Fathers spend less time with their children

Fathers spend less time with their children

Media Release — 20 May 2010

Children are spending considerably less time with their fathers than their mothers, according to research released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Australian children spend relatively small amounts of time with their fathers, without their mothers also present, the research found.

On weekdays children may spend as little as half an hour alone with their fathers.

Even on weekends, children spend only a relatively small number of hours with their father when their mother isn’t there – varying from 0.8 hours a day for infants to 1.4 hours for two to three year olds and 1.5 hours for eight to nine year olds.

“Children spent considerably more time with their mother than their father, in fact they spent relatively small amounts of time with their fathers without their mothers, whether that be during the week or on weekends,” said Institute Research Fellow Dr Jennifer Baxter.

“What’s interesting about this is that 74 per cent of eight and nine year old children say they definitely like spending time with their father and their mother. Another 23 per cent say that it was mostly true that they like spending time with their father and their mother.

“Not surprisingly parents enjoy spending time with their children. But fathers are a little more inclined than mothers to say that they only sometimes enjoyed spending time with their children,” Dr Baxter said.

The research found that when fathers were asked if they enjoyed spending time with their children:

  • 28 per cent said they always or almost always did
  • 51 per cent said they often did
  • 21 per cent said they sometimes or less often did.

By contrast, 40 per cent of mothers said they always or almost always enjoyed spending time with their children, with 49 per cent saying they often did and 11 per cent saying they sometimes did.

“What does this say about fathers’ involvement in families? It can certainly vary from family to family but what we do know is that children report that they like to be with their parents, with 75 percent of children also saying they have fun with their families lots of times,” Dr Baxter said.

“But while fathers spend small amounts of time alone with their children, they do spend time with them, with their wives and partners there, especially on weekends, when children spend between 5 and 6 hours with both parents,” she said.

The data is part of Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, that collects information about children from birth to the beginning of middle childhood and drew on data collected between 2004 and 2008.

The research also reveals that children are generally happy in school. “Sixty-four per cent of Australian school children say they’re happy at school and given that children spend many hours there it’s good that for most young children this is a happy experience.

While not all are very enthusiastic about going, once there the majority enjoy it,” Dr Baxter said.

The research is published in the Facts Sheet, The best start: Supporting happy, healthy childhoods, released during National Families Week 2010.

Media contacts

Luisa Saccotelli
0400 149 901
Aileen Muldoon
0419 112 503