The study showed that the time parents spent with their children between the ages of 3 and 11 has no relationship on how children turn out, having a minimal effect on adolescents.
Findings of the study are available in the journal of Marriage and Family.
The study considered children’s academic achievement, behavioral and emotional well-being.
“I could literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes. . . . Nada. Zippo,” said Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto and one of the report’s authors.
There is one particular instance when the presence of a parent, especially mother, is particularly harmful to children, authors indicate. They refer to those situations when mothers are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty, and anxious.
Having said that, we should not wrongly assume that time with children is not important. Numerous studies showed the link between quality parent time – such as reading to a child, sharing meals, having a conversation or engaging children face-to-face – and positive outcomes for kids. The study however, emphasizes that it is not the quantity of time that matters, but the quality of it.
“In an ideal world, this study would alleviate parents’ guilt about the amount of time they spend,” Milkie said, “and show instead what’s really important for kids.”
The study’s findings surprised some parents, many of whom had built their lives around the idea that the more time with children, the better. They quit or cut back on work, downsized their houses or struggled to cram it all in.
Building relationships, seizing quality moments of connection, not quantity, is what emerging research is showing to be most important for both parent and child well-being, Milkie said.