Single Mothers Devote Less Time to Childcare
Special Report - December 8, 2008
Single mothers spend less time with their children than married mothers, mainly because they tend to work more outside the home and have less education than married mothers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland. The study, entitled “Single, Cohabiting, and Married Mother’s Time With Children,” is published in the December issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. The study analyzed data from the 2003 and 2004 American Time Use Survey in order to measure the relationship between the amount of time mothers spend with children and family structure. Researchers compared 4,309 married mothers with children under age 13 with 1,821 single mothers with children under age 13. The study found that single mothers generally spend significantly less time in “total child care,” “routine care” (such as medical care, physical care, and travel) and “interactive care” (such as teaching and playing with children) than married mothers. More specifically, married mothers in the study spent 7.2 hours of total time with their children per day, compared to 6.5 hours per day by single mothers. Overall, the study found that “single mothers spend almost three fewer hours per week in direct care of their children and almost five fewer hours per week in the presence of their children than married mothers.”
The authors of the study note that the differences in the amount of time single mothers and married mothers spend with their children is “mainly attributable to the disadvantaged social structural location of single mothers, rather than proclivities toward mothering between married and single mothers.” For example, most single mothers must work outside the home to support their children and do not have the ability to work part-time. In addition, the authors point out single mothers tend to have less education than married mothers, and that college-educated mothers tend to spend more time with their children than mothers who are not college-educated. The study also found “sizable differences in time with children by maternal employment: Those working full-time spend much less time with their children than those who are not employed.”
The study also found cohabiting mothers “do not differ significantly [from married mothers] in the amount or type of time they spend with their children.” Although cohabiting mothers tend to be less educated than married mothers and have lower incomes, the study notes that “they also have younger children who increase time demands” and partners to help out.
“This study shows the powerful impact that family structure has on the amount of time mothers and fathers are able to spend in the overall care of their children,” said Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “It is yet another confirmation of the many benefits of healthy marriages for both children and their parents.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.