In Japan, the more fathers take care of their children, the more they are likely to be in good physical and mental health. This is the conclusion of a recent study of more than 28,000 children.
In many countries around the world, more and more fathers want to benefit from their parental leave in order to be able to take better care of their children. This is for example the case in Japan. Faced with this observation, Japanese researchers have assessed the impact of the growing involvement of fathers on the health of young children.
The study authors relied on data from 28,050 children from Japan’s largest birth cohort. The degree of involvement was measured from the responses of the fathers included in the study, asked to indicate the frequency of their participation in tasks such as changing the baby, helping him to fall asleep or feeding him. The researchers then analyzed their responses by assigning them a score based on a scale of 1 to 4.
Better physical and mental development of the child
The results, published in the journal Pediatric Research, emphasize a clear improvement in the physical and psychological development of children at the age of three, when their fathers have invested a lot in their education. “High father involvement in childcare was associated with a lower risk of developmental delay in the areas of gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving, and personal and social life, compared to low involvement”say the researchers.
Before concluding : “Fathers’ active involvement in childcare in early childhood can promote early childhood development, in part by reducing maternal parenting stress”.
Become a “shufus dad”
Since 2010, a Japanese law grants twelve months of parental leave, for the mother as for the father. Although very few dads have taken advantage of the total duration of this long leave, this revolution has been illustrated by the emergence of those who are nicknamed: “shufus dads”, which can simply be translated as “stay-at-home dads”. According to the latest estimates from Japan’s Ministry of Health, the rate of fathers taking paternity leave has reached 17.13%. If this rate may seem derisory compared to that of Europe (67% in 2021 according to DREES) or Finland (nearly 80%), it nevertheless testifies to real progress in the country of the rising sun, since it has increased ninefold since 2012.
The Japanese government has recently taken steps to increase the rate of paternity leave take-up in its country. Since April 1, 2022, a new law on paternity leave requires Japanese companies to inform all their employees of the possibility of taking parental leave. But the gap with Japanese mothers remains gargantuan: their rate of use of maternity leave is 80.2%. The road ahead therefore promises to be long for the Japanese government, which hopes to see the paternity leave take rate increase to 50% in 2025 and 85% by 2030.