Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 1.10 Parents’ Activities With Children

01/01/2000

Mothers and fathers are active in children’s lives in a variety of ways. In addition to providing for children’s basic care and protection, parents also serve as important teachers, mentors, role models, playmates, companions, and confidantes. The common theme of these additional roles is the direct interaction that takes place between parent and child in various contexts. Recent research indicates that positive interactions between parents and children foster positive developmental outcomes for children.15 Furthermore, there is a growing interest in identifying ways that fathers’ involvement in children’s lives uniquely contributes to child well-being.16

Data from the first and second waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH 1988 and 1995) were used to examine mothers’ and fathers’ interactions with their children (ages 5 through 17) in daily activities. Activities included eating meals together, spending time in activities away from home, working on a project together, having private talks, and helping with reading or homework.

As shown in Table SD 1.10.A, findings from the 1995 data include the following:

  • Over half of mothers (55 percent) and two-fifths of fathers (42 percent) eat dinner with their child every day of the week.
  • A similar percentage of mothers and fathers report going on outings with their childseveral times a week (17 percent and 18 percent for mothers and fathers, respectively) as well as almost every day (7 percent and 5 percent, respectively).
  • Twenty percent of mothers and 12 percent of fathers worked on a project at home with their child almost every day. An additional 32 percent of mothers and 28 percent of fathers worked on a project with their child several times a week.
  • The majority of mothers often engage their children in private conversations, with 22 percent reporting having private talks almost every day and another 31 percent reporting private talks several times a week. Among fathers, 21 percent reported having private talks with their children at least several times a week.
  • Mothers are also frequently helping their children with homework and reading. Forty percent report this type of interaction on an almost daily basis, with an additional 29 percent reporting helping their child with homework several times a week. One-third (33 percent) of fathers also report helping with homework several times a week, with a smaller group (13 percent) reporting helping almost every day.

Trends in Parental Activities. There was a significant drop in high levels of parent-child activity between 1988 and 1995 in most activities (see Table SD 1.10.A); for example, 62 percent of mothers reported eating dinner with their child on a daily basis in 1988, but in 1995 only 55 percent reported doing so. Similarly, 50 percent of fathers ate a daily dinner with their child in 1988, but in 1995 this rate dropped to 42 percent. Another example involves the rate at which parents engage their children in private talks. There was a 7 percentage point drop (from 29 to 22 percent) between 1988 and 1995 in the proportion of mothers who had private talks with their children almost every day. Similarly, there was a 5 percentage point drop (from 11 to 6 percent) in the proportion of fathers who had almost daily private talks with their children. Decreases in the amount of time parents spend in activities outside the home and working on projects inside the home were also found.

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin.17 In 1995, white (55 percent) and Hispanic mothers (65 percent) were more likely than black mothers (49 percent) to report eating dinner with their child every day (see Table SD 1.10.B). Other racial/ethnic differences were also evident; for example, Hispanic mothers (17 percent) were more likely than white mothers (6 percent) to go on outings with their children almost every day in 1995 (see Table SD 1.10.B). On the other hand, black mothers (50 percent) were more likely than white mothers (38 percent) to help their children with homework or reading almost every day (see Figure SD 1.10). In general, father involvement in 1995 did not appear to vary by race and Hispanic origin; however, black fathers (11 percent) were more likely than white fathers (4 percent) to take their children on outings almost every day (see Table SD 1.10.B).
 

15 Hawes, D., 1996.
16 Lamb, M.E. 1997. Fathers and Child Development: An Introductory Overview and Guide. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), The Role of the Father in Child Development, pp. 1-18. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
17 Estimates of whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

 

Table SD 1.10.A Percentage of parents in the United States who engage in selected activities with their children ages 5 through 17, by parent and type of activity: 1988 and 1995

  Mothers Fathers
  1988 1995 1988 1995
Days per week eat dinner with at least one child  
0 days 2 2 4 3
1-3 days 9 10 13 15
4-6 days 27 33 33 39
Every day 62 55 50 42
Time spent with children in activities away from home  
Never or rarely 6 5 6 5
Once a month or less 15 20 18 24
Several times a month 25 29 25 29
About once a week 23 22 26 20
Several times a week 18 17 15 18
Almost every day 13 7 9 5
Time spent with children at home working on a project  
Never or rarely 4 4 5 3
Once a month or less 9 9 10 13
Several times a month 14 17 17 27
About once a week 14 18 17 17
Several times a week 28 32 33 28
Almost every day 31 20 18 12
Time spent with children having private talks  
Never or rarely 2 2 8 7
Once a month or less 7 7 17 19
Several times a month 14 17 20 23
About once a week 18 22 22 24
Several times a week 29 31 21 21
Almost every day 29 22 11 6
Time spent with children helping with reading or homework  
Never or rarely 9 7 15 10
Once a month or less 6 6 13 13
Several times a month 9 8 17 16
About once a week 11 11 16 16
Several times a week 27 29 26 33
Almost every day 38 40 14 13

Source: The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), Wave 1, 1988, and Wave 2, 1995, tabulations by Dr. Randal Day, Washington State University.

 

Table SD 1.10.B Percentage of parents in the United States who engage in selected activities with their children ages 5 through 17, by parent, race and Hispanic origin,a and type of activity: 1995

  Mothers Fathers
  White Black Hispanica White Black Hispanica
Days per week eat dinner with at least one child  
0 days 1 5 1 3 9 2
1-3 days 9 15 9 14 23 19
4-6 days 34 32 24 40 35 37
Every day 55 49 65 43 34 43
Time spent with children in activities away from home  
Never or rarely 4 9 11 4 11 8
Once a month or less 19 22 19 22 26 28
Several times a month 30 27 20 31 26 22
About once a week 23 21 21 21 12 24
Several times a week 19 12 12 19 15 12
Almost every day 6 9 17 4 11 5
Time spent with children at home working on a project  
Never or rarely 3 5 7 2 7 2
Once a month or less 9 8 8 11 23 12
Several times a month 17 21 14 29 18 27
About once a week 18 22 17 18 13 18
Several times a week 34 24 25 28 25 32
Almost every day 19 20 29 12 14 8
Time spent with children having private talks  
Never or rarely 2 2 5 6 10 7
Once a month or less 7 9 7 20 17 17
Several times a month 17 15 18 23 19 23
About once a week 22 22 18 24 26 23
Several times a week 31 30 29 21 22 23
Almost every day 21 22 23 6 7 7
Time spent with children helping with reading or homework  
Never or rarely 7 6 7 9 19 9
Once a month or less 6 5 6 14 9 9
Several times a month 9 7 9 16 14 16
About once a week 11 9 16 15 13 21
Several times a week 31 23 20 33 31 32
Almost every day 38 50 42 13 15 13

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Source: The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), Wave 2, 1995, tabulations by Dr. Randal Day,
Washington State University.

 

Figure SD 1.10 Percentage of parents in the United States with children ages 5 through 17 who help their child with homework almost ever y day, by gender of parent and race and Hispanic origin: a 1995

a Estimates for whites and blacks include Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Source: The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), Wave 2, 1995, tabulations by Dr. Randal Day, Washington State University.

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