Fathering

Quantity vs. Quality

How much time do you spend on average with your children each week?

How much time do your children think you spend with them?

For years we have heard that the quality of the time spent with children, not the quantity, is what really matters; but a study published in the Youth and Society journal calls that line of thinking into question.

The study indicates that when children do not think dads are spending enough time with them, this perception could lead to bullying behavior.

Andre Christie-Mizell, psychologist and associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, studied the behavior and perceptions of 687 children ages 10 to 14 and living in two-parent homes in 2000. He also looked at their parents’ work hours. He asked two questions:

Interestingly, he found that it was the child’s perception of how much time they spent with their fathers that most impacted bullying behavior, which is exactly opposite of what he thought he would find. Since mothers usually are the ones who spend the most time caring for children, Christie-Mizell thought the amount of time the mother was away from the children would be the determining factor.

“The findings about fathers and mothers are important because it turns what most of us think is conventional wisdom — that mothers have the most influence on children — on its ear. What this research shows is that while it’s equally important for kids to spend time with both parents, fathers need to make an extra effort,” Christie-Mizell said.

He suggests that parents set up a schedule for parent-child interaction in order to guide children’s perceptions, such as Saturday morning Daddy-Daughter dates or Father-Son time.

Christie-Mizell says the interaction has to be purposeful so children know they will have this time, rather than the random, last-minute trip with Dad to the grocery store.

“Children need to know they have this scheduled time and it’s important for fathers to try to keep to the schedule as much as possible. If fathers have to miss, then it’s also important that they explain to the child why they have to miss their scheduled time and how what they are doing instead affects their family,” Christie-Mizell said.

A University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study found that American children in two-parent, intact families spend an average of 2.5 hours a day with their fathers on weekdays and 6.2 on weekends. 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.

Children tend to do better in every area of life when dad is actively engaged in their lives. And believe it or not, dads tend to do better in every area of life when they are engaged in the lives of their children.

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