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Today’s parents are more engaged with their kids, study finds

Friday, September 30, 2016 13:50
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If you don’t think you’re spending enough time with your kids, you should at least take some comfort in a recent study on Western countries that found today’s parents are spending significantly more time with their kids than the past two generations.

The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, discovered that between 1965 and 2012 all but one of 11 Western nations displayed a boost in the time both mothers and fathers spent with their kids. Researchers also found that better-educated parents are actually spending the most time with their children.

“According to economic theory, higher wages should discourage well-educated parents from foregoing work to spend extra time with youngsters,” study author Judith Treas, a professor of sociology at University of California Irvine, said in a news release. “Also, they have the money to pay others to care for their children.”

Family eating together outdoors, smiling

Families are spending more and more time together (Credit: Thinkstock)

In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on child care, while moms in 2012 averaged nearly twice that at 104 minutes daily. Fathers’ time with children almost quadrupled, going from just 16 minutes to around 59 minutes each day.

Researchers also found major difference with respect to education level. College-educated moms spent about two hours daily on child care, as opposed to 94 minutes spent by less educated mothers. Fathers with a college diploma spent around 74 minutes each day with their kids, while dads that didn’t graduate from college averaged 50 minutes.

Studying Modern Parents

Study findings were founded on the Multinational Time Use Study Harmonized Simple Files, which involved parents between the ages of 18 and 65 living in households with a minimum of one child under the age of 13. From 1965 to 2012, more than 120,000 parents in 11 nations were instructed to keep a diary of all their daily activities. Scientists examined changes by arbitrarily selecting one day from each diary and determining the quantity of time documented for both engaged and routine child care activities.

“Time spent with children involved everything from preparing their meals and snacks to feeding and bathing them, changing diapers and clothes, putting them to bed, getting up in the middle of the night, unpaid babysitting, providing medical care, reading and playing with them, as well as supervising and helping with homework,” Treas said.

The sociology professor added that the study results are in keeping with an “intensive parenting” ideology that has become de rigueur for today’s parents.

“The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral and academic outcomes,” she said. “Contemporary fathers – having more egalitarian gender views – want to be more involved in their children’s lives than their own dads were. These beliefs have taken hold among the best-educated residents of Western countries and are also diffusing to their counterparts who have less schooling.”


Image credit: Thinkstock

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