SEP 24, 2023 6:12 PM PDT

10 Minutes of Father-Child Time Boosts Grades in Elementary School

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Children who spend 10 minutes per day with their fathers engaging in activities like reading have better educational outcomes in elementary school than those who spend less time with their fathers. The corresponding research was conducted by the University of Leeds in the UK and published as a report

Elementary school is a key window of child development. It marks a shift from the home to the school environment, and can shape educational pathways and future prospects in higher education and employment. Research shows that parental engagement in educational or structured activities such as reading and playing enhances primary school grades and cognitive skills. Until now, however, research has been limited on the particular impact fathers have on their children's development at this early stage. 

For the study, the researchers analyzed school test scores from 5-7-year-olds from almost 5,000 mother-father households in the UK. They found that more father-child time in the preschool and early elementary years is linked to higher educational attainment at this early stage. Such 'engagement' includes activities like telling stories (not from a book), drawing, reading, and playing sports with children. Interestingly, mother-child time in the same activities had a stronger impact on emotional and social behaviors than educational attainment. The findings remained regardless of children's gender, ethnicity, age, and household income. 

To explain the findings, the researchers noted that a father's input in children's learning and development may carry unique benefits, especially given that previous research shows that fathers engage with children differently than mothers. Adding to this, they noted that 'two heads are better than one', meaning that the involvement of both parents exposes children to more stimuli from which they can learn. 

To take action on these findings, the researchers recommend fathers carve out time to engage with their young children regularly. They noted that even 10 minutes per day could have a beneficial impact. They also recommended employers promote flexible working opportunities for fathers. Meanwhile, they advised the UK government to reserve a portion of parental leave specifically for fathers with an earnings replacement rate of at least 90%. 

Sources: University of Leeds, