Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Loraleigh Keashly


Paternity leave has remained an under-studied phenomenon in the United States. The US stands in contrast to countries such as Sweden and Norway, which have a history of government-regulated paid time off for fathers of new children. Therefore new fathers in the US face a unique situation regarding their decision of whether or not to take whatever form of paternity leave may be available to them. This study explores what aspects of new fathers’ identities are salient regarding the paternity leave decision. The Communication Theory of Identity (CTI) is used as a theoretical framework to explore how these identities correspond with and manifest within different identity frames. The paternity leave decision is also explored as a potential stimulating issue for stigmatization. In other words, new fathers may face being stigmatized for their decision regarding whether or not to take time off to be home with their new children. 18 new, first time fathers were interviewed regarding their identities, paternity leave, and any potential stigmatization they may have faced. Ultimately participants discussed many nuanced aspects of identity as salient surrounding the decision, as well as perceived threat of stigmatization in many cases. Suggestions for how paternity leave can be studied, and how CTI as a theory can evolve going forward are also discussed.