It doesn't seem like rocket science to say that fathers who spend more quality time with their children tend to be closer to those children, but there's a new study that proves that how and when fathers spend time with their kids also matters. Not so many years ago parenting used to consist of the mom basically raising the children and taking care of the home while the father worked and did the "providing." Fortunately, things have changed drastically over the years with more and more families equally dividing the "raising" and "providing" duties. Regardless if there are stay-at-home parents or work-at-home parents in the house, most families are finding a way for both parents to be fully active and involved in their children's lives, and that is paying off in a big way.
In a study conducted by Geoffrey Brown and published in the Journal of Family Psychology, it looked at how fathers spent time with their children on both work and non-work days, and how that time was spent. Fathers who spent more time engaged in play on non-work days had a greater level of attachment to their kids, as did fathers who did more caregiving-related tasks on workdays.
"Fathers who make the choice to devote their time on non-workdays to engaging with their children directly seem to be developing the best relationships," said Brown, assistant professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “And on those non-workdays, pursuing activities that are child-centered, or fun for the child seems to be the best predictor of a good father-child relationship."
While spending time with kids on the weekend certainly helps develop a solid father-child bond, the research found that those dads who are actively caring for their children during the workdays and engaging in child-care tasks have the greatest connection with their kids, more than dads who simply engage in play-related activities.
“It’s a complicated story, but I think this reflects differences in these contexts of family interaction time on workdays versus non-workdays,” Brown said. “The most important thing on a workday, from the perspective of building a good relationship with your children, seems to be helping to take care of them.”
The study looked at eighty different father/child pairings where the children were on average were around 3 years old. Brown says that's the age where children form a closer and more emotional bond with those who act in a caregiver role.
"We’re trying to understand the connection between work life and family life and how fathers construct their role. It’s clear that there are different contexts of family time,” Brown said. “Relying too much on play during workdays, when your child/partner needs you to help out with caregiving, could be problematic. But play seems more important when there’s more time and less pressure," he said.
"Ultimately, fathers who engage in a variety of parenting behaviors and adjust their parenting to suit the demands and circumstances of each individual day are probably most likely to develop secure relationships with their children."