Father's Day is a once-a-year celebration of the bond between Dad and his kids, but cementing that bond takes a year-round commitment.
A new study suggests the type of involvement -- caregiving vs. play -- and the timing -- workday vs. weekend -- make a difference. University of Georgia researchers found that dads who take time off work to be with their kids strengthen the bond between them.
While fathers who play with their kids on days off do build strong relationships, those who spend time caring for them during the workweek appear to develop the best ones, according to study author Geoffrey Brown, an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at the University of Georgia.
"The most important thing on a workday, from the perspective of building a good relationship with your children, seems to be helping to take care of them," Brown said in a university news release. Oddly, men who play more [and do less caregiving] with their kids on workdays actually have a less secure attachment relationship with them, the researchers reported. It's complicated, Brown said.
Still, he added, the best predictor of a good father-child relationship is pursuing activities that are fun for the child on Dad's days off.
Kids form an emotional attachment with their caregivers, and it serves a purpose by keeping them safe, offering comfort and security and examples of how good relationships work, Brown said.
For this study, Brown and colleagues spent time with 80 fathers when their kids were about 3 years old. The investigators conducted interviews and observed interactions in the home.
"We're trying to understand the connection between work life and family life and how fathers construct their role," Brown said. "Relying too much on play during workdays, when your child/partner needs you to help out with caregiving, could be problematic. But play seems more important when there's more time and less pressure."
The report was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
More information The American Psychological Association offers more parenting tips.
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