Pathways to fatherhood: Exploring men’s communal intentions and engagement through the lens of parental leave

  • This dissertation contributes to the emerging research field on men’s underrepresentation in communal domains such as health care, elementary education, and the domestic sphere (HEED). Since these areas are traditionally associated with women and therefore counter-stereotypic for men, various barriers can hinder men’s higher participation. We explored these relations using the example of how men’s interest in parental leave – as a form of communal engagement – is shaped across different stages of the transition to fatherhood. Specifically, we focused on how gendered beliefs regarding masculinity and fatherhood, the possible selves men can imagine for their future, and the social support men receive from their normative environment relate to their intentions to take parental leave and their engagement in care more broadly. In Chapter 2, using experimental designs, we examined how different representations of a prototypical man, varying in stereotypic agentic and counter-stereotypic communal content, affect men’s hypothetical intentions to take leave and their communal possible selves. Findings suggested that a combined description of a prototypical man as agentic and communal tended to increase men’s parental leave-taking intentions as compared to a control condition. In line with contrast effects, also an exclusively agentic male prototype tended to push men towards more communal outcomes. In Chapter 3, in a cross-sectional examination of the parental leave-taking intentions of expectant fathers, we found first evidence for a link between male prototypes and men’s behavioral preferences to take parental leave after birth. Yet, the support that expectant fathers received from their partners for taking parental leave emerged as the strongest predictor of men’s leave-taking desire, intention, and expected duration. In Chapter 4, using longitudinal data collected during men’s transition to fatherhood, we studied discrepancies between men’s prenatal caregiver and breadwinner possible selves and their actual postnatal engagement in each domain. Results suggested that fathers, on average, expected and desired to share childcare and breadwinning rather equally with their partners but had difficulties translating their intentions into behavior. The extent to which fathers experienced discrepancies was related to their attitudes towards the father role and the social support they received for taking parental leave and engaging in childcare. Moreover, experiencing a mismatch between their expected, desired, and actual division of labor had consequences for fathers’ intentions to take parental leave in the future. Across the empirical chapters, we found that men generally had high communal intentions and did not consider care engagement as nonnormative for their gender. However, men continue to face barriers that prevent them from translating their communal intentions into behavior. We outline strengths and limitations of the present research given the emerging nature of the research field. Moreover, we discuss implications for future research on men’s orientation towards care as well as implications for how to foster the realization of communal intentions into actual behavior.

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Author:Carolin Scheifele
Referee:Melanie Steffens, Selma Rudert
Advisor:Melanie Steffens, Colette Van Laar
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Cumulative document:Yes
Language of publication:English
Date of Publication (online):2023/10/20
Date of first Publication:2023/10/23
Publishing Institution:Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau
Granting Institution:Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2023/10/12
Date of the Publication (Server):2023/10/23
Page Number:v, 226 Seiten
Die Dissertation wurde im Rahmen einer Doppelpromotion mit der KU Leuven verfasst. Es wurden die akademischen Grade Doktor der Philosophoe (Dr. phil.) und Doctor of Psychology (PhD) verliehen.
Kumulative Dissertation
Faculties / Organisational entities:Landau - Fachbereich Psychologie
DDC-Cassification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):Creative Commons 4.0 - Namensnennung, nicht kommerziell, keine Bearbeitung (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)