Australian parents rank first for time spent with children

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Australian parents are world leaders when it comes to spending time with their children, clocking up more than four hours a day – far more than parents in other parts of the developed world.

But Australian mothers are still responsible for the majority of their children's care, spending more than twice as much time with their children each day than fathers.

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) released its National Child and Youth Report Card last month, which looked at how Australia ranked among the developed world when it comes to the wellbeing of its youngest citizens.

The 2018 Report Card: The Wellbeing of Young Australians, used a variety of information to track how Australia compared with other countries across 75 key indicators of health and wellbeing.

It used data collected by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracked how much time parents spend with their children each day.

Figures contained in the OECD's How's Life report found Australian parents ranked first out of 21 countries for "Parental time with children".

The data was broken down into the areas of "physical care, supervision" and "teaching, reading and playing with child", including time spent with both the mother and father. 

According to the report, Australian parents spend more than 250 minutes on average with their children each day, well above the OECD average of 150 minutes.

Physical care and supervision provided by mothers accounted for about 130 minutes of time spent with children each day, followed by teaching, reading and playing (50 minutes).

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Australian fathers spent about 70 minutes a day either caring for or supervising their children, or teaching, reading and playing with their children.

In comparison, parents in Korea ranked last, spending just 50 minutes a day with their children. Korean mothers provided the majority of the care, with fathers in Korea spending just 10 minutes a day with their children.

Australia's ranking was closely followed by Austria, while Ireland ranked third and the USA was fourth, with parents there spending around 220 minutes a day with their children.

This is not the first study that has shown a large disparity in the amount of time Australian mothers and fathers spend caring for their children. 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies previously found children spend relatively small amounts of time alone with their fathers.

It quoted a study which showed children spent as little as 30 minutes alone with their fathers on weekdays, while on weekends, the amount of time varied from 0.8 hours a day for infants to 1.5 hours for children aged eight to nine.

As part of the study, parents were asked if they enjoyed spending time with their children. It found mothers were more likely to answer 'yes'.

The third National Child and Youth Report Card released by ARACY found Australia ranked around the middle overall when it comes to child wellbeing when compared with the other OECD countries, and singled out falling immunisation rates and increasing levels of mental illness among Australian young people as its biggest concerns.

It also found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were at greater risk, especially in relation to suicide rates and likelihood of death through injury.

ARACY is a research and results focused organisation that aims to provide services to children and their families to help them achieve a better life. 

ARACY CEO Stephen Bartos said while Australia's world number one ranking for parents spending time with children was a good start, it was important this was continued throughout the important school years if we are to improve falling educational outcomes.

"Australian parents are among the best in the world when it comes to spending time with their kids," he said. 

"But with the report card showing our education performance slipping, it's important we extend this into the school years. 

"Research shows when parents partner with schools in their kids' education it can be the equivalent of that child getting an extra two years of schooling.

"Parents don't have to conquer calculus or chemistry to help their kids. Just asking a child what they are learning, reading with them or in front of them, or talking about what's on the news can all help a child do better at school."

Mr Bartos said ARACY was working with the federal government on ways to get more parents involved in their child's education.