The Developmental Gradient in Fathers’ Time with Children

Rebecca M. Ryan, Georgetown University
Michael Corey, University of Chicago

Using data from the 2003-2007 American Time Use Surveys, we compare fathers’ (N = 9,339) time in four parenting activities across father education and child age subgroups to determine if highly-educated fathers spend more time in child care and alter the composition of their parenting time to suit children’s developmental needs more so than less educated men. Results partially support this hypothesis: compared to less educated fathers, highly-educated fathers invest more time in basic care and play activities when youngest children are infants or toddlers and time differences across education groups in basic care and play are largest among fathers with infants or toddlers. Highly-educated fathers also spend more time in teaching and management activities than less educated fathers, but these differences do not vary by child age. This ‘developmental gradient’ suggests that highly-educated fathers’ child care time reflects more intense and possibly more effective parental investments in young children.

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Presented in Session 2: Men’s Roles in Families and Relationships