Virtually across the whole western world, today’s parents are spending considerably more time with their kids than 50 years ago, according to a University of California, Irvine study. Even more surprising was to find that high-earning, educated parents spent the most time child rearing out of the studied social groups, despite classic economics theory suggests earning more encourages individuals to spend less time with children and invest in babysitters.
You didn’t think you were such a great parent, did you?
Judith Treas, UCI Chancellor’s Professor of sociology, and Giulia M. Dotti Sani, a postdoctoral fellow at Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy, mined the Multinational Time Use Study Harmonized Simple Files dataset. The longitudinal study followed parents aged 18 to 65 living in households with at least one child under 13. Each parent had to keep a diary of their daily activities which involved raising their kids; things like preparing meals, changing diapers, reading bedtime stories, helping with homework and so on.
Since 1965, a total of 122,271 parents (68,532 mothers, 53,739 fathers) have taken part in the study. The countries included in the study were Canada, the U.K, the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Slovenia.
To find out how much time parents in the 1960s, as well as in 2012, were spending raising their kids, the researchers picked a random day from each diary and tabulated the amount of time recorded for both interactive and routine child care activities.
According to the results, 2012 moms spent on average 104 minutes a day caring for their kids or almost twice as more than 1965 mothers who spent only 54 minutes. Fathers’ quality time with their children nearly quadrupled since 1965. Fathers now spend 59 minutes a day with kids, compared to a meager 16 minutes 1965 dads allocated.
“The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral and academic outcomes,” Treas said. “Contemporary fathers – having more egalitarian gender views – want to be more involved in their children’s lives than their own dads were. These beliefs have taken hold among the best-educated residents of Western countries and are also diffusing to their counterparts who have less schooling.”
After the researchers split the parents involved in the study into two groups — college graduates versus parents with no college degree — they found formal higher education was linked with a disposition to allocate more time for child rearing. College-educated moms spent an estimated 123 minutes daily on child care, compared with 94 minutes spent by less educated mothers. Fathers with a college degree spent about 74 minutes a day with their kids, while less educated dads averaged 50 minutes.
All the findings remained consistent for parents in virtually all the Western countries involved in the study, with one notable exception: France.
“No one is certain why the French are exceptional. Public spending on child care is fairly high in France, lightening parental responsibilities. Some experts speculate that the French simply believe children can accommodate successfully without parents making big changes to their lifestyles,” said Treas.