Student collaborates with professor on book examining stay-at-home dads

Solomon holds a piece of paper and marker as she speaks in front of a class.

Examining the role of stay-at-home dads

Professor Cathy Solomon, pictured, and Sacha Kaufer ’12 examined the social effects of stay-at-home fathers in our society.

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rofessor Cathy Solomon, chair of the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Anthropology, thrives when she is collaborating with her students and alumni.

Recently, Solomon and Sacha Kaufer ’12 spent hours interviewing stay-at-home dads about a decision that once seemed unconventional, even radical.

“Fathers kind of get a short shrift but their involvement with their children is very important,” Solomon said. “More and more scholarship has shown the influence of fathers on child well-being and child development.”

After years of researching the work/life management of mothers and fathers, including one study about male professors who leveraged the flexibility of their work schedules to spend more time with their children, Solomon and Kaufer wondered about fathers who pivoted from the job market — and began to look at men who left the labor force to become stay-at-home dads and compared their experiences with other fatherhood experiences.

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The result of their collaboration is the new book, “The Lives of Stay-at-Home Fathers: Masculinity, Carework and Fatherhood in the United States.”

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“The men we interviewed, several of them had been CEOs, managers or had really high-level professional jobs,” Solomon said. “One of the fathers we spoke to said, ‘But when I was working, I always had this secret desire to be a stay-at-home dad.’ Then his wife got a job transfer, and they said, ‘OK, let’s move for your job.’ He wasn’t able to find another job, and he was relieved that he couldn’t find another job because he was able to have that rich experience as a stay-at-home dad.”

For Kaufer, the opportunity to do research — especially as an undergraduate — was appealing. Kaufer had already taken two sociology classes with Solomon before asking if she could do an independent study project with her for credit.

Solomon didn’t hesitate. Suddenly, Kaufer was hanging posters around Hamden, Cheshire and North Haven looking for stay-at-home dads to interview. And that was just the beginning.

Courtyard

Place to learn

A student reads notes from his notebook in an outdoor courtyard at our College of Arts and Sciences.

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“I’d definitely recommend independent study. Being in a classroom is great, but to participate in research, you learn so much more,” Kaufer said. “It was great to work with Professor Solomon on the book about stay-at-home fathers. I was right there for a lot of the interviews. She asked the questions and I took notes, but I got to ask a few questions too.”

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Hands on a laptop

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Kaufer said Solomon was the ideal mentor because she dispensed plenty of guidance along with plenty of responsibility.

Today, Kaufer works at fama PR in Boston as an account executive. With a combined degree in sociology and public relations, plus her undergraduate research with Solomon, Kaufer entered the work force uniquely prepared to succeed.

“I love sociology and I love learning about it in the real world,” she said. “It’s really helped me in the field that I work in now, in terms of critical thinking, researching, learning how society functions and operates, all sorts of things.”

Solomon said everyone in her department works with students on scholarship and research. It’s part of the culture as much as the curriculum.

“It helps students develop the academic skills they’re learning in the classroom,” Solomon said. “They’re learning how to do research. They’re learning about sampling. They’re learning about interviews. Now, they get to practice all of that, which is great. But just as importantly, we’re developing students as professionals and treating them like professionals.”