Does Dad Matter?

Adolescents benefit from time with parents even if they do not say so

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The transition from childhood to adolescence can be a bumpy one. It is a time where peers become much more important, and parents less so. At least, that’s how parents feel.

But, do teens really spend less time with their parents? And does it matter?

According to a recent study from Penn State University, spending time with fathers can make a big difference for a growing adolescent.

"Spend time with your children."

Susan McHale, PhD and Director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State looked at the changes that occur for 8 to 18 year olds in regards to time spent with their parents to see if these changes had any impact on the child’s development.

The study compared the amount of time children spent with their parents in the presence of others, and time children spent with their parents one-on-one.

The researchers mailed out letters to parents of 4th and 5th graders within 16 school districts, those interested in participating in the study volunteered.

Mothers, fathers, first-born and second-born children from 188 White middle- and working-class families participated in both home and phone interviews for this study. Two children in each family were selected so the researchers could compare any differences in results.

Both the parents and the children answered interview questions at five different points in time.

The study found that over time, the children spent less time with their parents in social situations, but more time with parents in one-on-one situations.

While adolescents worked to gain independence from the family group, they still tried to maintain the personal connections with each parent.

The study showed that children who spent more one-on-one time with their fathers, on average, had a stronger sense of self-worth. Children who spent more social time with their fathers present also had better social skills.

According to the researchers, time with fathers resulted in psychological and social benefits for their children.

This study was published in August in Child Development and was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 27, 2012
Last Updated:
August 29, 2012