Thursday, 20 May 2010

Fathers spend less time with children than mothers: Australian Institute of Family Studies

Children are spending considerably less time with their fathers than their mothers, according to research released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Australian children spend relatively small amounts of time with their fathers, without their mothers also present, the research found.

On weekdays children may spend as little as half an hour alone with their fathers.

Even on weekends, children spend only a relatively small number of hours with their father when their mother isn’t there – varying from 0.8 hours a day for infants to 1.4 hours for two to three year olds and 1.5 hours for eight to nine year olds.

“Children spent considerably more time with their mother than their father, in fact they spent relatively small amounts of time with their fathers without their mothers, whether that be during the week or on weekends,” said Institute Research Fellow Dr Jennifer Baxter.

“What’s interesting about this is that 74 per cent of eight and nine year old children say they definitely like spending time with their father and their mother. Another 23 per cent say that it was mostly true that they like spending time with their father and their mother.

“Not surprisingly parents enjoy spending time with their children. But fathers are a little more inclined than mothers to say that they only sometimes enjoyed spending time with their children,” Dr Baxter said.

The research found that when fathers were asked if they enjoyed spending time with their children:

■28 per cent said they always or almost always did

■51 per cent said they often did

■21 per cent said they sometimes or less often did.

By contrast, 40 per cent of mothers said they always or almost always enjoyed spending time with their children, with 49 per cent saying they often did and 11 per cent saying they sometimes did.

“What does this say about fathers’ involvement in families? It can certainly vary from family to family but what we do know is that children report that they like to be with their parents, with 75 percent of children also saying they have fun with their families lots of times,” Dr Baxter said.

“But while fathers spend small amounts of time alone with their children, they do spend time with them, with their wives and partners there, especially on weekends, when children spend between 5 and 6 hours with both parents,” she said.

The data is part of Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, that collects information about children from birth to the beginning of middle childhood and drew on data collected between 2004 and 2008.

The research also reveals that children are generally happy in school. “Sixty-four per cent of Australian school children say they’re happy at school and given that children spend many hours there it’s good that for most young children this is a happy experience.

While not all are very enthusiastic about going, once there the majority enjoy it,” Dr Baxter said.

Source: AIFS media release


Should I Get a Divorce said...

That's interesting, if not strange, information. One has got to wonder though: does this affect the relationship between husband and wife? Is there a possibility that husbands may feel incapacitated that their children are more oriented towards their mothers and not to them?

Lynn said...

A rather wishy-washy way to present a report that contains some potentially dynamic issues of "absent fathers" from intact and separated families. Why does the narrator, Dr Baxter, say that fathers are "a little more inclined" to report not particularly enjoying the time they spend alone with their kids, when in fact, it's as much as 10% of fathers over mothers who report this? If the disparity of time between mothers and fathers spent alone with their children is taken into consideration, that 'little' 10% figure looms much larger, into a figure that is showing us that fathers are seriously lacking involvement in their families. Even when fathers are present in the household with mothers, the number of hours spent with the family is as low as only 5 - 6 hours per weekend. Is it just me, or is this an incredibly low number that shows there's something seriously happening with our concept of "families" in our community?

So where are the fathers? And why is there not more discussion about "absent fathers" in their family's lives? It would seem we are seriously lacking some critical analysis of why "absent fathers" is such a large part of family life. What does this mean for families, increased pressure on mothers, and society in general? Dr Baxter seems to have the impression that "absent fathers" is a given in a family, and that it's 'just the way it is'.

Other reports show that fathers are the group that work longer hours and bring home more work than any other age group of males in the labour force.

So where are the fathers today? Working? Fishing or attending to some other hobby? At the footy or cricket? Attending to cars/boats/or other such boy toys? Partaking in extreme sports? At the pub/mates?

They are somewhere, but the odds are, you'll not find them caring and nurturing their relationships with their kids/spouses.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Lynn but I think you have misunderstood the report. Fathers are spending quite a bit of time with their kids but not very much time on their own with them. I agree that there is a lot more that we need to know about this but take a good look. On weekends Dads are really stepping up the time they spend with their kids and as kids get older they are spending more time with them. In fact for the 0-9 year olds Dad is managing to be there for half the time that kids are spending with their parents. When we take into account that Dads are the primary breadwinners in the majority of situations and that employers are much less understanding of Dads family commitments I reckon they are doing pretty well.

divorceguide said...

Hmmm well maybe not all of the children I guess. I think maybe its the instinct of the children that
they know that mother's really knows best and are truly great in taking care of them. Father usually came in second to support for both of them. Usually when it comes to children and divorce right now when you ask the children on who wanted to take care of them they would choose there mother.