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Published in: Maternal and Child Health Journal 1/2024

20-11-2023 | COVID-19

Parent-Child Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey

Published in: Maternal and Child Health Journal | Issue 1/2024

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine how the time parents spent with their children changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods

Using nationally representative time-diary data from the American Time Use Survey, parents’ time spent in and location of enriching (direct) and secondary (supervisory) childcare among a sample with at one child under 6 years (N = 2,862) and 6–12 years of age (N = 3,595) from May 2020 to December 2021 were compared to January 2019 to March 2020.

Results

Parents’ time in secondary childcare at home increased substantially. Parents with children under age 6 increased their enriching childcare time, driven by mothers. Low-income parents with children aged 6–12 showed a decrease in enriching time with children, whereas higher-income parents with school-age children showed an increase.

Conclusions for Practice

Parents’ time in supervisory childcare increased substantially, and gender and income disparities in enriching time spent engaged with children grew. Examining parent-child time use patterns is important to understand the pandemic’s effects and can provide insight on how best to support children and families during the recovery.
Appendix
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Footnotes
1
Respondents may be in both groups if they had children in each of these age categories.
 
2
This ATUS measure of secondary childcare has been found to be largely consistent with alternative measures of parental availability but not direct engagement (Stewart & Allard, 2015). Our two parent time use measures exclude parents’ time spent in physical care for children (e.g., feeding, bathing children). While this form of primary childcare constitutes a substantial amount of time spent with young children, these activities are likely to have changed less during the pandemic relative to prior; we focused on changes in parents’ primary childcare in enriching time and secondary childcare time as a proxy for how children’s time directly engaged with adults may have shifted during the pandemic.
 
3
Based on categories used in prior research using the ATUS examining the effects of minimum wage policies (see Morrissey, 2023, Review of Economics of the Household: https://link.springer.com/article/https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11150-022-09638-2).
 
4
In additional analyses (results available upon request), we controlled for state-level data on monthly COVID-19 case rates and deaths to control for the severity of the pandemic; findings were substantively unchanged.
 
Literature
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Metadata
Title
Parent-Child Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey
Publication date
20-11-2023
Keyword
COVID-19
Published in
Maternal and Child Health Journal / Issue 1/2024
Print ISSN: 1092-7875
Electronic ISSN: 1573-6628
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-023-03777-3

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