A recent study shows that the gap between men and women, when it comes to childcare, is growing smaller

The report, drawn up by an expert at the University of Frankfurt, Tomás Cano, shows that parents are spending more and more quality time with their children, even though women continue to take on the basic childcare tasks. The results were released during the third International Symposium on Care and Negligence in the Family Environment organised by UIC Barcelona.

A study drawn up by an expert at the University of Frankfurt, Tomás Cano, shows that the gap between men and women when it comes to the amount of time devoted to childcare is growing smaller.

The report, entitled “A Matter of Time: Father Involvement and Child Cognitive Outcomes”, which was presented at UIC Barcelona during the third International Symposium on Care and Negligence in the Family Environment, shows that “from the 1990s to the 2000s, child upbringing has intensified, going from authoritarian to democratic and with a greater emotional approach.”

According to Cano, this situation is happening “in every European country except France”, and is leading to a “convergence of genders and increasingly fewer inequalities in the amount of time dedicated to children. Facilitating paternal involvement should lead to improvements in children’s cognitive foundation, mothers’ mental health, and enhanced family functioning as a whole,” he added.

However, the researcher also made it clear that this convergence is particularly prevalent in what is referred to as “quality time: reading, homework or educational games,” while in the case of time dedicated to basic childcare, women are still taking on the bulk of these tasks.

In this respect, according to data from the Institute of Statistics of Catalonia (Idescat), provided by researcher Marc Grau, of the Childcare and Family Policies Chair (Joaquim Molins Figueres Foundation), fathers generally devote 118 minutes per day to their children, as opposed to mothers’ 208 minutes. Of this time, men tend to spend 57.8 minutes per day with children on basic childcare tasks, as compared to women’s 123 minutes. However, the figure evens out much more between the genders when it comes to quality time, with fathers’ devoting 33.4 minutes, very close to mothers’ 35.95 minutes.

Another interesting fact from the study is that these indicators do not improve among unemployed fathers compared to working fathers, as they spend 85 minutes with their children every day compared to the 148 minutes spent by unemployed mothers.

Cognitive development of the child

The report drawn up by researcher Tomás Cano also points out that the children of fathers who are involved in their upbringing “have better cognitive development”, since they are “exposed to more varied stimuli and have a richer vocabulary resulting from interacting with two parents with different personalities and behaviours.”

According to Cano, parents with university degrees are, a priori, “those who spend more time with their children. These tend to be stable families with more children; on the other hand, families with lower educational achievements tend to spend less time with them, are more likely to divorce, and have weaker family units.” However, the expert added that when people with lower incomes are involved in childcare to the same extent as people with higher incomes, the cognitive development outcomes of their children will be the same.

In the case of the more disadvantaged families, the researcher claims that “they are born more at a disadvantage due to the conditions in which they often live during the nine months of gestation”, so that by the time the children start school, “this gap already exists” and the school “neither increases or reduces it”. In his view, this situation “demonstrates the essential role that the family plays in cognitive development, as children only spend 13.2% of their time at school, and the remaining 86.8% with their families.”

A dearth of time

Meanwhile, researcher Marc Grau has said that in Spain there is what he calls a “dearth of time”, a situation that causes “high stress levels, difficulties in caring for vulnerable people, having fewer children than wanted, and a high level of exhaustion.” In this respect, he highlights the fact that only 32.9% of Spaniards are satisfied with their work/life balance, as opposed to 56% of Norwegians. He also added that 49% of Spaniards claim to suffer from high levels of stress.

In his opinion, the cost of this “dearth of time” has consequences on our relationships. According to a study carried out by Harvard University, “at the end of life, when you ask people what makes them feel good, their answer is quality relationships with family and friends… with the people who they love.”