Dissertation Abstracts

Dad is at Work: The Associations between Family Status, Parenting, and Employment among Israeli Men

Author: Cohen Israeli, Laliv , lalivci@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Bar Ilan, Israel
Supervisor: Prof Larissa Remennick
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: divorced men , fatherhood , work , family
Areas of Research: Family Research , Work , Famine and Society


This study’s goal is to add a significant layer to the existing knowledge on work and family by looking into aspects and variables that have rarely been studied before. The study's basic assumption is that household structures affect the relationships between marital status, investment in the family, and workplace performance on the individual level. Therefore, it seeks to examine the changes in parental and occupational performance among married and divorced men, as the two most distinct categories of parents. Although this is not a longitudinal study following the same group of men before and after divorce (which would be ideal but very hard to implement), the proposed comparison – controlling for some key social and human capital variables – advances our knowledge on how family relations are affected by divorce.

The first part of the study analyzed the macro-level differences between married and divorced Israeli fathers, in terms of their income, workplace benefits (the employer's contribution to social and other benefits) and their work satisfaction. The data sets of Israeli Social Surveys for 2008 and 2009 have been analyzed using multiple ordinary least squares regression. The findings show that the monthly wages and benefits of divorced fathers are lower than those of married fathers.

With reference to the literature and the findings of the first section, the second part of this study addressed the associations between family status, on the one hand, and married and divorced fathers' work market activity, on the other. The empirical model assumed causal relationship between divorced fathers' investment in the family and its effect on workplace performance, compared to married fathers. The data for this study have been collected using an online questionnaire administered to a sample of 101 married and 101 divorced fathers, located via ads posted on university websites, social networks and divorce-related forums. The findings were analyzed using structural equation modeling. The findings suggest that divorced fathers invest more in their family and are more involved in household chores, hands-on child care and their parental role, compared to married fathers. This greater investment of time and effort often results in lower performance at work; as a result, they earn lower wages and have lower promotion opportunities.

In the third part of the study, we employed qualitative methods to understand the emotional and cognitive experiences of divorced fathers faced with the need to balance work and family. We conducted semi-structured projective interviews with 22 divorced fathers in an attempt to shed more light on the findings of the first and second studies by listening to divorced fathers’ own voices. Three key themes arose from our interview findings. One was that divorced fathers face a more intense family-work conflict, which used to be experienced by women only, and which they had not dealt with as married fathers. Secondly, our interviewees reported a shift in the perceived importance of work in their lives. Most fathers argued that the nature of their work has hardly changed upon divorce, but its significance to them has: they were now willing to accept slower promotion so long as they were pleased with their parental role. Finally, divorced fathers described their parenthood experience as enhanced in comparison to their married days: after the divorce, they argued, they had become more devoted and accomplished fathers.

The findings of this study support the hypothesis that fathers' roles and priorities change after divorce. Many divorced fathers invest more in their families (i.e. children) than they did as married men. Moreover, they strike a better balance between family and work, albeit often at the cost of lower job performance. According to the literature, this “job penalty” used to be paid exclusively by working mothers. The final discussion ties together the findings of the three study segments by offering possible explanations for the findings, reflects on its methodological limitations and sociological implications, and suggests directions for future research on divorced men and parenting.

This thesis contributes to the literature by comparing work-family balance among married and divorced men, especially due to its focus on divorced fathers, a group relatively neglected in the literature. Methodologically, it provides multiple perspectives based on different data sources, a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, and different analytical levels, thus validating the findings. The study's conclusions can potentially contribute to changing work patterns and developing corporate plans adjusted to family change processes.