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Fathers are spending more time with their children today than three decades ago

Photo: SlikSvelte. Creative Commons.

Men are taking more overall responsibility for the care of their children in 2008 than in 1992, according to themselves and their wives/partners.

The amount of time fathers in USA spend with their children under 13 on workdays has increased by one hour, from two hours to three hours. Similar trends can be seen in research from other developed countries. This is shown by the green line in this graph – a highly significant increase.

Time: motehrs and fathers

Statistically significant differences between fathers and mothers: 1977 n=455, p<.001; 2008 n=512, p<.001
U.S. Department of Labor, Quality of Employment Survey, 1977
Families and Work Institute, National Study of the Changing Workforce, 2008

At the same time, the amount of time mothers spend with their children under 13 on workdays has remained constant at an average of 3.8 hours. This is shown by the blue line in the graph above – the slight increase shown is not statistically significant.

So mothers still do more, but fathers are catching up.

These figures are for parents of all ages. Younger fathers and mothers under the age of 29 actually spend more time with their children than this overall average: 4.1 hours per working day for fathers and 5.4 hours for mothers.

Taking responsibility

Men are taking more overall responsibility for the care of their children in 2008 than in 1992, according to themselves and their wives/partners.

“Taking responsibility for the care of children” means not only providing one-on-one care, but also managing child care arrangements.

The percentage of mothers who say their spouse takes more responsibility or shares the responsibility for caring equally has increased from 21% in 1992 to 30% in 2008.

The share of housework is changing also. In 2008, 26% of women said men do an equal or greater share of the cooking, compared to 15% in 1992. The change in cleaning is not statistically significant: in 2008, 21% of women said men do an equal or greater share of cleaning, compared to 18% in 1992.

Mothers and fathers have different opinions about who does what

In all these surveys, the fathers report they do more childcare, cooking and cleaning than the mothers report that the fathers do and the differences in opinion are big.

Fathers do a greater or equal share of:
• childcare – say 30% of mothers and 49% of fathers
• cooking – say 26% of mothers and 55% of fathers
• cleaning – say 21% of mothers and 53% of fathers

This phenomenon has been studied. A popular view is that fathers are making it up. But the research shows that probably both mothers and fathers may be exaggerating, or seeing the task differently. Our previous studies have revealed that the person who has traditionally been assumed by society to have primary responsibility for particular aspects of family work tends to see him/herself as doing more in those areas.

We focus more on the larger trends – both mothers and fathers agree that fathers are doing more over time!