For dads aiming at marital bliss, a new study suggests just two factors are especially important: being engaged with the kids, for sure—but also doing a fair share of the household chores.
In other words, just taking the children outside for a game of catch won't cut it.
"In our study, the wives thought that the father's involvement with the kids and his participation in household work, are all inter-related and worked together to improve marital quality," said Adam Galovan, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Missouri, in Columbia.
"They think that being a good father involves more than just doing things involved in the care of children."
But Galovan was surprised to find that, how husbands and wives divide the work, doesn't seem to matter much.
Partners, husbands and wives are happier when they share parenting and household responsibilities, but the chores don't have to be divided equally, according to the study.
What matters is that both parents are actively participating in both chores and child-rearing.
Doing household chores and being engaged with the children seem to be important ways for husbands to connect with their partners, and that connection is related to better relationships, Galovan explained.
The research was recently published in the Journal of Family Issues it can also be found on the MU News site.
For the study, the researchers tapped data from a 2005 study that pulled marriage licenses of couples married for less than one year from the Utah Department of Health.
Researchers looked at every third or fourth marriage license over a six-month period.
Couples indicated which spouse was generally responsible for completing 20 common household tasks— or if both or neither of them were responsible.
Fathers rated their involvement in their children's lives and mothers noted how involved they felt their husbands were with the kids. Both spouses rated how happy they were with how they divided household tasks and with their marriage.
Men and women differed in how they reported marital quality. For wives, the father-child relationship and father involvement was most important, followed by satisfaction with how the household work was accomplished.
For husbands, satisfaction with the division of family work came first, followed by their wife's feelings about the father-child relationship, and then the degree of involvement the dad had with his children.