The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
LN performed the statistical analyses in collaboration with AM, and wrote the first draft of the paper. LL was responsible for aspects regarding the mental ill-health outcomes. AM was responsible for the original construction of the cohort, the collection of data and the theoretical aspects of gender equality. All authors contributed to the intellectual work and choice of methods, and contributed to the writing of the present manuscript version.
Mental ill-health among children and young adults is a growing public health problem and research into causes involves consideration of family life and gender practice. This study aimed at exploring the association between parents' degree of gender equality in childcare and children's mental ill-health.
The population consisted of Swedish parents and their firstborn child in 1988-1989 (N = 118 595 family units) and the statistical method was multiple logistic regression. Gender equality of childcare was indicated by the division of parental leave (1988-1990), and child mental ill-health was indicated by outpatient mental care (2001-2006) and drug prescription (2005-2008), for anxiety and depression.
The overall finding was that boys with gender traditional parents (mother dominance in childcare) have lower risk of depression measured by outpatient mental care than boys with gender-equal parents, while girls with gender traditional and gender untraditional parents (father dominance in childcare) have lower risk of anxiety measured by drug prescription than girls with gender-equal parents.
This study suggests that unequal parenting regarding early childcare, whether traditional or untraditional, is more beneficial for offspring's mental health than equal parenting. However, further research is required to confirm our findings and to explore the pathways through which increased gender equality may influence child health.