chapter  8
17 Pages

The changing roles of men in families in Spain


Dramatic changes in gender relations, particularly the position occupied by men within families, have taken place over the last few decades in most western societies, with developments along two main dimensions. Firstly, ‘the general movement away from paternal authority as a major organising principle in family life’ (O’Brien 1995: 48), which has had consequences both for family law and for relations among family members. Parental authority is now attributed to both parents and not just the father as was previously the case, and family life is currently based much less on wives’ and children’s obedience to husbands/fathers and more on dialogue and negotiation between family members. Secondly, some men’s role in the family is no longer restricted to that of breadwinner, which has led to changes in public policy and family relations. Some policies now recognise fathers’ caring functions and allow or encourage them to take paternal leave, such as in Sweden (Bergqvist and Jungar 2000), and what is more, men’s vision of fathering has begun to change. A significant number of fathers have come to see their function as entailing more than simply being the material provider. These men wish to be nurturers, companions, playmates and role models for their children (Cohen 1993: 12; O’Brien and Jones 1996: 135). The bonds between some fathers and their children have become closer than in the past, and the time fathers spend in caring work (and domestic tasks) has increased somewhat in recent decades in countries such as the United States (Ishii-Kuntz 1993: 48; Pleck 1993: 219-220) and the United Kingdom (O’Brien 1992: 178).