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Family Functioning: Looking After The Children
MOTHERS AND FATHERS: AVERAGE REPORTED TIME SPENT PER DAY ON CHILD CARE ACTIVITIES, AND PROPORTION EMPLOYED FULL-TIME
Major patterns and trends
In 1992, on average, mothers spent 6hrs: 46 mins per day on child care activities, more than twice as much as fathers (2:hrs: 31mins). On the other hand, reflecting traditional roles and responsibilities, fathers were far more likely to be employed full-time (83% of fathers compared to 19% of mothers). Nevertheless, the pattern has been changing. As women have been entering the work force, the time they spend with their children has been decreasing (6 hrs: 7 mins in 1997). Little change was evident among fathers (2hrs: 24 mins per day in 1997) whose involvement in full-time work remained about the same between 1992 and 1997.
As children grow older, mothers are more likely to be employed (see Australian Social Trends 1998, Trends in women's employment), reflecting the lower level of care and supervision needed by children of school age. In 1997, mothers with children less than 5 years old spent an average of 8hrs: 27 mins per day on child care, and only 16% worked full-time. In comparison, mothers whose youngest child was aged 10-14 reported spending less than a third as much time on child care (2hrs: 11 mins per day) and were more than twice as likely to work full-time (37% compared to 16%).
Unlike mothers, the proportion of fathers in full-time employment did not change much with the age of the youngest child. 83% of fathers with children aged 0-4 years worked full-time compared to 82% whose youngest was 5-9 and 84% whose youngest was 10-14. As was the case for mothers, the average time fathers spent on child care decreased as children became older.
The time spent on child care was also higher in families where several children were present. As with age of children, the influence of the number of children was greater for mothers than fathers, both in terms of the time spent with children and the likelihood of being in full-time employment.
Both mothers and fathers who were employed part-time, or not employed, spent more time with their children than those working full-time. However, the time spent by parents on child care not only depends on their own employment status, but also on many other factors, including the employment status of their partners. For example, in the more usual situation, where the father was working full-time, the mother spent progressively less time with their children as her hours of employment increased. However, for fathers in such families, the time spent with their children bore little relationship to the mother's hours of work. In fact, men spent slightly less time with their children, on average, when women worked full-time than when they worked part-time.
Types of child care activities
Parents provide care for their children in various ways, often just passively minding them while they are attending to other activities such as cooking or cleaning - or just relaxing. However, they also spend time actively looking after the personal needs of their children, such as feeding, cuddling, reading or talking to their children, as well as some time on extra tasks such as organising their daily activities. The extent to which mothers and fathers share their time in attending to various child care activities can be demonstrated by focusing on parents with similar work commitments - for example, where both parents are employed full-time.
In general, in families where both parents worked full-time, mothers spent about twice as much time as fathers on child care (nearly 4hrs for mothers and 2hrs: 4 mins for fathers). Moreover, mothers spent more time than fathers on all types of child care activities, for children of all age groups.
Children under school age commonly require much more personal attention than older children. Consequently, both mothers and fathers (where both were working full-time) spent more time with children aged 0-4 years. For fathers, this time was fairly evenly divided between active and passive child care activities (1hr: 27 mins and 1hr: 33 mins, respectively), while mothers spent more time on active child care (3hrs: 15 mins, compared with 2hrs: 47mins on passive child care), particularly on the physical and emotional care of these children (1hr: 50mins per day, on average). Mothers spent more time than fathers on the physical and emotional care of older children, too, but for both partners this declined sharply with the age of the child. Time spent playing, reading and talking with their children declined less sharply with the age of the child, and became the dominant type of active care for both parents of older children, particularly fathers.
After children reach school age, parents spent more time on passive than active child care - almost as much for 5-9 year olds (1hr: 30mins for fathers and 2hrs: 12mins for mothers) as for 0-4 year olds (1hr: 33mins and 2hrs: 47mins, respectively). Much less time was spent on the passive care of children in the 10-14 years age group (22mins and 33mins, respectively).
Other child care activities, such as getting children's things ready for the next day, visiting child care establishments and associated travel, took up much less time - less than 25 minutes per day for both parents, for children of any age.
FATHERS AND MOTHERS: AVERAGE REPORTED TIME SPENT PER DAY ON CHILD CARE ACTIVITIES IN FAMILIES WHERE BOTH PARENTS WORKED FULL-TIME, 1997
(b) Includes time spent visiting child care establishments, associated travel and communication, and child care activities not elsewhere classified, such as getting children's things ready for the next day.
Source: Unpublished data, Time Use Survey, 1997.
Juggling work and family
Managing work and family responsibilities can often be difficult for parents, especially mothers. This can be observed in terms of the proportion of parents who state that they always or often feel rushed or pushed for time. In general, mothers were more likely than fathers to report that they always or often felt rushed or pushed for time, while men and women without dependent children were less likely to report this feeling. For example, of couples where both worked full-time, 70% of mothers stated they always or often felt rushed or pushed for time, compared to 56% of fathers and 52% of women with no dependent children. Similarly, of women who worked part-time whose partners worked full-time, 67% of mothers stated they always or often felt rushed or pushed for time, compared to 35% of women with no dependent children.
PARTNERS: PROPORTIONS FEELING RUSHED FOR TIME(a), 1997
(b) Children aged 0-14 years.
(c) Children of any age (i.e. couple only families).
Source: Unpublished data, Time Use Survey, 1997