Dangerous dads? Ecological and longitudinal analyses of paternity leave and risk for child injury
- 1Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
- 2Institute of Social and Health Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
- 3Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Public Health Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
- 4Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program, Stockholm Centre for Psychiatric Research and Education, Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm County Council Health Care Provision, Stockholm, Sweden
- Correspondence to Professor Lucie Laflamme, Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 9, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden;
Contributors LL was involved in the conception of the study and its design, took part in the interpretation of the results and drafted the manuscript. AM was responsible for the initial design of the longitudinal study, undertook the data collection, supervised the statistical analyses and revised the draft paper. ML contributed to study design, designed and completed all statistical analyses and revised the draft paper. CM conceived the idea for this paper, was involved in study design and revised the paper and is guarantor.
- Accepted 25 November 2011
- Published Online First 12 January 2012
Background In 1974, Sweden became the first country to permit fathers to take paid parental leave. Other countries are currently following suit issuing similar laws. While this reform supports the principles of the United Nations convention of the right for children to be with both parents and enshrines the ethos of gender equality, there has been little systematic examination of its potential impact on child health. Instead, there is uninformed debate that fathers may expose their children to greater risks of injury than mothers. In this Swedish national study, the authors therefore assess whether fathers' parental leave can be regarded as a more serious risk factor for child injuries than that of mothers.
Methods Nationwide register-based ecological and longitudinal studies of hospitalisation due to injury (and intoxication) in early childhood, involving the Swedish population in 1973–2009 (ecological design), and children born in 1988 and 1989 (n=118 278) (longitudinal design).
Results An increase in fathers' share of parental leave over time was parallelled by a downward trend in child injury rates (age 0–4 years). At the individual level, the crude incidence of child injury (age 0–2 years) was lower during paternity as compared with maternity leave. This association was, however, explained by parental socio-demographic characteristics (multivariate HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.2).
Conclusion There is no support for the notion that paternity leave increases the risk of child injury.
Funding This work was supported by Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Research Council.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by Stockholm regional ethical review board.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.