Study Finds Dads Are Spending More Times With Their Kids Than Ever Before

It's not the first study to suggest that things are changing for dads in a positive way.

A new joint study from Brigham Young (BYU) and Ball State University found that fathers are spending more time with, and are more loving towards, their children than ever before.

The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, points to the changing roles men have in society and may reflect how those roles are viewed in a family unit. Sociologists involved in the study pointed to the changing definition of masculinity as another important factor.


"We found that today's dads spend more time, provide more care and are more loving toward their kids than ever before," Kevin Shafer, a BYU sociology professor and a co-author of the study, told BYU News. "Most dads see themselves as playing an equally important role in helping their children as mothers do. At the same time, however, there is a group of dads who believe they are to be breadwinners, disciplinarians and nothing more."

Shutterstock / Evgeny Atamanenko

Researchers looked at data on 2,194 fathers of children between the ages of 2 and 18 years old. The sociologists involved in the study also looked at correlations between "negative aspects of traditional masculinity" predicted fathers who were less involved with their children. Researchers measured their negative reaction to certain definitions of masculinity by examining answers to a variety of statements such as, "It is essential for the child's well‐being that fathers spend time interacting and playing with their children" and "It is difficult for men to express warm and tender affectionate feelings toward children."

"It's important to understand what masculinity is and is not," Shafer said. "In some circles, when people hear terms like hegemonic or toxic masculinity, they think those are attacking all men. Not so. There are some very beneficial aspects of masculinity — being goal-oriented or being loyal, for example. However, we are talking about more problematic aspects of masculinity — like aggression, detached relationships, not showing emotion and failing to ask for help. These are negative aspects of traditional masculinity, and our research suggests it hurts families."

Lee Essig, another co-author of the study, told BYU News that fathers are facing more social pressure to increase their involvement with the family.

It's not the first study to suggest that things are changing for dads. The Pew Research Center found that fathers were spending more time on childcare in 2015 than they were in the 1960s, and survey results said the hours per week spent on childcare for a father have nearly tripled from 2.5 hours in 1965 to seven hours in 2015.  

"As current social trends are pushing for men's increased familial involvement, we see more fathers stepping up to engage more actively in their children's lives in various ways," Essig said. "As we teach boys and men to be more emotionally aware and cultivate emotional well-being, these men and boys will be able to become better fathers for their children, as they will be able to provide for them not only through financial contributions, but by being emotionally and mentally present for their children and their wellbeing."

Cover image via  Kiselev Andrey Valerevich I Shutterstock


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