Maybe Sharing Isn't Always a Good Idea

Parents who share cargiving responsibilities may be less supportive of one another

(RxWiki News) A new study has found that parents who share the responsibilities of caregiving for their young children may find themselves more at odds with one another than those couples in which the mother is the primary caregiver.

Despite the fact that fathers are becoming increasingly more involved in child rearing, mothers still do the lion's share of childcare. This is likely because many mothers still feel they are responsible for the care of their child.

Researchers Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, and graduate student Rongfang Jia studied a group of 112 couples, each with a 4-year-old child. Parents were given questionnaires asking how frequently each of them were involved in play activities (e.g. shoulder rides) versus caregiving activities (e.g. bathing or feeding) with their children. The researchers then observed the parents as they helped their preschool children complete tasks. Researchers looked for signs of supportive or non-supportive co-parenting. This observed activity was repeated one year later.

The findings, which are published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, show that when fathers reported playing more with their child at the beginning of the study, couples were more supportive of one another. On the other hand, couples were less supportive of one another a year later when fathers became more involved in caregiving tasks.

These results might be disappointing for those support sharing equal parenting responsibilities, said Schoppe-Sullivan. However, it just goes to show that there is no single definitive way to raise a child. She adds that successful co-parenting does not necessarily mean that parents equally share caregiving responsibilities.

Review Date: 
January 26, 2011