Dads do four times more childcare than 60 years ago - but it's still not as much as mums!

They might be doing more, but mums do the most by far

Dad sat on the floor playing with his child
(Image credit: Johner Images/Getty)

A study has shown British fathers spend 'four times longer' caring for their children than they did 60 years ago, but mothers maintain the lion's share of the work.

Despite research suggesting that children can excel in the classroom with the right input from their father, and a step towards paternity pay and increased leave opportunities to encourage shared parental responsibilities, dads still aren't quite taking on their share of parenting duties. 

A recent study based on national surveys of almost 4,600 people, conducted between 1961 and 2015, analysed the childcare involvement of fathers with children under 12. 

The findings concluded that dads in the 1960s only parented for 18 minutes per day, and although this has now risen to four times that amount, it's still mothers who take on the majority of the mental load. Originally published in the Journal of Time Use Research, the study found that by 2015, dads were averaging around one hour and 11 minutes of caring for their children in a day. 

However, this is still less than half the time mothers were putting into attending to parental duties, which amounted to an average of two hours and 42 minutes a day in the same year. The most significant rise in time both parents spent on caring for children came between 1974 and 1983.

Father shopping in supermarket with his two sons

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The act of childcare was defined in the study as feeding and keeping children clean, along with participating in their development through teaching and reading with them. 

Dr Giacomo Vagni from the University of Essex conducted the study, and was reported in the MailOnline saying, "In recent decades we have seen the rise of 'professional parenting', where parents listen to podcasts, read books and draw up strategies on how to bring their children up best."

He added, "Most of this parenting information is aimed at mothers, so this is why women are still spending so much more time than fathers on childcare. But it means fathers are lagging behind in terms of care responsibilities, including important developmental childcare like reading to children, teaching them things and playing with them."

Dad and two kids laughing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The increase in time both parents spent looking after their offspring between 1974 and 1983 is thought to be due to the economy at the time - families sought strategies to give their children the best chance in getting ahead, in the midst of economic uncertainty and competition for jobs.

The study also found women with a degree spend around 20 minutes more per day on childcare than those without one. It is suspected this is due to a possible increased awareness in social status and the push for their children to attend university and gain a professional job. 

The study concluded that modern mums are more likely to prioritise childcare over cleaning, with time spent on housework time falling as time spent nurturing children rose. 

Overall, mothers have increased parenting time by 68 per cent since 1961, with an average of 44 minutes per day dedicated to their child's development. Meanwhile, modern dads are spending 26 minutes a day performing the same duty.

In the run up to the festive season, we spoke to an expert about how to carve out some alone time this Christmas, which can be difficult. Fore more on parenting, one mum shares her regrets about trying gentle parenting, while a Norland Nanny has shared top tips for common parenting dilemmas with us.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.