Fathering

Quantity vs. Quality Time with Dad

On average, how much time do you spend with your children each week?

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

You’ve probably heard that quality time with your children, not the quantity, is what really matters. A study published in the Youth and Society Journal, however, questions that line of thinking.

The study indicates that bullying behavior increases when children perceive that their dads are not spending enough time with them.

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

He asked:

Interestingly, he found that the child’s perception of how much time they spent with their fathers most impacted bullying behavior. This is exactly opposite of what expected to find. Since mothers usually spend the most time caring for children, Christie-Mizell thought the mother’s time away 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. This research shows that while it’s equally important for kids to spend time with both parents, fathers need to make an extra effort,” Christie-Mizell says.

He suggests setting up a schedule for parent-child interaction in order to guide children’s perceptions. For example, you could reserve Saturday mornings for daddy-daughter dates or father-son time.

Christie-Mizell says the interaction has to be purposeful and scheduled. You can’t just rely on those random, last-minute trips 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 says.

A University of Michigan-Ann Arbor study explored time with Dad, too. It found that American kids 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 engaging with the kids – playing, eating, shopping, watching television with them or working together around the house. The rest of the time, dads are nearby and available if their kids need them.

Children tend to do better in every area of life when dad is active in their lives. And believe it or not, dads are better off, too.

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