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Parents Corner

Dads Spending More Time With Kids

Saturday, June 12, 1999, Reuters Health news

American fathers are spending more time with their children, especially on weekends, according to a study released Thursday. "We are seeing more involvement and more diversity in the father's role," said W. Jean Yeung, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.

"Fathers are engaging in direct interaction with children in terms of actual hands-on caring, and also providing emotional support to children," she said in an interview with Reuters Health. In an analysis of time diary information collected by the mothers of 1,761 children under age 12 who lived with both biological parents in 1997, children spent an average of 2.5 hours on weekdays and 6.2 hours on weekends with, or in close proximity to, their father. Men participated in more conventional fatherly activities, such as building things and playing sports, as well as day-to-day changing of diapers, shopping, and combing hair.

Mothers, meanwhile, tended to spend more time with children reading, helping with homework, and other achievement-related activities, such as arts and crafts. The study also showed that many fathers are enjoying their new role, and most agreed that fatherhood and raising children is the most fulfilling thing a man can do. "The affectionate and nurturing side are coming into the picture," explained Yeung.

The findings do not suggest that men are doing the majority of child-rearing. Fathers still trail mothers, spending only 65% as much time with children as mothers on weekdays, and 87% on weekends. Fathers who were not college educated tended to spend less time with children. Yeung also found a relationship between a father's income and time spent with children -- every additional $10,000 made by fathers was linked to an average of 5 minutes less time spent with children on weekdays.

The researchers note that the study only represents families where the biological father is still in the home, which occurs in approximately 65% of US families with children age 12 and under. "Fathers' involvement has a unique impact on children 's outcome, including cognitive development, achievement, math and reading scores, as well as behavioral problems," Yeung said. "The fact that this benefit is here, should raise concern to those who do not have these resources."

Other useful resources

Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots has established the Drew Bledsoe Foundation Parenting With Dignity program. Bledsoe says of his success "my parents helped me the most to be what I am today" and his goal is to help other parents give their children the best possible start. For more information, see http://www.drewbledsoe.com/.

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Last modified: January 26, 2013