Toronto Star

Friday, August 13, 1999

Time with Dad increasing: Study

The little apples of their fathers' eyes

By Elaine Carey
Toronto Star Demographics Reporter

Fathers are spending more time with their kids than ever before - but they've still got a long way to go, according to an American study.

Dads are spending an average of one hour and 14 minutes with their kids on weekdays - playing, caregiving and doing errands - according to a University of Michigan study released this week.

That jumps to three hours and 18 minutes on weekend days, indicating that a new ``weekend dad'' figure may be emerging, says the study, released at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

In fact, fathers are spending more time playing with their kids on weekends than mothers are, according to a study of time diaries of 1,761 American children from infancy up to the age of 12 who lived with both their parents in 1997. Parents and children filled the diaries out together.

But mothers still shoulder the lion's share of the parenting, says the study.

Fathers are directly involved with their kids two-thirds as much as mothers are during the week and 87 per cent as much on weekends.

That has risen substantially since the 1970s, when the average father spent only one-third as much time directly involved with his children as the average mother did.

``It's increasing over time, but we're not quite at the half-and-half stage yet,'' said sociologist Jean Yeung, the study's principal author. ``We still have quite a way to go.''

About 40 per cent of the time fathers spend with their children is playing - watching television, going to movies, playing board games and sports - the survey found. That adds up to about half an hour on weekdays and an hour and 18 minutes on weekends.

But they also spend 27 minutes on weekdays and 51 minutes on weekends on the work of parenting - feeding, bathing and changing diapers and eating meals with older children.

Another six minutes on weekdays and 24 minutes on weekends is spent working around the house, shopping, or running errands with the children.

But dads spend much less time helping children with their homework, reading to them or taking them to their art and music lessons, the study found. Those activities added up to only six minutes during the week and 14 minutes on weekends.

Fathers with some post-secondary education spend eight minutes more on caregiving, 11 minutes more playing, half an hour more on educational activities and 15 minutes more on social activities with their children, compared to those with less education.

But for every $10,000 more dads earn in income, they spend five minutes less involved with their children on weekdays, although it doesn't affect weekend time. The more income a mother makes, the more time dads spends with the kids on Saturday and Sunday, the study found.

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