19 June 2009

Mothers still do more

Today's dad clocks more hours on all aspects of childcare than his counterpart a generation ago. But he still lags behind the modern-day mom.

Today's dad clocks more hours on all aspects of childcare than his counterpart a generation ago. But he still lags behind the modern-day mom, even when she earns as much as he does, a new study reveals.

Researchers found that the number of hours a mother spent at work had no effect on the amount of time a father devoted to childcare during the week. Similarly, a mother's income had very little impact on fathers' involvement in childcare.

On weekends, however, fathers spent more time with their children.

Moms are primary caregivers

"Despite women's increasing role in the labour market, most mothers remain the primary caregivers of young children on weekdays," according to Dr W. Jean Yeung and colleagues from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Household chores, infant care, studying and reading, "remain domains in which fathers have a very low relative contribution," the authors note.

The study in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family looked at children up to the age of 12 whose parents lived together. The data were drawn from time diaries kept over certain days in 1997 by nearly 2 000 children or their mothers.

This information was then compared to findings from research conducted from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

Yeung and colleagues found that fathers spent an average of two-and-a-half hours on a weekday and about six hours on a weekend day with their children. This included time spent playing together or doing schoolwork, personal care such as bathing and feeding, and simply being available.

On weekdays, children spent one-third less time with their fathers than with their mothers, but on weekends the time gap closed and kids spent only 13% more time with their mothers than with their fathers.

Children of women who made more money spent more time with their fathers on weekends, however. Children of a mother who contributed at least half of the family income were found to spend 48 minutes more with their father on weekends.

Men still lag behind

"The good news is that as women become equal contributing partners, the relative participation of fathers does increase," Yeung said. "The bad news is...that men still do less on 'traditional women's jobs' - (taking care of) babies, dishes and laundry."

In other findings, fathers with some college education spent 17 more minutes per weekday with their children than dads without any college education. Fathers who made more money spent less time with children on weekdays, but the amount of time was fairly small. For every $10 000 more that a father made, for instance, that father spent 3.5 minutes less per day with his children.

"Our findings suggest that although mothers still shoulder the lion's share of the parenting, fathers' involvement relative to that of mothers’ appears to be on the increase," the researchers conclude. "A 'new father' role is emerging on weekends in intact families."



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