Long-term paid parental leave is good for adolescent well-being
It improves child well-being all the way into adolescence when parents take longer parental leave and postpone sending their children to daycare facilities. This is the result of a new study from Aarhus BSS at Aarhus University, which examines the effects of a Danish reform extending paid parental leave back in 2002. However, the study also gives cause for concern in relation to a new set of rules on parental leave earmarked to fathers in Denmark.
When parents choose to take longer parental leave and postpone introducing their child to formal out-of-home care, it benefits general child well-being – even in the long-term. When these children reach adolescence, they are more conscientious and emotionally stable, just as they are less frequently absent from school and generally report significantly increased well-being.
This is the result of a new study from the Department of Economics and Business Economics at Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University. The study is so far a working paper, currently undergoing peer review for a journal. Behind the study are PhD student Mikkel Houmark from Aarhus BSS and his PhD colleagues Cecilie Marie Løchte Jørgensen from Aarhus BSS and Ida Lykke Kristiansen from University of Copenhagen as well as part-time lecturer Miriam Gensowski from the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit.
The concern is that parental leave earmarked to fathers will result in a reduction of the total amount of parental leave. Our study shows that this might impact children in a negative way.
Mikkel Houmark, PhD student, the Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University.
“As far as we know, it is the first time we are able to demonstrate in a Danish context that extended parental leave and postponed introduction to formal out-of-home care affect child well-being as far as into adolescence. Our study shows that it might impact children in a negative way if we reduce the amount of parental leave,” says Mikkel Houmark.
Read more: Deferred school entry eases pressure on families
When legislation changed in 2002
The study is based on an extension of paid parental leave in Denmark that came into force in March 2002, extending the right to parental leave at the rate of full sickness benefits from the previous 24 weeks to the subsequent 46 weeks. The bill was passed in a relatively short amount of time, meaning that the opportunity to speculate in extended leave is considered non-existent.
By comparing data on children born in the period around 1 January 2002 and children born around 1 January 2003, the study demonstrates that the children of mothers who took longer periods of maternity leave following the reform perform better at a number of socio-emotional skills, as reported in the annual well-being surveys in Danish primary and lower secondary schools. A single month of extra leave increases later adolescent well-being with 4.7 per cent, conscientiousness with 3.5 per cent and emotional stability with 2.8 per cent.
In a typical family, mothers increased their maternity leave with 3.2 months, and this corresponds to an increase of 15.04 per cent in general adolescent well-being, 11.2 per cent in conscientiousness and 9.0 in emotional stability.
Furthermore, the study shows that this effect is most pronounced for the children of mothers who were most likely to take short maternity leaves in absence of the reform. This applies to school absenteeism as well. Children of the mothers in question are 0.24 per cent less absent from school, and in general, school absenteeism is reduced by 0.17 percentage points.
In addition, the 2002 reform reduced the amount of parental leave earmarked to fathers from four to two weeks, and even though both parents were allowed to take the extended amount of general parental leave, the length of paternity leave remained unchanged in practice.
These rules were in force up until 2 August 2022, when a new act earmarking 11 weeks of parental leave to fathers was adopted. Mikkel Houmark is worried about this development.
“Experience from Norway and Sweden shows that a significant proportion of families do not use the earmarked paternity leave, because financially speaking, it is not an attractive solution for them. So the concern is that parental leave earmarked to fathers will result in a reduction of the total amount of parental leave. Our study shows that this might impact children in a negative way,” Mikkel Houmark says.
Read more: Children with older mothers thrive better
We strive to comply with Universities Denmark’s principles for good research communication. For this reason, we provide the following information as a supplement to this article:
|Type of study||Statistical analysis based on registry data.|
|External collaborators||The study has been conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit.|
|Conflict of interests||None|
|Additional facts||The scientific article has not yet been through peer review. It is available as a working paper while currently undergoing review in a scientific journal. The results are communicated now, as they are deemed to be of particular interest to the public.|
|Link to the scientific article||https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4158734|