Parent-Child Time Beyond Childcare: Contact and Childcare Time in Canada over Three Decades


Parents’ time with children has increased over the past several decades, according to many scholars. Yet, research predominantly focuses on childcare activities, overlooking the majority of time that parents spend with children. Using time diaries from the 1986–2015 Canadian General Social Survey, we examine trends in the quantity and distribution of parents’ childcare time and total co-present time in the company of children, as well as the behavioral or compositional drivers of these trends. Co-present time with children increased sharply since the mid-1980s, by 1 hour per day for fathers and 1.5 hours for mothers. This rise was driven not only by childcare activities, but also parents’ time in housework and mothers’ time in leisure with children present. Decomposition analyses indicate that changes in parenting behavior primarily explain these increases in co-present time. This study expands knowledge on intensive parenting through a more comprehensive understanding of parents’ daily lives with children.

Canadian Review of Sociology
Dana Wray
Dana Wray
Ph.D. Candidate

I am a sociologist researching family, work, and social policy.