Not a lot of research has been conducted in the field of organizational psychology around parental leave. However, a 2019 study did examine the impact of fathers taking leave on their satisfaction and their partners. It is an interesting study to highlight the importance of parental leave being provided for all parents. As more companies in the U.S. begin to think about broader parental leave policies to include fathers, this study highlights some reasons why that could be important.
Note: This study narrowly looked at heterosexual married couples and this is a major limitation. We anticipate there may be differences in results with non-traditional partnerships, homosexual couples, single parents, and any other parenting approach.
Fathers are Happier
The results of the study are fairly straightforward. Basically, fathers that take parental leave are happier! They are more satisfied with their lives and with their jobs. Thus, fathers that take parental leave experience more wellness than those that don’t.
From an employer perspective, providing this type of leave would make the new fathers in your organization happier. We know that job satisfaction is linked to better performance and lower turnover. Thus, happier fathers stay longer and do better! Overall, this study makes the case that fathers do better if they take leave.
Mothers are Happier
So, what about mothers? Mothers also benefit from fathers taking leave. Basically, there’s a spillover effect. In the past, we’ve talked about how family and work can impact each other. This is a similar effect. Simply, when fathers feel happy because they took a leave, mothers feel better about their family life. One partner’s happiness rubs off on the other partner.
In sum, fathers taking parental leave is important for wellness and the family dynamic. We know that mothers and primary caregivers taking leave is also critical for family wellness. Yet, as we’ve mentioned before, parental leave is still not a national policy in the U.S. If you have influence at your organization, we encourage you to push for inclusive parental leave policies. And, if you are wanting to take a leave, listen to our podcast episode about parental leave transitions. You can’t fix the policies alone so at least do what you can to take care of yourself!