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Good practice with fathers in children and family services

How we think about and understand fathering has changed. Active ‘fathering’ is now an accepted role for men at home and fathers are visible outside the school gates, in parks and playgrounds and in the streets and shopping centres. Fathers’ involvement in child care increased from less than 15 minutes a day in the mid-1970s to three hours a day during the week by the late 1990s, with more at the weekend. This trend of increasing involvement has continued (O’Brien, 2016). Expectations have also shifted. In 2009, 29 per cent of parents believed that childcare was the primary responsibility of the mother (Ellison, Barker and Kulasuriya, 2009) and the belief that fathers are expected, and want, to do more has remained strong (Zvara, Schoppe-Sullivan and Dush, 2013). In Scotland, fathers’ involvement compares well with other countries of the UK. In their analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study information, Kelly and colleagues (2014) revealed that Scottish fathers are as likely to be at the birth of their babies as any other father in the UK. Jones and Smith (2008) also show that within the UK, more Scottish fathers wish to spend more time with their children. They go on to show that Scottish fathers are more likely to read to their children and get them ready for bed ‘several times a week’; play outdoors and indoors with their children; and look after their children on their own. It should be noted, however, that while there has been a certain degree of convergence of childcare and domestic work – with men now doing more in the home and with their children – women still spend considerably more time on domestic work and childcare than men: 16 hours per week for men and 26 hours per week for women (ONS, 2016). This, of course, is one of the many reasons to encourage greater father involvement.