INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The authors of the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time say the sheer quantity of time parents spend with their children does not matter.
Instead, Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, found it’s all about the quality of time. The study will be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in April.
Milkie actually said simply and surprisingly that the amount of time parents spend with their child from 3 to 11 years old has absolutely no impact on the way the child turns out. Specifically the child’s behavior, emotional well-being and how the child does in school.
The study is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean parenting isn’t important. It’s just more about quality of time over quantity. The study describes quality time as things like reading with your kids and having dinner together.
What the study does not say though I show much quality time is enough. But, if parents focus too much on quantity researchers say that can actually lead to a harmful environment due to parents’ stress, guilt, anxiety and sleep deprivation.
Milkie says in a perfect world this study will make parents feel less guilty about the amount of time they are or aren’t spending with their child and focus more about how they’re spending the time they have together.
Over time, the amount of time parents spend with their children has risen according to the study. It shows fathers’ time has nearly tripled from 2.6 hours a week in 1965 to 7.2 hours in 2010. Mothers’ time with children rose from 10.5 hours a week in 1965 to 13.7 hours in 2010.
In roughly the same period, the share of working mothers with children under 18 rose from 41 percent in 1965 to 71 percent in 2014.
The one time Milkie says quantity of time matters is for a teen. She found the more time a teenager spends engaged with their mother the fewer instances of delinquent behavior.
The study also found that above all else it’s actually the parents’ education and income that make the biggest impact on a child’s success.