So says this piece. Add your grain of salt in the comments.
Despite the long push for more equality in parenting duties, new research suggests that mothers and fathers may actually get along better when parenting roles are divided along more traditional lines -that is, when fathers back off caregiving duties, such as feeding and bathing, and put more effort into playtime.
Researchers at Ohio State University looked at 112 middle-class couples with four-year-old children. Researchers looked at how involved fathers were in play activities and how much they took part in caregiving.
They also observed parents working together to help their children perform certain tasks, such as building toy structures or drawing pictures.
Families in which fathers were more involved in play activities had more of what researchers called supportive interaction between the two parents.
In contrast, more of what is described by researchers as “undermining behaviour” was seen among families in which fathers do more of the caregiving.
Undermining behaviour was seen in statements such as “that’s a stupid idea” made by one parent to another, or taking separate approaches to helping their children.
It is unclear why the study yielded the results it did, but Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of family science at Ohio State University and one of the study’s co-authors, suggested parents may be subconsciously bothered when parenting roles conflict with their pre-conceived ideas.
From the mother’s point of view, it could be a function of “maternal gatekeeping,” she said. “For mothers, maybe, it’s hard to give up some control to the father. That could be a total social effect, but there could some sort of biological underpinning to it.”
The sex of the child did make a difference in the study’s findings.
With boys, the father’s involvement in play proved to be even more beneficial to the parents’ relationship.
On the other hand, fathers’ caregiving did not have a notable negative effect when it came to girls.
“Maybe fathers just feel more confident to participate in rearing their sons,” Prof. Schoppe-Sullivan said.
“If the mother is doing something with the son that he doesn’t like, the father feels like he should say something, or he has more of a role. Whereas with girls, it may be that the father lets the mother do more what she feels is best.”
Anne-Marie Ambert, a retired professor of family studies at York University in Toronto, said it makes sense that relationships would be good between couples where the father plays with the kids.
“Mothers are probably very appreciative when fathers
play with children, because it does take the children off their backs,” she said.
“Also, it’s very good for the children; the children are more active.”
She said it is less clear why having fathers involved in the caregiving would cause problems.
“You would think that caregiving from the father would make mothers much happier.”