“Take it or leave it?” The link between attitudes on fathers’ leave and leitbilder of fatherhood in Germany – a new approach on family policy and parenthood

Sabine Diabaté, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Detlev Lück, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Katrin Schiefer, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)

Which characteristics define a "caring father" today – should he, e.g., take parental leave or not? Leave-taking is an important family policy instrument to promote gender equality. However, not all fathers take parental leave, and those who do, usually only take two months, although there is the possibility to take a longer period in Germany. Therefore, it is necessary for policy makers to understand this phenomenon. The reasons against longer leave-taking periods might be complex and so far not clearly identified, but there are several potential barriers: 1. economic pressure 2. individual leitbilder (guiding role models of fatherhood, which are oriented towards the male-breadwinner-model) 3. perceived leitbilder (guiding role models) of fatherhood and motherhood in society, which have an effect through social pressure, maybe fathers’ leave is not accepted culturally, potential leave takers might fear social stigmatisation. Our theoretical and methodological approach is based on the concept of leitbilder. We refer to leitbilder as sets of collectively shared and pictured conceptions of a “normal” state or process, in the sense that it is widely spread, socially expected and/or personally desired. Leitbilder may refer to family issues, such as the “ideal” and “caring” father. The concept of fatherhood seems to be in a transition in Germany: Our first findings suggest that the notion of the "caring father" has changed. German men do not only want to be breadwinners, they also want to be actively involved in child-rearing. Our presentation will introduce the leitbild-approach, as it is implemented in a representative survey, conducted in Germany in 2012 (n=5,000). And we will present findings for the link between sociodemographic characteristics, leitbilder of fatherhood (as independent variables) on the one hand and the attitudes on fathers’ leave (dependent variable) on the other hand. Finally, implications for possible future policies on fathers’ leave are outlined.

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Presented in Session 64: Attitudes, culture, religion