Highly educated mothers spend more time in active child care than less-educated mothers

Child/Adolescent Health

Spending quality time with children is critical to their proper development and maturing, especially during the early infant and toddler years. Highly educated mothers invest more time than less-educated mothers in basic child care and play during the infant and toddler years, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed four categories of active parenting in the study: basic care, play, teaching, and management (planning, organizing, and monitoring the child’s life outside the home). 

Using data from the 2003–2007 American Time Use Surveys, the researchers compared these activities among 6,640 mothers across different child age periods. Among the mothers studied, 31 percent had a 4-year college degree while 28 percent had a high school diploma. Another 12 percent had less than a high school education or a GED.

More highly educated mothers spent more time in all four parenting categories compared to less-educated mothers. College-educated mothers spent 67 more minutes in total care time with their children aged 0 to 2 compared to mothers with only a high school diploma. For children aged 3 to 5, the total care time increase was 21 more minutes and 22 minutes more for children aged 6 to 13. College-educated mothers spent 42 percent more time in basic care and 94 percent more time in play compared to mothers with a high school education. Highly educated mothers also invested 130 percent more time in management activities when their children were 6 to 13 years of age compared to mothers with a high school education. The study was supported in part by AHRQ (T32 HS00084).

See "Diverging destinies: maternal education and the developmental gradient in time with children," by Ariel Kalil, Ph.D., Rebecca Ryan, Ph.D., and Michael Corey, Ph.D., in Demography 49, pp. 1361-1383, 2012.

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Page last reviewed September 2013
Internet Citation: Highly educated mothers spend more time in active child care than less-educated mothers: Child/Adolescent Health. September 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/13sep/0913RA28.html