If I [Take] Leave, Will You Stay? Paternity Leave and Relationship Stability

Richard Petts , Ball State University
Daniel Carlson, University of Utah
Chris Knoester, The Ohio State University

Paternity leave may provide benefits to families, but research has yet to consider whether paternity leave may contribute to parental relationship stability in the U.S. Paternity leave-taking may signal a commitment by fathers toward an egalitarian division of labor, reducing the burden on mothers and strengthening marriages. This study uses longitudinal data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to analyze the association between paternity leave-taking and marital stability in the United States. Results indicate that paternity leave-taking is associated with greater marital stability. In regard to length of paternity leave, results suggest that either short (one week or less) or moderately long (a month) leaves are associated with a lower risk of marital dissolution relative to couples in which fathers do not take leave. These findings increase our understanding of the potential benefits of paternity leave, and can inform policy decisions that aim to increase family stability.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions