Parenting leave and workplace policies aren’t working: new study shows current state and workplace policies are out of step with mothers and fathers’ desires to be closely involved in children’s lives

New research on how couples organise work and childcare has revealed that current state and workplace policies are not compatible with parents’ views and preferences.

Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare, a major mixed-methods study funded by the Nuffield Foundation, compared couples in which childcare responsibilities are shared equally, or assumed primarily by the father, with more traditional arrangements. Combining survey data from a nationally representative sample of British parents as well as in-depth interviews with couples with young children, the study found that both fathers and mothers in all the parenting arrangements want to spend time with their children and be closely involved in their lives. However, most couples feel forced to identify a main carer with reduced involvement in paid work, and a main breadwinner with reduced involvement in childcare.

How do couples decide which arrangements to adopt?

Considerations that led couples to reverse roles seem to mirror those taken by traditional couples: they were often motivated by the mothers’ greater attachment to work and higher earnings, combined with a desire to avoid or limit the use of formal childcare provision and the fathers’ desire to spend more time with their children.

Equal sharing was typically motivated by couples’ egalitarian gender ideologies and an expectation of a 50/50 split of family responsibilities.

What effects do these arrangements have on parents’ well-being and relationship satisfaction?

Equal sharing mothers had the highest levels of satisfaction with their division of responsibilities, with 83% reporting they were satisfied or very satisfied (compared to 60% of mothers in traditional arrangements and 52% of mothers who reversed roles). Equal sharers tended more than other parents to perceive their arrangement as resulting from their conscious choice and were the least likely to want it to change. In contrast, mothers in traditional arrangements reported significantly lower wellbeing and relationship quality, while both men and women who were the main breadwinners tended more than others to feel they had been forced into their role.

What are the implications of the research?

The study recommends to introduce equal parenting leave entitlement, including non-transferable ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ parenting leave for fathers, and high quality affordable childcare provision to enable both parents to return to work after leave. As parents would also like to see the normalisation of part-time and flexible working, the research recommends government policies supporting shorter and more flexible work hours for both fathers and mothers.

The study was conducted by Prof Ruth Gaunt, Dr Ana Jordan, Prof Anna Tarrant, Nicola Chanamuto, Dr Mariana Pinho, University of Lincoln (UK) and Dr Agata Wezyk, Bournemouth University (UK). You can read the research report here and more about our project here

Professor Ruth Gaunt from the research team said:

“Current parenting leave policies restrict couples’ choices and steer them into a traditional division of family roles despite their beliefs, preferences, and parenting arrangements. Parents want to see more part time and flexible working and leave policies and childcare that enable both parents to return to work after family leave.”

Notes to Editors:

About the data

The quantitative data were collected using an online survey administered to members of the YouGov UK panel of 800,000+ individuals. Emails were sent to panellists selected at random from the base sample of the required profile. Fieldwork was undertaken in February 2020.  The sample size was 5,605 adults (2,805 males, 2,800 females) who are either married or living with a partner and have biological child/ren together, with at least one child aged 11 or under. Of the full sample, 2,813 participants met the criteria for inclusion in one of the three study groups.

The qualitative data were generated through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 30 couples married or cohabiting different-gender couples, conducted separately with each partner between November 2020 and July 2021.

About the Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit

For media queries please contact Dr Ana Jordan,

The gendered weight of desistance and understanding the ‘love of a good woman’: Desistance emotional work (DEW)

Despite increasing academic focus on intimate relationships as positive influences on desistance, research has yet to examine the experience and impact of support provision for women who are intimate partners of desisters. This exploratory study draws on six in-depth interviews with partners of desisters to elucidate their experiences of support provision and the impact of desistance. This paper finds that women provide resources to their desisting partners, and that identities and agency can be strained through this provision. The desistance process entails an investment of emotional work and capital from intimate partners which is conceptualised in this paper as Desistance Emotional Work (DEW). Desistance research has not yet acknowledged the support needs of women who invest in their partner’s desistance, and so DEW should be considered further both theoretically and in policy and practice.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Sciences Research

Lauren Hall, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences

Lyndsey Harris, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences

The School of Education: Lincolnshire Learning Lab

Lincolnshire Learning Lab (LLL) was established to improve the learning of all children and the working environments for teachers within Lincolnshire. The purpose is to bring academic rigour and evidence-based research into the classroom by engaging the three key stakeholders – teachers, academics and anyone involved/interested in the education system (parents/educational consultants etc.). The LLL is so called to enable research to be carried out in schools in a rigorous and innovative manner ensuring that time is spent productively on research that will benefit all (staff/children/families) whilst offering teachers the opportunity to work with academics to ensure that research is effective for all. The group was established by the School of Education at the University of Lincoln in February 2021. The main aims are to: 1. Provide opportunity to work innovatively within the ‘lab’ style approach with a range of educational professionals to provide opportunity for research to become embedded in practice. 2. Devise, lead and carry out research projects that will provide evidence for educational innovation. 3. Provide all teachers, academics and other educational stakeholders the opportunity to develop practice across the county to engage all in improving educational outcomes for all children.

Dr Rachael Sharpe, Senior Lecturer

Struggling to fit it all in: Sense of hope, life meaning and satisfaction of low-income single mothers of young children with special needs

This study examined the three indicators of subjective well-being among low-income single mothers of young children with disabilities: sense of hope, life meaning, and satisfaction with life. Qualitative analysis of 12 semi-structured interviews with single mothers of young children with special needs were carried out. Findings showed keeping a sense of hope and meaning played a significant role in contributing to their well-being. In addition, the majority (67%; n=8/12) of the participants in the study indicated that they found their lives to be meaningful and that helping their children with disabilities gave them a sense of purpose in life. In contrast, only about 33% (n=4/12) interviewees were generally satisfied with their personal and professional lives. This paper concludes with implications for future research and practices.


