As a daycare teacher I felt like I spent all day everyday telling young kids to “share”. Sharing is an important skill for children to learn and one that takes repeated practice and reminders and time before young children begin to grasp the concept. Beyond practice and reminders, young children actually need time to develop a sense of theory of mind-the idea that other people have feelings/intentions/thoughts that are different from the child’s own. (Eventually I will post on Theory of Mind). Sharing is a tough lesson to learn and while most adults understand the concept, sharing can be hard for people of all ages.
Since this is a blog for parents, I thought that I would post about a study that was presented at SRCD about the importance of parents SHARING the responsibilities of parenting. Unfortunately, most research still focuses on the mom as the primary caregiver to the child but in general findings can be reversed and still be accurate for both parents.
Clearly marriage and relationships are never easy and when you add in children and the amount of love, time, and attention they need parental relationships can go down the tubes faster than you can imagine which can have negative effects on the kids. I’m not a marriage expert so I will quit there on the marriage talk. But, like everything in life, sharing the workload makes it easier-and that goes for child care at home as well! And when parents share the workload this can have positive impacts on the child.
A study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine examined the relationships between father’s involvement (with child care and household labor) with mother’s and infants’ behaviors. When fathers are more involved in household and childcare responsibilities, mothers tend to have higher leves of sensitivity when they interact with their infant. Infant behaviors seem to be influenced by parenting. When fathers are more involved their infants show more positive behaviors.
While this study is slightly more complicated, the take home message is that it is important for fathers (or whomever is non-primary caregiver for the child) to be involved in childcare and household responsibilities, both for the sake of the marriage and the young child’s development and behavior.
Books on sharing parenting responsibilities:
Parenting Together: Men and Women Sharing the Care of Their Children by Diane Ehrensaft
How to Avoid the Mommy Trap: A Roadmap for Sharing the Parenting and Making it Work By Julie Shield
Ly, A. R., Lucas-Thompson, R., Goldberg, W.A., Glynn, L. M., Sandman, C. A., & Davis, E. P. (March, 2011). When mommy feels daddy shares the care: Links between marital equality, maternal sensitivity, & infant behavior. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Child Development, Montreal, CA.