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How Much Time Do Kids Spend with Dad?

American children spend an average of 2.5 hours a day with their fathers on weekdays and 6.2 on weekends, according to a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study that paints a national portrait of paternal behavior in two-parent, intact families. For about half that time, fathers are directly engaged with their offspring--playing, eating, shopping, watching television with them, or working together around the house. During the rest of the time, dads are nearby and available to their kids if needed.

"Mothers still shoulder the lion's share of the parenting, especially on weekdays." indicates W. Jean Yeung, a sociologist at the university's Institute for Social Research. "But fathers are slowly, but surely, assuming more active roles in their children's lives, especially on weekends." Studies done in the late 1970s found that the average father spent approximately one-third as much time directly engaged with his offspring as the average mother. By the early 1990s, that proportion had jumped to 43%. According to the new study, fathers spend about 65% as much time with children as mothers do on weekdays and around 87% as much time on weekends.

About 40% of the total time fathers are with their kids is spent playing, Yeung and her colleagues found. On weekdays, almost half an hour is devoted to playing, including watching TV, going to movies, and computer and board games, as well as rough-and-tumble indoor and outdoor play. On weekends, fathers average about an hour and 20 minutes playing with their children.

Today's dads do more than just play. They spend about 27 minutes on weekdays and 51 minutes on weekends on the work of parenting--feeding, bathing, changing diapers and clothes, and brushing tangles out of children's hair. In addition, on weekend days, they spend almost half an hour and on weekdays about six minutes taking care of household business with their children--working around the house, shopping, and running errands. They use much less time helping children with their homework, reading to them, or getting them to art or music lessons--about five minutes a day.

Overall, the amount of time youngsters spend with their fathers varies considerably with the child's age and sex. Fathers spend more time with younger kids than with older ones, and, on weekdays, about 20 minutes more playing with their sons than they do with their daughters.

A man's education also affects how much time he spends with his off-spring and how. On weekdays, fathers who have some college education spend eight minutes more in caregiving, 11 minutes more playing, half an hour more on achievement-related activities, and 15 minutes more in social activities with their children, compared with dads with similar characteristics who have not attended college. On weekend days, higher-educated dads spend 31 minutes more on achievement activities and 11 minutes more on caregiving than their less-educated counterparts.

How much a man earns affects the amount of time he spends with his kids. Every $10,000 increase in his earnings is linked with a five-minute decrease in average weekday involvement with his children, but how much he earns has no relation to how much time he spends with them on weekends. Instead, Yeung found, it is the mother's income that predicts how much time a father spends with the children on Saturday and Sunday. The more she contributes to the total family income, the more time a child spends with dad on the weekends. It isn't just a mother's economic contribution to the family that influences a father's involvement. The more involved a mother is with a child, the more involved the father is, too. "Parents reinforce each other in the ways they interact with children," she notes.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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