Research from the University of Georgia says how dads interact with their kids during the workweek impacts their relationship with them. Specifically, dads who make time for parental responsibilities during the week reap the ultimate reward.
Researchers analyzed 80 father-child pairs when their kids were about three years old. They conducted interviews and observed father-child interactions at home by analyzing videos. As expected, dads who spend time with their children on non-workdays develop a stronger relationship with them. Researchers also found time spent playing together during non-workdays seems to be especially important, even after taking into account the quality of fathers' parenting.
An interesting takeaway, however, was fathers who spend lots of time helping out with childcare-related tasks on workdays develop the best relationship with their children. Plus, men who participate in high levels of play with their kids on workdays actually have a slightly less secure “attachment relationship” with them. The study's author Geoffrey Brown describes an “attachment relationship” as an emotional bond children have with their caregivers, which provides comfort and security, and models how relationships work.
"It's a complicated story, but I think this reflects differences in these contexts of family interaction time on workdays versus non-workdays," says Brown, assistant professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "The most important thing on a workday, from the perspective of building a good relationship with your children, seems to be helping to take care of them."
The study isn’t meant to discourage fathers from being playful with their children during the week, but rather highlight how important it is for dads to take an active role in caregiving. "Ultimately, fathers who engage in a variety of parenting behaviors and adjust their parenting to suit the demands and circumstances of each individual day are probably most likely to develop secure relationships with their children," Brown explains.