Are parents really spending more time with their kids, as a new study concludes?

The University of Michigan report claims parents today are spending more time with children than they did two decades ago. But, the statistics may be purely political.

According to research diaries kept by children in 1981 and 1997, the time parents spent with them increased by about six hours a week. The researchers claim that even though more moms are in the workforce, many parents are doing better than an earlier

Yet some child development experts question the researchers’ methods and the conclusions. “I’m concerned that the criteria the researchers used (were) too
broad,” said Dr. Brenda Hunter, a developmental psychologist and the author of the book, Home by Choice.

In addition to physical presence, children also need the “emotional availability” of parents, she said.

“The researchers counted as ‘time together’ if the parent was in the bleachers and the kid was on the playing field of soccer . . . or even in the car,” Hunter said.

In addition, Susan DeRitis, with the group Mothers at Home, pointed out that the report also showed that the number of hours stay-at-home moms spent with kids increased more than that of working moms.

“What happens is through the media, (the researchers) put their own personal spin on what they’d like to project to the public,” DeRitis said.

Dr. Maggie Gallagher, with the Institute for American Values, said that, unfortunately, we are not seeing a more important statistic turning around — that of intact two-parent families.

“I think the single most important indicator of child and family well-being is the proportion of children growing up with their own two married parents — especially in reasonably decent marriages,” Gallagher said.

Hunter and Gallagher also questioned why researchers used 1981 as the base year for their study, since it is not regarded as a high point of family life.

The study showed that today’s working parents might be carving extra time for children out of personal time, increasing stress levels. Interestingly, the study comes on the heels of another that correlates hours in day care with aggressive behavior.