Tackling inequities in health and wellbeing with Lincolnshire’s east coast communities

The health and well-being of coastal communities in England was highlighted as an important and enduring challenge in the Chief Medical Officers 2021 annual report. Like rural communities, coastal communities exhibit significant variation in historic, physical, economic and social makeup. It is these characteristics of coastal places that can make them vulnerable to changes in socio-demographics and the broader economic and fiscal policy climate. Some coastal communities have experienced major shifts in economies and industries resulting in damaging social change while others have been insulated by large core populations or have been able to diversify and adapt. Lincolnshire’s coastal communities, particularly the towns of Mablethorpe and Skegness in the district of East Lindsey, are amongst the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country and its citizens experience high levels of ill health and social disadvantage. Conversely people who live there have good access to green and blue spaces and there are examples of local innovations to support the wellbeing of local people.

The Lincoln International Institute for Rural Health (LIIRH) has established partnerships with local health, social care and third sector organisations to develop 1) a shared understanding of the placebased drivers of health and wellbeing and 2) mobilise networks and local resources to develop solutions that address community priorities. This presentation will briefly discuss our mixed-methods approach to this work and highlight the critical importance of establishing genuine local partnerships.

Prof. Mark Gussy, Lincoln International Institute for Rural Health, University of Lincoln
Dr David Nelson, Lincoln International Institute for Rural Health, University of Lincoln
Dr Maxime Inghels, Lincoln International Institute for Rural Health, University of Lincoln
Dr Simon Lowe, First Coastal Primary Care Network
Kim Barr, Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust
Dr Joanna Blackwell, School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln
Roxanne Warrick, East Lindsey District Council
Janet Farr, Community Learning in Partnership – CLIP

Supporting Polish women victims of domestic abuse in the UK

This report presents the findings of the first research project to investigate Polish women’s
experiences of domestic violence and abuse, and service responses to Polish women in the UK.
It seeks to understand why domestic abuse services receive few referrals from Polish women
despite the Polish community constituting the second largest foreign-born group in the UK with
over 700,000 residents. Migration is well-known to exacerbate the risk of domestic abuse and
increase barriers to accessing support

Iwona Zielinska, EDAN Lincs and The Maria Grzegorzewska University

Sundari Anitha, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences

Michael Rasell, University of Innsbruck

Ros Kane, University of Lincoln, School of Health and Social Care

New Study finds Dogs may reduce Stress Levels in Children

Originally posted on

New research from the University of Lincoln has found that dog-assisted interventions can lead to significantly lower stress levels in children both with and without special needs.

The findings were published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Kerstin Meints, Professor in Developmental Psychology at the University of Lincoln, and colleagues.

The study compared cortisol levels in primary school children who participated in dog-assisted intervention sessions, relaxation sessions, or no intervention. 

Prolonged exposure to stressors can cause adverse effects on learning, behaviour, health and wellbeing in children over their lifespan. Several approaches to alleviating stress have been explored in schools including yoga, mindfulness, meditation, physical activity, teaching style interventions and animal-assisted interventions.

Researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of 105 8- to 9-year-old children in four mainstream schools as well as 44 similarly aged children from seven special education needs schools. The children were randomly stratified into three groups: a dog group, relaxation group or control group.

In the dog group, participants interacted for 20 minutes with a trained dog and handler; the meditation group involved a 20-minute relaxation session. Sessions were carried out twice a week for four weeks.  The control group went to school as normal.

Dog interventions lead to significantly lower cortisol levels in children in both mainstream and special needs schools. In mainstream schools, children in the control and relaxation groups had increases in mean salivary cortisol over the course of the school term. In contrast, children who participated in either group or individual sessions with dogs had no statistically significant increase in stress levels. In addition, their cortisol levels were, on average, lower immediately after a single dog session.

For children with special educational needs, similar patterns were seen, with decreases in cortisol after dog group interventions. The authors conclude that dog interventions can successfully attenuate stress levels in school children but point out that additional research into the ideal amounts of time and contact with dogs for optimal effect is needed.

The pairs training effect in unfamiliar face matching

A wealth of studies have shown that humans are remarkably poor at determining whether two face images show the same person or not (face matching). Given the prevalence of photo-ID, and the fact that people employed to check photo-ID are typically unfamiliar with the person pictured, there is a need to improve unfamiliar face matching accuracy. One method of improvement is to have participants complete the task in a pair, which results in subsequent improvements in the low performer (“the pairs training effect”). Here, we sought to replicate the original finding, to test the longevity of the pairs training effect, and to shed light on the potential underlying mechanisms. In two experiments, we replicated the pairs training effect and showed it is maintained after a delay (Experiment 1). We found no differences between high and low performers in confidence (Experiment 1) or response times (Experiment 2), and the content of the pairs’ discussions (Experiment 2) did not explain the results. The pairs training effect in unfamiliar face matching is robust, but the mechanisms underlying the effects remain as yet unexplained.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Kay Ritchie, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Tessa Flack, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Elizabeth Fuller, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Charlotte Cartledge, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Robin Kramer, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Restoring public confidence through the delivery of improved community policing in Rackhamshire

Neighbourhood policing is central to supporting public confidence in England and Wales. However, the delivery of neighbourhood policing models is increasingly fragmented and under pressure from austerity measures and from changes to demand and priorities. This research aims to understand the current state of neighbourhood policing in the county of “Rackhamshire” and its ability to support public confidence.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
Carina O’Reilly, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences.
Winifred Agnew-Pauley, Anglia Ruskin University, Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER)
Sam Lundrigan, Anglia Ruskin University, Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER)