A new study suggests that the quantity of time young children spend with their parents is not as important as the quality of that time.
Quality time was referred to as activities such as reading with your child, sharing meals or engaging one-on-one. Study authors Kei M. Nomaguchi, Kathleen E. Denny and sociologist Melissa Milkie declared that their research, by no means, states that parenting isn't important.
The study indicates that participating in these activities is associated with positive social, emotional and academic outcomes for children, according to the Chicago Tribune. The research was geared toward children between the ages of 3 and 11, and quantity of time spent with adolescents was even less significant. Face it, your teenagers want time away from you, but the little ones don't.
"I could literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents' time and children's outcomes," Milkie told the Washington Post.
Parents often believe that the key to their child's success is to make sure they are present all the time, but being present doesn't guarantee that "quality time" will be spent together, and the number of hours is, essentially, not impactful.
"Over several aspects of children's lives, the sheer amount of exclusive maternal time, whether directly engaged with children or simply being there, had relatively little power," the authors wrote.
The study should make most parents feel relieved in the sense that they do not have to feel guilty about pursuing their own lives to ensure happiness.
Sometimes, parent-child time can be harmful, especially if the parent is stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty or anxious, according to the Post.
"Mothers' stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of the juggling with work and trying to find time with kids, that may actually be affecting their kids poorly," Nomaguchi said.
In terms of how much time is sufficient to spend with your children, there is no clear-cut answer, but it is important to always have warmth and sensitivity toward them when you are with them.
"I'm not aware of any rich and telling literature on whether there's a 'sweet spot' of the right amount of time to spend with kids," said Matthew Biel, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Georgetown University Medical Center.
There are some circumstances that contradict the authors' findings. In urban areas, strict parents who are always around can help to prevent delinquent behavior, no matter the age of the child. Six hours a week for adolescents proved to keep them on the right track, which "isn't a huge amount of time," according to Milkie.
Mothers' efforts in particular - to spend as much time as possible with their children - may, in fact, be producing the opposite effect of their intended outcome due to their attempt to live up to society's standards of "what makes a good mother." This can affect the emotional and mental well-being of children.
Fathers' time with their kids has nearly tripled from 2.6 hours a week in 1965 to 7.2 hours in 2010. Mothers' time rose from 10.5 hours a week in 1965 to 13.7 hours in 2010, the Post reported.
"There are a lot of cultural pressures for intensive parenting - the competition for jobs, what we think makes for a successful child, teenager and young adult, and what we think in a competitive society with few social supports is going to help them succeed," Milkie said.
The "little pieces of time" matter the most.