Fathers are Getting More Involved with their Children

An ongoing study shows fathers spend more than twice the amount of time with their kids, when compared to 1965.

According to a nationally representative survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention), fathers are heavily involved in hands-on parenting. The government survey suggests that the detached dad, too busy to change diapers, bathe, dress and play with his kids is mostly a myth. Since the first government survey in 2002, the survey shows fathers’ involvement in hands-on fathering has increased slightly. The research bolsters the benefits of hands-on fathering.

The results of the survey are important and encouraging “because others have found the more involved dads are, the better the outcomes for their children,” said researcher Jo Jones, co-author of the report that was released on Friday. Fathers’ involvement has been linked with healthier eating habits, fewer behavior problems and more academic success.

Robert Loftus quit his job to care for his two young children while his wife works. “Times have changed,” he says. “We’re trying to rethink our priorities and family seems to be the No. 1 priority, whereas in the past maybe people were more focused on career.” Before the baby boom years, women were mostly stay-at-home moms. Men were the major breadwinners.

However, some old stereotypes persist says University of Chicago sociologist Jennifer Bellamy. She also studies fathering and found some stereotypes such as fathers are absent or less involved than moms and “…that dads are sort of the co-pilots in their families” still persist in today’s society. Bellamy, nevertheless, said the survey confirms her belief that fathers “are quite involved in a variety of different and important ways.”

A similar national parenting survey conducted by the University of Maryland in 2000 found that married US fathers with kids aged 18 and younger spent about two hours weekly interacting, more than twice the amount of time spent with dad in 1965. Dr. David Hill, author of “Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro,” and a pediatrician says the study echoes what he’s seen among the fathers of his patients. Rather than mothers, he has seen mostly fathers taking their kids to the doctor, he said. Some “are anxious about changing a diaper” but find reassuring evidence in the study “that everybody’s doing this.”

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