Fathers as Caretakers -- Using Statistics

Grade Levels: 4 - 6


  • Students will learn about the history of Father's Day.
  • Students will practice making bar graphs and pie charts.



  1. First, keep in mind that not all of your students may have fathers in their lives, due to death or separation. These students could partcipate in the projects by modifying the gifts for other important adults in their lives.
  2. Share the following basic information about the history of Father's Day with your students:

    The founding of Father's Day is associated with Mrs. John B. Dodd of Washington State. Mrs. Dodd's mother died in childbirth, leaving her father, William Smart, to raise six children. As an adult Mrs. Dodd came to realize the difficulties her father must have faced as both a working farmer and single father. Thanks to her efforts the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane, WA, on June 19, 1910. The third Sunday of June was not designated as Father's Day until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the holiday.

  3. Use the following statistics about fathers as caretakers.
  4. You can simply talk about these statistics, or extend this into a math lesson by making pie charts and bar graphs.
  5. Using a spreadsheet would make this a lesson that integrates technology.
  6. The facts listed below are available as a separate handout: Fathers as Caretakers handout.

    In 1993, about one in four fathers took care of their preschoolers during the time mothers were working. In fact, fathers provided care for their children during more of the mother's working hours than did any other single care provider.

    (The increase in care by fathers between 1988 and 1991 may have been a response to the economic recession that occurred during the same period – the recession began in July 1990 and reached its lowest point in March 1991. Increases in the proportions of people who were not employed and working at part-time jobs may have meant that more fathers were available to serve as childcare providers. The increase in care by fathers may have also reflected the desire of parents to cut down on childcare costs by switching to more parental supervision of their children whenever possible. That the decline in care by fathers between 1991 and 1993 occurred at the same time as the economy was expanding also supports this notion.)

    Other findings about married fathers with preschoolers whose mothers were employed in 1993 include:

    Care by fathers is most common in poor families.
    Childcare costs constitute an especially large proportion of a poor family's budget, so it comes as no surprise that fathers in poor families are more likely to take care of their children than fathers in nonpoor families – 43 percent compared with 24 percent in 1993, for example. Fathers in service occupations are more likely than fathers in other occupations to provide care for their preschoolers while their mothers are at work.
    Fathers who work in service occupations such as maintenance, police, fire-fighting, and security positions are about twice as likely as fathers in any other occupation to be taking care of the preschoolers while the mothers are working. For example, in 1993, 42 percent of fathers in service occupations cared for their preschool-age children compared with about 20 percent of fathers who were in managerial/professional or technical/sales occupations. Both patterns may be due to the fact that fathers in service occupations are more likely to work nontraditional schedules than other fathers and therefore may be more likely to be available for care.

    Care by fathers is most common in the Northeast and least common in the South.
    Care by fathers is more common in some areas of the country than in others. In 1993, fathers in the Northeast were the most likely to be taking care of their children and to be providing primary care, while those in the South were the least likely to be doing so. About 33 percent of fathers in the Northeast provided care for their preschoolers during the mothers' working hours, compared with 27 percent of fathers in the Midwest and West and only 18 percent in the South. Care by fathers was especially prevalent in New England, where four out of ten fathers cared for their children in 1993. Geographical differences in the frequency of fathers caring for their children may relate to regional variations in employment rates, and in costs of childcare and amounts of family income available to purchase alternative childcare services. Childcare costs are indeed more expensive in the Northeast than in either the Midwest or the South. And in 1993, fathers were more likely to be unemployed in the Northeast than in the Midwest or the South. It could also be that childcare facilities may be farther away in some areas than in others; this might cause more people to choose neighbors and relatives (including fathers) over childcare facilities that may be less accessible.

    Source: Current Population Reports, P70, 59, Sept. 1997.

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