Families spending time together

Families spending time together

Media release — 1 May 2007

In celebration of National Families Week 2007, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has produced a Facts Sheet about how families spend their time.

Families Week will focus on encouraging everyone to take time to celebrate the vital role of families and to do things that will improve the all-round physical and emotional wellbeing of their family unit. It has a slogan - 'FITT Families - Families Investing in Time Together'.

"Social, economic and technological change has altered the way in which families spend time together;" said Dr Matthew Gray. "Important changes include increases in maternal employment, part-time employment and the number of people living alone. There have also been higher levels of geographic mobility, lower fertility rates and the development of affordable communication technology".

How families spend time depends on their stage in the lifecycle as well as their participation in the paid workforce.

Non-employed mothers spend nearly 9 hours with their infant on weekdays. Mothers working short part-time hours spend around half an hour less than this with their infant. The time mothers spend with their infant decreases as the number of hours worked increases. Mother with an infant and working fulltime spend around three hours a day less with the infant than do non-working mothers.

While children spend less time with their mother as she spends longer at work, this doesn't mean that children of working mothers have fewer opportunities to share activities with their family. Four- to five-year-olds with an employed mother are as likely to have their mother read to them as children with mothers not in the paid workforce.

Families with young children often have contact with their extended family. Twenty-eight per cent of mothers of 4-5-year-olds are in touch with their own parents every day and 52% at least once a week. Eleven per cent of mothers who had siblings are in contact with them every day and 43% at least once a week. Mothers are less likely to be in touch with their in-laws - 8% every day and 40% at least every week.

Men and women with a dependent child in the family are more likely to experience time pressure (41% of men and 51% of women) than those without a dependent child (28% of men and 33% of women). Parents with children under 5 years' of age are the most likely to feel time pressure (48% of fathers and 58% of mothers).

While people express concern that families are spending less time together than in the past, the picture is more complex. Although many parents experience the pressure of time, families are spending a lot of time together and most have contact with extended family. Most children do a wide range of activities with their families. The challenge for society is to ensure that families continue to spend time together as the patterns of labour force participation change.

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