In a Changing World, Modern Dads Are More Involved – and Reaping the Rewards

Global dads are rejecting traditional gender stereotypes and taking a more active role in their children’s lives, according to a newly released Viacom study.

Fatherhood has taken on new meaning in recent years. Social media and the internet have democratized freedom of speech, enabling the spread of progressive ideas. Within that space, attitudes about gender have loosened up – relieving moms and dads alike of the weight of many old stereotypes.

In its latest project, Viacom Global Insights explored the lives of these men. Modern Dads: Fatherhood in a Changing World was the end result of surveys of over 8,000 men in 22 countries* and conversations with men in 8 markets* through in-person interviews, ethnographies, dinner discussions and WhatsApp diaries.

Here are some of the main findings from this study:

Men are embracing vulnerability and rejecting traditional gender labels. When men express their feelings, it’s no longer seen as a sign of weakness. The concept of gender itself is becoming more fluid, moving away from labels and the idea that gender defines people. In an increasingly unstable world, there is a growing sense that we’re all in this together – and people are doing whatever is needed to accomplish their collective goals.

There is no “normal” – families do whatever works for them.  The combination of an uncertain economy and changing family dynamics means that “normal” has an infinite number of definitions. The rise in same-sex parenting, single parenting and step-parenting means that more kids than ever are living in “unconventional” families – and society is more accepting of them.

Dads are taking on the whole spectrum of parental responsibilities.  Men increasingly don’t want to be tied to stereotypical roles. They resent being seen as secondary caregivers or as solely responsible for family finances. Their duties expand beyond the “fun” aspects of parenting as they take on feeding, changing, and transporting kids to school and activities. In fact, 81% of men surveyed think dads should be as hands-on as moms when it comes to bringing up their children.

Men with children are more health-conscious. When entering parenthood, men start to pay more attention to their physical and mental well-being. Compared with men without children, dads are 42% more likely to have regular check-ups, 18% more likely to take supplements, 14% more likely to make efforts to manage their stress levels, and 9% more likely to eat healthily.

Honesty and openness are replacing patriarchal parenting. Dads are seeking closer relationships with their kids, with 86% saying they want their children to think of them as a friend. They don’t want to be seen as detached or as rule enforcers – they want to be supportive and emotionally involved. In fact, 80% of dads say they aim to have a different relationship with their child than their parents had with them.

Dads are reaping the benefits of their investment in fatherhood. Having more involved and present fathers represents a major advantage for kids. And while dads clearly enjoy playing this role, they’re also aware that they’re getting something tremendously valuable in return: a huge sense of joy and purpose.

* 22 countries surveyed: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, UK, US

** 8 markets for qualitative research: UK, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Colombia, Thailand