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No relation of time spent with mom and overall success of child, Study

The most popular statement has been contradicted where it was believed that time spent by mother and children together can have great impact on life of a children.

The study — to be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in April — begged the question: Does the amount of time a mother spends with her young children really impact their potential for success?

It’s a widely held societal belief that the answer to that question should be a resounding yes, researchers noted.

“This ideology of intensive mothering — the belief that the proper development of children requires mothers lavishing large amounts of time and energy on offspring — is pervasive in American culture, is central to the spirited debates over whether maternal employment harms children and is embodied in the ‘Mommy Wars,’ an alleged dispute between homemaker and employed mothers in which the former are said to accuse the latter of being selfish and harming children by being away from home too often,” study authors Melissa Milkie, Kei Nomaguchi and Kathleen Denny wrote.

Researchers aimed to test this notion by examining time diaries and surveys of children from across the country compiled by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Child Development Supplement. The diaries — collected first in 1997 when the children were between the ages of 3 and 11 and then again in 2002 when those children were between 12 and 17 — noted instances of “engaged” time — defined as quailty interaction between parent and child — and “accessible” time — when a parent was present, but not necessarily engaging with the child.

That was the surprising finding of a new large-scale, longitudinal study that closely examined the relationship between the quantity of time a mother spends with children between the of ages 3 and 11 and the child’s overall behavioral, emotional and academic success.

“The assumption that more time with mother has to be better for children is so ingrained, even among sociologists, so I did expect to find some relationship,” study co-author Kathleen Denny — who works in the University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology — told Yahoo Parenting. “But we couldn’t find any empirical data to support that.”

In fact, researchers found that mothers who are stressed out, sleep-deprived, anxious or overwhelmed can actually negatively impact their child. These factors often come into play when children are younger and demands more intensive.

“Mother’s 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,” co-author Nomaguchi — a sociologist at Bowling Green — told the Washington Post.

Additionally, multiple studies suggest that children need unstructured play — time independent from parents — to develop valuable tools and coping mechanisms.

While young children seem to be just fine without loads of time with mom, adolescents may be a slightly different story.

Children between the ages of 12 and 17 who spent at least six hours engaging with both parents — not just mom — found it easier to focus and were less likely to get into trouble, the study suggested.

Sneaking in that engaged time can be achieved by simply eating nightly dinners together, study authors said.

So what factors have the most tangible impact on a child’s success? Study authors found that a mother’s education level, as well as overall household income, contribute most to a child’s emotional, behavioral and academic achievement.

“If we’re really wanting to think about the bigger picture and ask, how would we support kids, our study suggests through social resources that help the parents in terms of supporting their mental health and socio-economic status,” co-author Milkie, a University of Toronto sociologist, told the Washington Post. “The sheer amount of time that we’ve been so focused on them doesn’t do much.”

About Donald V. Morris

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