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father and son

One More Reason Time with Dad Matters

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Larry Forthun, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Suzanna Smith, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
This post is honor of National Bullying Prevention Month.

It’s a bad feeling for any parent: the sinking realization that your child has been teasing or even harming other children. No mom or dad wants to be the parent of a bully. Yet many are, given that more than a third of children in grades K through 8 report being bullied.

Bullying is awful for victims, but it harms bullies, too, often resulting in rejection by peers and teachers. In the long run, many bullies also more experience other problems, like juvenile delinquency, underage substance use, and poor school performance. Bullies who are also victimized by others (a surprisingly large group) are at especially high risk, with possible effects like depression and anxiety extending even into adulthood. The tendency to bully others has been linked to impulsiveness, low empathy, and poverty, but not all bullies fit into this pattern. Researchers are still trying to learn more.

A 2010 study in the journal Youth and Society looked at about 700 children between 10 and 14 in an effort to discover what other factors might drive bullying, and to see whether amount of time spent with parents might play a role. Mothers were interviewed about whether their child bullied people, had trouble getting along with others, or lacked remorse. The hours parents spent at work were also tallied, and children were asked whether they spent too much, too little, or enough time with their parents.

One factor that stood out in the results was that children who felt their fathers worked too many hours were more likely to bully. (Mothers’ work hours, interestingly, appeared not to play a role.) This was true whether the fathers were working regular full-time hours or overtime—what seemed to matter were the child’s feelings of not having enough time together.

The study authors suggest that dads schedule regular quality time with their children to strengthen the parent-child bond. This may help prevent the bullying behavior that none of us want our children to be victims of or take part in.

(Photo credit: Father and Son by Sam HowzitCC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

References:

Christie-Mizell, C. A., Keil, J. M., Laske, M. T., & Stewart, J. (2010). Bullying behavior, parents’ work hours and early adolescents’ perceptions of time spent with parents. Youth and Society. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0044118X10388261

Copeland, W.E., Wolke, D., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry. Advance online publication. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504.

Dad’s time with the kids may prevent bullying. (2011, February 22). Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-22/features/sc-fam-0222-bully-dad-20110222_1_behavior-dads-fathers

(Originally published in a slightly different form as: Church, C. (2011). Bullying related to lack of time with dad. [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL:  University of Florida.)