The University of Texas at Austin

Male Professors with Young Children: Paternal and Academic Identity, Home Life, and Institutional Policy (with Dr. Aaron Rochlen)


Congratulations to the research team! Our article was published in the Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Online First Publication.

Research Team: Dr. Aaron B. Rochlen, Joe Grasso, Erin Reilly, Daniel Spikes

In recent years, the scholarly community has focused on the significance of family and parenthood in the lives of academics. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) noted that the lack of ability to limit work, the tendency to compare oneself primarily to the giants in one’s field, and the high incidence of overload make it particularly difficult for academics to find a satisfactory integration of work with private life (American Association of University Professors, 2001). The AAUP further recommended that institutions enact policies to allow the tenure clock to be stopped for one year for each child during the probationary period.
Investigation of the challenges inherent in child rearing and promotion among women faculty is an emerging and robust field of scholarship (Finkel & Olswang, 1996; Strother Moore & Ritter, 2008; Varner, 2000; Williams, 2000).

Less evident is scholarly inquiry regarding the impact of child rearing on the careers of men in academe. The extant research suggests that while multiple roles as employees, spouses, and fathers provides beneficial mental, physiological, and relationship health benefits, men in dual-earner couples who adhered to traditional gender-role beliefs were more vulnerable to psychological distress when their work situations were troubled than those with more egalitarian beliefs (Barnett & Hyde, 2001). A survey found that two-thirds of women and one-third of men report feeling overwhelmed trying to meet both child care and employment demands (Perna, 2001; Riemenschnieder & Harper, 1990). These findings speak to the reality of men feeling stresses and pressures in their dual identities as family members and professors, and the necessity for research into their experiences. Perna’s (2001) work further supports this need: In a 1991 survey of colleges and universities, most colleges and universities had policies for unpaid/paid maternity leave but less than half had policies in place for job assistance, flexible scheduling, and/or unpaid/paid leave for fathers. For those that had policies in place, those policies were rarely enacted. This result raises questions concerning how much knowledge men have about family policies in academia.

A cursory review of research concerning families and productivity may well cause male professors to feel extreme concern. One research study found that the presence of children in families is associated with fewer published articles among research scientists. Indeed, it seems as if the traditional approach to academic life means that professors must make a choice between being productive and earning promotion, versus being a good parent. Such a dichotomy is reflected in the results of a survey conducted by Drago & Williams (2000) that revealed over 50% of men surveyed said they would be willing to have their salaries cut by 25 percent they could have more family or personal time. In another survey, 40 percent of fathers said they would quit their jobs if they could in order to spend more time with their children.

The University of Texas at Austin is an ideal institution in which to study not only how male academics make meaning of their identities as academics, but also as fathers. The city of Austin is a popular destination for young professionals, in large part because of the amenities and provisions for families (Families and Children Task Force, 2008). As a large, research-intensive flagship university, UT-Austin employs significant numbers of faculty across many different disciplines, from diverse backgrounds (The University of Texas at Austin, 2009). An investigation of male junior faculty at UT-Austin would encompass significant disciplinary and racial/ethnic diversity, and provide insight regarding how men perceive their family and professional identities. Another significant factor is the recent work of the Gender Equity Task Force, established in 2007. This group released their report in November 2008, directing community attention and introspection on issues of gender inequity (Strother Moore & Ritter, 2008). The current climate is an ideal one in which to investigate what understanding male faculty have of institutional policies supporting families. Findings from the study will not only contribute to the scant body of research of academic fathers, but also potentially aid university policymakers as they structure and disseminate information about the procedures available to faculty supporting their efforts to be excellent professors and parents.