Children yearn for more time with dads

Family ties: Doubts cast on stereotypes about modern, caring fathers and their rebellious offspring
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The Independent Online
The idea of the New Dad is more myth than reality, it was claimed yesterday. A survey has shown fathers are remaining distant from their children, although their kids want more attention.

The report, which questioned 1,000 children between eight and 15, found that one in five could not recall sharing an activity with their fathers during the previous week.

But, said the survey commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, nearly 80 per cent wanted their dads to spend more time with them, 2 per cent more than wanted time with their mothers.

Most children were taking part in some family-based activity at least once a week, such as watching television as a family, or visited relatives. Only half said that they played with members of their family once a week, such as kicking around a football or playing board games.

But when they were asked about activities undertaken with specific members of the family, children reported doing far fewer things with their father. More than six out of 10 had done jobs around the house or garden with their mothers, compared with 37 per cent with their fathers.

Half did homework or reading with mums, with only 34 per cent turning to their dads. The only activity where dads scored more was in trips to the cinema or football matches. When it came to no activities at all, 19 per cent said they had done nothing with their fathers, more than twice the number which said that about their mothers.

Activities tended to follow traditional domestic lines, with girls helping mum in the home and boys going out with dad.

And children's perceptions of their parents' role fell along stereotypical lines too. A significant majority of children questioned thought their mum's place was in the kitchen while their dad's was in the garage, mending electrical items.

Children did not lack hugs and kisses from their parents, although girls were more likely to receive physical affection than boys. Mothers were approached more than fathers when advice was needed.

Of all eight to 11-year-olds surveyed, almost 90 per cent would confide in their mothers, while only 60 per cent would talk to their fathers.

And nearly three times as many 12- to 15-year-olds questioned would talk to their mothers rather than their fathers about health and puberty.

The family unit generally remained strong said the NSPCC with nearly three quarters of children living with both natural parents.

But for the 16 per cent who were in a single parent family, a third said that they never saw the absent parent, which in nine times out of 10 was their father.

Jim Harding, director of the charity, said: "This survey presents a reassuring picture of childhood, with most children enjoying close and loving relationships with both their parents.

"But even in the 1990s, some fathers appear to be remote figures. We cannot say whether this is a result of heavy workloads or other factors. But what is clear from the survey is that most of the children did want their dads to spend time with them."

Leading article, page 19

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