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As patterns of motherhood in the US have shifted, so have patterns of fatherhood—with hyperinvolved new dads getting much attention even as fathers who do not live with their kids at all have become common. Some aspects of father behavior get disproportionate attention, while others are neglected, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Analyzing US Fathers Today: What’s Overhyped, What’s Overlooked.”
Underlying shifts in attitude, the hard fact of mothers’ influx into the workforce has altered the daily reality of family life. When a father buys the groceries, it is probably more because he does not want to go without dinner that night than because he has embraced new abstract concepts of gender and fatherhood in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, there is a wider range in the kinds of fathers that are common these days. In the “Leave It to Beaver” era, fathers were mostly present in the household but much less domestically involved than mothers. Now we have many fathers who are highly engaged in childcare and household tasks, but also many who do not live in the same household with their offspring.
Despite such complications, marketers have good cause to figure fathers out. Mothers are a less attractive market than in the past because so many are now low-income singles. Conversely, fathers are a more attractive market than in the past because they are more involved in household purchasing. (One indication of marketers realizing this: Amazon recently renamed its Amazon Mom program—discounts on diapers and whatnot—as Amazon Family.) Thus, it’s worth looking beyond the “new dad” chatter for a more nuanced picture of today’s fathers.
Paralleling their view of themselves as full partners in childcare, many fathers believe they are at least equal partners in shopping for the household. In the BabyCenter/Google survey of millennial fathers, majorities said they have a primary or equal role in deciding on purchases in categories as varied as consumer electronic and groceries.
As with childcare, divergence between fathers’ and mothers’ perceptions is sharp. While more than three-quarters of fathers in Crowdtap’s polling of millennials said they are chief or equal decision-makers for family-related purchases, just three in 10 mothers agreed.
eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.
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