Dads Living With Their Children Share More Activities

Most fathers who live with their children share mealtimes, change diapers and check homework, according to a U.S. study, and that is good for the kids.

While only 38 percent of fathers live with children -- a number that’s been falling in the past five decades -- those that do are more involved with their kids’ lives than in the past, according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The study builds on a 2002 U.S. survey to gather more data on fathers as research showed a positive link between a dad’s involvement and social outcomes for children. The study found that 90 percent of dads who live with their children bathed, diapered or dressed them at least several times a week and that 88 percent of those men said they were doing a ’’good’’ or ’’very good’’ job.

“Many studies have found that the more involved dads are, the better off the children are: Behavior, education attainment, academic achievement,” said lead study author Jo Jones, a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics’ Reproductive Statistics Branch, in a Dec. 16 telephone interview. “Most dads think they’re doing a pretty good or great job at being a father, which is good. Men should feel good about their parental involvement.”

Family Data

The researchers surveyed 10,403 fathers, using data from the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth, a U.S. sample of women and men 15 to 44 years old that looks at different aspects of family. During the study, 23.5 million men, or 38 percent, were living with one or more children and about 7.5 million, or 12 percent, were living apart. Some of the men fell into both categories.

Researchers surveyed fathers on areas of involvement such as joining kids at meal time, playing, dressing, bathing, checking homework and talking to children about things that happened during the day.

Among the 12 percent of fathers who live apart from their children, 53 percent gave themselves ’’good’’ or ’’very good’’ ratings, and 24 percent said they were doing a ’’bad’’ or ’’not a very good’’ job. About 31 percent of the dads living separately helped with the bathing, diapering or dressing.

For dads of children ages 5 to 18 years old, 66 percent of those who lived with their kids ate meals with them every day in the previous four weeks compared with 2.9 percent of fathers who didn’t live with their school-aged children. White and black fathers ate meals more often with their younger children than Hispanic dads, the report found.

Important Fathers

About two-thirds of fathers who lived with their children talked to them every day about things that happened compared with 16 percent of dads who lived separately, the study found.

“The important thing here is fathers are important and fathers are involved with their kids’ lives whether they are living with their children or not,” said Victor Fornari, director of the Division of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, New York, in a telephone interview. “Fathers should be encouraged to be as actively involved in their child’s lives as possible.

Fornari was not an author of today’s paper.

Children benefit from having two adults who are engaged with them and want to be around, said Maureen Perry-Jenkins, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Research on Families.

What’s most important ‘‘is having rituals and routines with your children,” said Perry-Jenkins, who was not an author of today’s report, in a Dec. 17 telephone interview. “Maybe you have breakfast with them because that’s when you’re home or maybe you’re there when they get home from school. Fathers are doing far more of that and doing far more of it alone because families are trying to juggle schedules. Kids are benefiting from that level of father involvement.”

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