Study co-author Julia McQuillan, professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and colleagues surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. men who are in relationships with women, and found fathers and non-fathers alike see fatherhood as part of a "package deal" with work and leisure.
The study, published in the journal Fathering, found 77 percent of the men say they think being a good father is very important, while 49 percent said having a career was very important.
"There is an image for men that if they're into their career, then they're not into being fathers," McQuillan said in a statement. "These results, however, show something quite different. Men don't have to be into one or the other. They can be into both."
The research surveyed fathers and non-fathers who were either married or co-habiting, and did not ask them to rank things like work, parenthood or leisure in order of importance. Instead, researchers asked the men to rate the importance of fatherhood alongside other interests in their lives.
The results run counter to conventional notions that fathers see themselves chiefly as economic providers, McQuillan said.