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Fathers, Childcare and Children’s Readiness to Learn


  • Elizabeth Washbrook



This study explores the effects of exposure to regular paternal childcare (without the mother present) in the first three years of life on the academic and social capabilities of boys and girls when they begin school. Innovations in this paper are the use of data on children’s early attributes to explore the issue of reverse causation, and a bootstrap technique that allows us to estimate standard errors on the change in the paternal care coefficient when additional groups of controls are included. The rich nature of our data (the ALSPAC UK cohort) allows us to eliminate many potential sources of bias in the estimates, and identify effects that are robust to numerous different specifications. Fathers are the most widely used form of non-maternal childcare in this period. We find that the effects of paternal childcare, relative to maternal-only parental care, depend on the gender of the child, the age at which care occurred and the weekly hours of paternal care. We find evidence that children’s social development may be enhanced by time alone with fathers, but that boys seem to suffer academically from long hours of paternal care when they are toddlers. Our findings show that the changing social roles of mothers and fathers may have implications for child as well as adult well being.

Suggested Citation

  • Elizabeth Washbrook, 2007. "Fathers, Childcare and Children’s Readiness to Learn," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 07/175, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:07/175

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Burgess, Simon & Propper, Carol & Slater, Helen & Wilson, Deborah, 2005. "Who wins and who loses from school accountability? The distribution of educational gain in English secondary schools," CEPR Discussion Papers 5248, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2003. "The Use and Usefulness of Performance Measures in the Public Sector," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 250-267, Summer.
    3. Deborah Wilson & Simon Burgess & Adam Briggs, 2011. "The dynamics of school attainment of England’s ethnic minorities," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(2), pages 681-700, April.
    4. Deborah Wilson, 2004. "Which Ranking? The Impact of a 'Value-Added' Measure of Secondary School Performance," Public Money & Management, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, vol. 24(1), pages 37-45, January.
    5. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
    6. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
    7. repec:rus:hseeco:122160 is not listed on IDEAS
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    10. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    12. Meyer, Robert H., 1997. "Value-added indicators of school performance: A primer," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 283-301, June.
    13. Andy Wiggins, 2002. "Dysfunctional Effects of League Tables: A Comparison Between English and Scottish Primary Schools," Public Money & Management, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, vol. 22(1), pages 43-48, January.
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    More about this item


    fathers; childcare; school readiness;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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