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Dads Who Bond With Kids Help Keep Marriage Strong

Sharing housework also key, study found, as is open communication with spouse

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Barbara Bronson Gray

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- For dads aiming at marital bliss, a new study suggests just two factors are especially important: being engaged with the kids, for sure -- but also doing a fair share of the household chores.

In other words, just taking the children outside for a game of catch won't cut it.

"In our study, the wives thought father involvement with the kids and participation in household work are all inter-related and worked together to improve marital quality," said Adam Galovan, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Missouri, in Columbia. "They think being a good father involves more than just doing things involved in the care of children."

Galovan found that wives feel more cared for when husbands are involved with their children, yet helping out with the day-to-day responsibilities of running the household also matters.

But Galovan was surprised to find that how husbands and wives specifically divide the work doesn't seem to matter much. Husbands and wives are happier when they share parenting and household responsibilities, but the chores don't have to be divided equally, according to the study. What matters is that both parents are actively participating in both chores and child-rearing.

Doing household chores and being engaged with the children seem to be important ways for husbands to connect with their wives, and that connection is related to better relationships, Galovan explained.

The research was recently published in the Journal of Family Issues.

For the study, the researchers tapped data from a 2005 study that pulled marriage licenses of couples married for less than one year from the Utah Department of Health. Researchers looked at every third or fourth marriage license over a six-month period.

From that data, Galovan surveyed 160 couples between 21 and 55 years old who were in a first marriage. The majority of participants -- 73 percent -- were between 25 and 30 years old. Almost 97 percent were white. Of participants, 98 percent of the husbands and 16 percent of the wives reported they were employed full time, while 24 percent worked part time. The average couple had been married for about five years, and the average income of the participants was between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

Couples indicated which spouse was generally responsible for completing 20 common household tasks -- or if both or neither of them were responsible. Fathers rated their involvement in their children's lives and mothers noted how involved they felt their husbands were with the kids. Both spouses rated how happy they were with how they divided household tasks and with their marriage.

Men and women differed in how they reported marital quality. For wives, the father-child relationship and father involvement was most important, followed by satisfaction with how the household work was accomplished.

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