How mothers and fathers share roles in rural Pakistan


A study of 39 mothers and 40 fathers in rural Pakistan has shown some diversity and flexibility in the role that fathers play in caring for children – even in rural Pakistan where families are large, gender roles are strongly divided and where women are mostly uneducated and confined to the home.

The researchers recommend that coparenting between mothers and fathers be recognised and more explicitly supported in Pakistan, including through community wide programmes to challenge restricted parenting roles.

Based on 65 interviews with fathers and mothers and two focus groups (7 fathers, 7 mothers), the researchers found a strong traditional division of roles.


  • Earning and providing – e.g. purchasing and bringing home food
  • Outings – visits to family members, neighbours, countryside and towns, especially at weekends. Often such trips were initiated by the child. Sometimes they were done to relieve the mother of a child wanting to be out of the home for a while.
  • Playing – indoors and outdoors. Fathers described this as a way of expressing love and making their children happy.


  • Childcare – washing, dressing, putting to bed.
  • Feeding
  • Household chores

However, some other roles are more shared between partners:

  • Teaching – cognitive stimulation, instilling values, learning religion (Islam).
  • Fathers are more likely to finance doctors’ fees, purchase medicine and taking the child to a doctor. Mothers are more likely to identify the illness, administer the medicine and monitor the child’s recovery.

The researchers also found some fluidity and flexibility around collaborative parenting (coparenting):

  • Fathers filling in with caring roles when the mother is ill , tired or very busy.
  • Joint decision-making about issues such as purchases for the children, parenting practices and child health.
  • Fathers directly supporting mothers’ own physical and emotional needs.

The researchers found some factors that influence the share of parental roles. More educated fathers are more likely to engage in flexible coparenting and are likely to engage more in teaching activity.

Employment influences the situation substantially. Some kinds of work severely restrict the availability of fathers, such as agricultural work, manual labour of migratory work.

The age of the child also influences roles, with fathers doing less when the child is younger.


Jeong J, Siyal S, Fink G, McCoy DC & Yousafzai AK (2018), “His mind will work better with both of us”: A qualitative study on fathers’ roles and coparenting of young children in rural Pakistan, BMC Public Health 18

Photo: DFID. Creative Commons.