Spending quality time with dad helps young children do better at school, according to new research.
The chance of a youngster reaching a good level of intellectual and emotional development by the age of five were reduced by 18 percent if their father felt he spent “nowhere near enough time” with his child.
But while the time fathers spent drawing, painting, playing games with or reading to his young one affected the child’s progress at school, no similar effect was found for mothers.
Just over 1 in 6 dads (18 percent) felt they did not spend enough quality time with their kid, but only one in 20 moms (five percent) felt the same way.
A further 41 percent of fathers felt they did not spend quite enough time with their child.
Researchers at the University of Leeds analyzed data from the Millennium Cohort Study of more than 4,000 children born in two parent households in 2000 and 2001, and survey data.
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The findings held up even when variables that could have explained the discrepancy—such as a child’s gender, ethnicity, household income, and their parents’ employment status— were all taken into account.
Moms were more likely than dads to say they spent enough time with their little one already, but their feelings about whether they spent enough time playing with them had little effect on the child’s progress.
Overall, the study found that 62 percent of girls reached a good level of achievement at school, and 47 percent of boys did so, while 39 percent of children from poorer households reached a good level of achievement, compared with 58 percent of children from more affluent households.
“We found that a higher proportion of children reached a good level of overall achievement in the early years foundation stage profile when fathers engaged regularly in childcare activities such as drawing and painting, playing games and reading with their children,” researcher Dr. Helen Norman said.
“Mothers are more likely to say that the time they spend with their children is enough or more than enough, which reflects the fact that mothers tend to be the ones spending the most time doing childcare so not having enough time with children is less likely to be an issue.
“This is reflected in our sample where only five per cent of mothers said they had ‘nowhere near enough time’ with their five-year old compared to 18 percent of fathers.
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“Early parental childcare involvement is critical for supporting children’s development, but this is a conclusion drawn largely from research conducted with mothers or parents more generally.
“Fathers’ childcare involvement should have a positive effect on children’s development, yet there has been little empirical evidence to support this before our study.”
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