Fathers’ Use of Parental Leave and Union Dissolution

  • Trude LappegårdEmail author
  • Ann-Zofie Duvander
  • Gerda Neyer
  • Ida Viklund
  • Synøve N. Andersen
  • Ólöf Garðarsdóttir


With increasing union dissolution and changing gender behaviour, questions have emerged about possible links between gender equality and union stability. The aim of this article is to examine whether and how early fathers’ involvement in child-rearing is associated with union dissolution in three Nordic countries. All three countries have reserved part of their parental leave to be used by one parent in order to promote fathers’ engagement in child-rearing. Our analysis uses fathers’ parental leave as a proxy for his involvement, and we distinguish between fathers who take no leave (“non-conforming fathers”), fathers who take only the reserved part (“policy-conforming fathers”) and fathers who take more than the reserved part (“gender-egalitarian-oriented fathers”). We find that couples in which the father uses parental leave have a lower risk of union dissolution than couples in which the father takes no leave. The pattern is consistent for all countries, for the whole study period 1993–2011, and for cohabiting and married couples. However, we do not find support for asserting that the couples with greatest gender equality, in which fathers take longer leave than the policy reserves, are the most stable unions, as the pattern is not uniform in the three countries. We attribute this to the fact that gender equality within the family in the Nordic countries is still an ongoing process, and the relationship between gender behaviour and union stability is still in flux.


Union dissolution Gender behaviour Father involvement Parental leave Nordic countries 



This work is part of the Project “Nordic Family Policy and Demographic Consequences (NORDiC)” supported by the Research Council of Norway (217915/F10). Additionally, Gerda Neyer acknowledges additional funding from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) via the Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe (SPaDE) (Grant 349-2007-8701); Gerda Neyer and Ann-Zofie Duvander from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No. 320116 for the research project Families And Societies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trude Lappegård
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ann-Zofie Duvander
    • 2
  • Gerda Neyer
    • 2
  • Ida Viklund
    • 2
  • Synøve N. Andersen
    • 3
  • Ólöf Garðarsdóttir
    • 4
  1. 1.University of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Statistics NorwayOsloNorway
  4. 4.University of IcelandReykjavíkIceland

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