Parents, if you feel bad for not spending as much time with your kids as you'd like, take this statistic to heart: moms and dads are spending more time with their kids today than they were in 1965. Specifically, moms went from caring for their kids 54 minutes a day in '65 to spending 104 minutes in 2012; and pops went from just 16 minutes in '65 (woah) to 59 minutes a day in 2012!
One of the theories is that the trend in helicopter parenting really took off — literally and figuratively. It brought parents more in contact with their kids — for better or worse — and contributed to the increase of quantity time together. This is a stark difference from the more laissez-aller style of parents from the middle of the century.
Another theory is that the morning commute — parents driving their kids to school — contributes to the uptick. Parents are taking their kids to more activities, school stuff, etc., and so spend time with them in the car. So there's opportunity to bond in there. I guess...
Of course, with every breakthrough study, there's another one to counter its findings, or refute its proposals. Such is the case with this one. The authors of this very study warned that there are plenty of studies that show absolutely no relationship between time spent with kids and childhood outcomes.
In fact, there's also research to show that moms (in particular) who are stressed trying to multi-task all their kids' activities, work, commutes, social engagements, and spending time with kids can actually cause negative outcomes on their child's growth. So if more time isn't the answer, what is?
Of course, just because you spend more time with your kid doesn't mean that they're going to be the richer, emotionally, for it. Another longitudinal, complementary study released last year argues that quality rather than quantity is more important when raising children. Here's why.
10,000 new parents in the South of Wales were questioned about their feelings toward parenting, and their children. This was when their kids were between eight days and eight months old. They were asked how they felt about being parents, did they take pride in it, etc. Then fast forward.
Eight or so years later, specifically. Moms were sent questionnaires by the same researchers, which asked them to evaluate their child's or children's behavior, progress, development, etc. It turns out that mothers with partners who felt more positively about raising a child scored their children more positively — meaning fewer behavioral and developmental problems. What does this mean?
Now, although the study only shows association and correlation and not causation, a lesser scientist might infer that time spent with a child means nothing if an emotional investment hasn't been made. A parent can stop flagellating themselves if they don't get to spend too much time with their kid, so long as they make that time really count.
Then you have this problem. The first study found that there's a wide and growing divide between how much time working class parents spend with their kids vs. middle class parents. In '65, working class mothers were spending the same amount of time with their kids as university educated ones. But in 2012, higher-ed grad moms were spending half-an-hour more.
The picture of poor families is much different. The Pew Research Center did a study, and found that the children of poor parents spend time with extended family, live in neighborhoods their parents deem unfit for raising kids, and have parents who worry that they'll be shot, harmed, or get in trouble with the law. And this trend is on the rise...
Parents of poor families have less and less time to spend with their kids because they're impoverished of both time and money resources. Early childhood experiences have longer and far-reaching ramifications for later in life. Not being able to provide for pre-K or cultural programs like music or sports, early development programs, too, can leave children without structures that promote healthy maturation — mental, emotional, physical. Those kids then grow up disadvantaged, compared to their rich counterparts, without the resources or the preparation in place to go to college or enter the job market, or to achieve upward mobility.
Then the cycle continues. Parents, rich or poor, want the same things for their children — prosperity, happiness, fulfillment. But they go about it in different ways, and their socioeconomic situations have extensive consequences. So we ask... will the cycle be left unbroken?