Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that he would take two months off for paternity, it sparked a new round of discussion about the benefits of men taking paternity leave. The conversation around paternity leave is a positive thing for American men, who rarely take paternity leave even when it is part of their benefits plan. The US falls behind other countries on parental leave as a whole. America is one of just two countries in the world that doesn’t ensure any paid time off for new moms. But paternity leave is undeniably beneficial to women and children as well. Here are some of the biggest reasons your spouse should consider taking time off, too.
According to Dr. Lawrence Balter, parenting expert and professor emeritus of applied psychology at New York University, fathers and children benefit from a stronger connection. “Naturally, it’s important for fathers to develop a strong connection and attachment to their babies,” he said. “There is a lot of research that says a father’s role in the child’s life is very significant.”
Dr. Balter is right. According to research, men who take paternity leave are more likely to be involved deeply with their children in the future. Some studies even suggest that additional parental involvement actually helps cognitive development for children. And having time to bond with the baby right away helps paternal bonding, which in turn means dad will be able to learn his child’s emotional cues faster.
Dr. Susan Newman, a social psychologist, parenting expert and blogger for Psychology Today, also said fathers could learn to relate to their children better with more time off. “Fathers attach to their babies in the ways similar to mothers and at the same time, making it important for new dads to spend as much time as possible with their newborns,” she said.
In Norway, fathers can choose between 26 fully paid weeks off, or 36 weeks off with 80 percent of their pay. A Norwegian study found that men are much more likely to take paternity leave if they know someone else who did, like a brother, father, friend or co-worker. If the person they know happens to be a boss, then he is 2.5 times more likely to take leave himself. That means that men are highly influenced by peers.
A study by the University of Oslo revealed that paternity leave improved children’s performance at secondary school. The impact was especially strong on daughters, who greatly benefit from a strong connection to dad.
Paternity leave is good for mom too. In addition to getting help with childcare, it helps her continue to progress with her career or education. This benefits the family has a whole by giving the family much greater financial security.
Paternity leave actually changes the brains of men. A study from Israel showed that the more leave men take to be with their children, the more their own brains changed that made them better parents.
Thankfully, many American companies are embracing these studies and implementing more options for new parents. Netflix announced in May that it would allow parents to take off as much time as they wanted during the first year of their child’s birth or adoption. With these statistics, studies and examples in hand, you and your spouse should consider how much time he will take off when the baby arrives.