The amount of time parents spend with their children is less important than how the time is spent, researchers have declared.
Academics from Toronto and Bowling Green Universities conducted research described in The Washington Post as “the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time”. Bluntly entitled Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend With Children or Adolescents Matter?, their study suggests that the amount of time spent by individual parents with their children has little to no effect on the children’s wellbeing, development or behaviour at home or in school.
But the quality of the interaction does matter. Children thrive when their parents read to them, eat with them or just interact with them in a happy, supportive environment. But such benefits can be lost if the parents are
tired, stressed or frustrated by other factors. Children will sense this even if they do not understand the cause and this may have an effect on their development. A sense of guilt about the amount of time a parent is spending with their offspring may make the situation worse, the study authors claim.
Sociologist Melissa Milkie of the University of Toronto explained:
“I could literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes. . . . Nada. Zippo.”
“In an ideal world, this study would alleviate parents’ guilt about the amount of time they spend and show instead what’s really important for kids.”
The study was published in the April 2015 edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family.