Time with dad good for self-esteem

Carolyn Moynihan
4 Oct 2012
Reproduced with Permission

Kids need a dad and a mum, not just "parents", because, as a new study shows, dad does different things for the growing child than mum does, at least some of the time. I know this will not impress die-hard gender egalitarians, but most mums and dads will quickly see the point.

The study tracked nearly 200 families with at least two children, over a period of seven years -- from age 8 to 15. (It is not clear from this report whether all the families had both parents at home.) The families were not representative of the whole of the US, being "almost exclusively European American, working and middle-class families living in small cities, towns and rural communities," say the researchers from Penn State University.

During the earlier years, kids on the whole spent increasing amounts of one-on-one time with their parents. This time started to level out by age 12 and drop at about age 15.

It's interesting, though, that these early teens were not, as a certain stereotype suggests, just holed up in their rooms playing videogames or updating FB, or hanging out with their friends at the mall. They were spending on average just over one hour a week alone with their dad, and 15 minutes more (for first-borns) or 30 minutes more (for second-born children) than that with mum.

It doesn't sound like a lot, but the point is, it increased.

Here's the second interesting thing: the more time kids spent alone with their fathers, the higher their self-esteem; the more time spent with dads in a group setting (it's not clear whether this means the whole family, as during a family meal, or something more extended or both), the better their social skills.

Time spent alone with mum did not show the same correlations. But,

"In two-parent families, the mother's role as caregiver is so scripted that her involvement can easily go unnoticed and unacknowledged," researchers note.

Furthermore a previous study found that children who spent more one-on-one time with their mothers were less often depressed -- a correlation not seen with fathers.

The report suggests some reasons why time with dad has unique effects -- or correlations, if you insist -- which can be read at this link. The take-home message seems to be that without both their mum and dad in their lives (and preferably both at home) adolescents are going to miss out on some confidence building quality time and security.