Do you feel guilty of being unable to spend quality time with your children? Take heart, as according to a new counter-intuitive study, parents are spending more time with their children than they did 50 years ago.
The findings showed that the time spent with kids is highest among better-educated parents.
“According to economic theory, higher wages should discourage well-educated parents from foregoing work to spend extra time with youngsters. Also, they have the money to pay others to care for their children,” said Judith Treas, Professor at University of California, Irvine.
For the study, the researchers examined 122,271 parents — (68,532 mothers, 53,739 fathers) in Canada, the UK, the US, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Slovenia — from 1965 and 2012 for the amount of time they spent with their kids.
In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on childcare activities, while in 2012 they averaged almost twice that at 104 minutes per day.
Fathers’ time with children nearly quadrupled. In 1965, fathers spent a daily average of just 16 minutes with their kids, while today they spend about 59 minutes a day caring for them.
These numbers include parents from all education levels. But, the researchers found quite a difference between parents with a college education and parents with low levels of education.
The college-educated mothers spent an estimated 123 minutes daily on child care, compared with 94 minutes spent by less educated mothers. Fathers with a college degree spent about 74 minutes a day with their kids, while less educated fathers averaged 50 minutes.
“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.
However, France was the only country that showed a decrease in mothers’ childcare time. The decline was not as steep for college-educated moms as it was for less educated French mothers, while for dads, both education levels saw an increase in parenting time.
According to Treas, the study results are in line with an “intensive parenting” ideology that has become a cultural child-rearing trend. “The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioural 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 fathers were,” Treas stated.
Further, these beliefs have taken hold among the best-educated residents of Western countries and are also diffusing to their counterparts who have less schooling, the researchers concluded.
The study was published online in the Journal of Marriage and Family.