Researchers have found that fathers who spend lots of time helping out with childcare-related tasks on holidays develop stronger relationships with their kids.
The study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, reveals that both types of involvement — caregiving versus play — and the timing — workday versus non-workday — have an impact on the quality of the early father-child relationship.
"Fathers who make the choice to devote their time on non-workdays to engaging with their children directly seem to be developing the best relationships," said Geoffrey Brown, Assistant Professor in the University of Georgia in the US.
"And on those non-workdays, pursuing activities that are child-centered, or fun for the child, seems to be the best predictor of a good father-child relationship," Brown said.
For this study, the research team worked with 80 father-child pairs when the children were about 3 years old and conducted interviews and observed father-child interaction in the home, shooting video that was evaluated off-site and assigned a score indicating attachment security.
The researchers found that fathers who choose to spend time with their children on non-workdays are developing a stronger relationship with them.
However, fathers who spend lots of time helping out with childcare-related tasks on workdays are developing the best relationships with their children.
Men who engage in high levels of play with their children on workdays actually have a slightly less secure attachment relationship with them, said the study.
According to the researchers, in early childhood, the most common way to conceptualise the parent-child relationship is the attachment relationship.
Children form an emotional bond with their caregivers, and it serves a purpose by keeping them safe, providing comfort and security, and modelling how relationships should work.
"Ultimately, fathers who engage in a variety of parenting behaviours and adjust their parenting to suit the demands and circumstances of each individual day are probably most likely to develop secure relationships with their children," said Brown.