Quality better than quantity for parenting time

Family|April 1st 2015

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.”

She added:

“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.

Share This Post...


  1. Luke says:

    As usual in my opinion with these studies they tend to find what they are looking for, I doubt you are going to get a study from somebody with Melissa Milkie’s views that says:-
    “Parents should spend more time at home with their children”
    ‘ain’t gonna happen’ 🙂
    In the past Melissa Milkie has said this:
    “”One’s occupation, education level, income, the economic climate
    – those are all critical factors that shape people’s feelings and
    decisions and all kinds of things that have to do with work and
    home life,” agrees Melissa Milkie, a professor of sociology at the
    University of Maryland, who points out that a single mother working
    full time at a fast-food restaurant is in a completely different
    position than a downtown lawyer with the resources for a full-time
    I think this is more realistic, if you can hire somebody who is as motivated and empathetic and at least as intelligent as you to spend continual time with your child then I don’t see why they should be affected too much – but that is usually not what happens, as in the case of some of my own relatives they hired a carer of significantly lower ability because of the cost – and the children were in my opinion severely affected.
    “Quality time” doesn’t work if you are not there at the time the child really needs you, I think it is largely horseshit and used to avoid feelings of guilt, some of this guilt may not be justified – if you have to have both parents working to make ends meet then there is no choice.

    • Nordic says:

      In the Nordics, the home maker bread winner family model has long been consigned to history. The vast majority of kids grow up with two working parents and spend much of their daily life in the care of professional child minders. Yet, the Nordics deliver vastly superior child wellbeing statistics compared to this country. If a 1950s style home maker bread winner family model really is the ideal, then why this discrepancy?

      • Luke says:

        I think I answered your question in my post above this, if you pay for high quality childcare then you can do it, I’m not saying one parent must stay at home all the time – I think it’s better and I benefited from it but it just depends on what you can afford and what you want to do.
        Basically the Nordic countries have put a lot of money into state subsidised childcare, we can argue the toss over how they pay for it (it’s complex and there are lots of factors for each country – for example when it comes to business the Nordic countries have less state regulation and protection and are extremely capitalist – much more than the UK) but I would say that inevitably single people just carry a greater burden, there is no free lunch here.

  2. russell armstrong says:

    What is this kind of research aimed at?
    In life there are two kinds of separations with regard to children.
    One is that BOTH parents agree on the division of time the children will spend with each of them on a mutually respectful basis
    The other is that they cannot agree and resort to the Court system to determine the outcome.
    I have always wondered why some parents cannot agree on this division of time and have come to the conclusion its because one parent wants more than the other parent is prepared to “concede”
    (I hate using those terms but we must use some words to express the situation)
    So the ONLY parents who end up in the Court system could be described as follows.
    The “parent with care” refuses to agree to a division of time for the child(ren) to see the other parent to the extent that the other parent is motivated enough to seek a judicial determination.
    That’s it, case closed, no other condition exists that will lead to this outcome.
    Thus, once in the court system, the “feminists'” of this world have striven to ensure that by any means necessary that the judiciary determine the outcome as much in favour of the woman (normally the parent with care) as possible. And they use all kind of arguments (false or otherwise) to help in that result.
    In that regard this type of research is a smokescreen for the argument that the woman (parent with care) should have the majority of time because “that is in the best interest of the child” and that the other parent (normally the father) should be happy with less time because then he can have focused “quality time” with the child(ren)
    I say what a crock, the child(ren) experiencing as normal a family life with BOTH parents separately should be the best possible outcome.
    Normal life at mothers home
    Normal life at Fathers home
    And both of those require quality of care and quality of time
    The child(ren) should as far as possible have the benefit of knowing the cycle of life, routine and differing values that each parent can bring to his/her life and that can only be achieved with TIME.
    Normal wake up weekends & school days/play/homework routines etc can only be truly experienced by TIME at each parents home preferably a mix between 5/9 and 7/7 depending on how each parent can effectively show that they will have a reasonable and planned routine for the time they have with the care of their child(ren)
    Local authorities have to produce a care plan why not the parents??????
    I bet its to support the argument that parent with the child benefit book (normally the mother)

  3. Dr. Nigel Miles says:

    Sadly most Courts are not professionally capable of judgements, where emotions are involved. Rather than acting as Judges and using their wisdom alone to support action to maintain family balance they rely on so called professionals before making such a judgement.
    However and where such persons are proven to perjure themselves and as they are acting on behalf of the Local Authority or State are perverting the course of justice the full force of the law has to be enacted; as much as an indefinite prison sentence particularly when minor lives are at risk due to continuing daily abuse which the real perpetrators are maintaining due to psychotic disorders by their actions which the Courts fail to address.
    When we have a balanced justice system, justice will prevail, but in reality when families are destroyed by psychological abuse of one side of a family, such actions are rarely contested because the “rogue” public servants are rarely investigated even though it is the worst form of perpetration of abuse because it is the most insidious and harmful to minor children. Such a debacle has to be considered in the new Parliament for urgent legislation for protecting children with a change to responsible parity of parenting, insuperably actioned. Currently there is only one political party advocating this and was the lady standing on the left next to N Clegg, I think this was Natalie Bennett. They really understand the needs of children, the Greens! The others do not care!

  4. Bolchedik says:

    I am not sure what the policy of the Greens is on family legislation. It would be good to know more. But I doubt it could come anywhere near to being as disastrous as the one instituted by any of the donkeys that we are in the habit of electing, and which are truly a national embarrassment.

    As for the ‘research’ referred to above, it is grimly characteristic of the corporatization of academics, whose funding is totally dependant now on bolstering the status quo. What defines a lot of this ‘research’ is that it seems to reinforce simple-minded ‘common sense’ views, but masks something much more vile.

    The idea of ‘quality time’ is well-known to any father who has had it preached to him by some sleazy official that what counts is how you spend your hour on Skype rather than your day-to-day involvment. It is quite an ingenious idea, because it has actually been quite persuasive among the dopeheads that officiate over family law. But to anyone with the experience of raising a child, and for anyone who cares to be honest about that experience, it is just about one of the stupidest ideas in the world.

Leave a Reply


Newsletter Sign Up

For all the latest news from Stowe Family law
please sign up for instant access today.

Privacy Policy