the bigger issue globally is paternity leave. Today, while 96% of countries provide paid leave to mothers, only 49% provide any leave to fathers--and among those that do, it's often for two weeks or less.

By granting leave only to mothers, governments worldwide have embedded inequality in the law. When caregiving is presumed to be solely a mother's responsibility, women don't have equal chances at work, and men don't have equal chances at home. What's more, these laws not only further stereotypes, but also fly in the face of evidence showing that paid paternity leave has significant benefits for families' wellbeing. Fathers who take paternity leave report greater satisfaction with their relationships with their children, and are more likely to be involved with their children after the leave ends. Paternity leave may also reap dividends in children who perform better in school. Importantly, paternal leave with more equal sharing of responsibilities is also associated with lower rates of post-partum depression among new mothers.

Read the full article on Huffington Post Impact