Aug. 7, 2008 -- Children in nontraditional two-parent families -- such as
stepfamilies or when the biological mother is living with a boyfriend -- get
roughly the same amount of parental involvement as children living with both
biological parents in a so-called traditional family, according to research
presented at a recent meeting of the American Sociological Association.
This finding bodes well for the many children in the United States living in
nontraditional families, according to study author Hiromi Ono, PhD, who cites
previous research that links low parental involvement to behavior problems in
children. Ono is associate professor of sociology at Washington State
“Children have no control over their family situation, so it’s encouraging
to find that the amount of quality time that they have with their parents is
largely unaffected by their family arrangement,” Ono, an associate professor of
sociology at Washington State University, said in a written statement.
Children have the same amount of time with their biological mothers,
regardless of the type of father figure in the household, according to the
study. Children spend about five hours more per week with their mothers than
with the male parental figure, whether he is the biological father or not. The
study included about 1,500 children aged 6-12 (average age 9) living with their
biological mothers, who were either married or cohabiting.
Ono, who does not look at single parents in the study, reports no
significant difference in time spent with remarried biological fathers,
cohabiting biological fathers, or cohabiting stepfathers compared to
first-married biological fathers. There was some variation among other father
figure types. A remarried stepfather tends to spend less time with the child
than a first-married biological father. However, when the mother is living with
a partner but not married to him, that man spends the same amount of time with
the children as the biological father in a traditional family.
Ono analyzed households with children between 6 and 12 years old living with
their biological mothers. The study uses children’s time diary data from the
Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1997 to
2003. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics is a nationally representative study
of economic, social, and demographic factors among nearly 8,000 families in the