New research released by the Maryland Population Research Center suggests that while it is widely believed that the amount of time a mother spends with her child is important to children’s well-being, it has “virtually no relationship to how children turn out.”
For the study, How Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend with Children Matter?, researchers looked at two types of maternal time in their efforts to determine whether or not the amount of time mothers spent with their children was positively related to a child’s well-being. Engaged time, or the amount of time the child spends participating in activities with their mother, and accessible time, the time a child spends around their mother but not directly participating in activities with her, were both examined.
Time diaries and survey data were used to link a mother’s accessibility to outcomes for their children in the areas of behavior, emotions and academics. Researchers discovered that the amount of time a mother spent with their children did not matter, and surprisingly, in some cases, actually brought harm to their child’s development.
If a mother is stressed out, spending time with her actually hindered child development. Mothers who feel guilty while trying to balance a work life with a home life correlated to outcomes such as lower math scores and behavioral issues.
For the most part, the study discovered that the amount of time a mother spent with their child between the ages of 3 and 11 did not matter at all, except in adolescence, when spending more time with mom was found to increase delinquent behaviors. In fact, it was found that social status resources such as parent education and family income affect a child’s outcomes more than spending time with either mom or dad.
Meanwhile, mothers continue to believe that if they are home after school, it will prevent their children from participating in delinquent activities such as drugs, sexual activity, smoking or drinking.
Researchers did say that further studies would need to be completed on the subject to look further into the topic. For example, the study did not look at the amount of time spent on specific activities such as reading or talking to them. Further research would be needed in order to determine if there are any particular activities mothers do that increase a child’s well-being.
In addition, more research is needed to determine if the quality of a mother’s interactions is more important than the amount of time spent with them.