Working parents who aren’t able to spend as much time as they’d like with their kids or constantly feel guilty about their busy schedules can breathe a sigh of relief. A groundbreaking new study implies that a parent spending more time with their child does not necessarily make for a better upbringing. It is the quality of time you invest with them that matters, not the hours.
The study was cited in an article from the Washington Post. The researchers focused on the total amount of time that parents were either available or actively interacting with their children, and not quality time. They found that for kids between 3 and 11, the total time a parent spends with them has minimal impact on how they grow to be – academically, behaviourally and emotionally.
Often, parents, especially mothers, feel that by working and not constantly being around their children they are neglecting them. This idea may stem from the assumption that previous generations of moms were largely stay-at-home, at the beck and call of their offspring to attend to any need.
In fact, American studies point out that while US moms on average spent 10 hours a week with their kids in 1965, they now spend even more, up to 14 hours a week. Back then, dads spent on average 2.5 hours a week with their kids. With more dads sharing child-rearing responsibilities, this has gone up to 7 hours a week. So the anxiety felt by parents they are spending less time may be unfounded.
In that regard, the study did find that parenting time driven by anxiety could end up having a negative effect on kids in certain circumstances. Work-related tension, sleep-deprivation and guilt can have adverse effects on kids, who may sense the strain. Once again it is mothers who feel the most strain and guilt, and may inadvertently have the opposite effect of what they want. “We found consistently that mothers’ distress is related to poor outcomes for their children,” including behavioural and emotional problems and “even lower math scores,” said Kei Nomaguchi, a study co-author and sociologist at Bowling Green State University.
However, the amount of parenting time does start to matter when children hit adolescence. The more time teenagers spend with their mother, the study found, the less they tend to delinquent behaviour. Family time spent with both parents, such as during meals, lowers the chances of alcohol or drug abuse and other risky or illegal behaviours.
The amount of time needed to achieve positive outcomes is on average 6 hours a week, which is manageable.
So remember that relaxing and fun quality time is the key to successful upbringing, being omnipresent is not. Much prior research has shown benefits of quality time, such as reading to your children, sharing activities you all enjoy, exercising together and eating together. Being involved in a calm and nurturing way is sure to have a positive impact on your child.
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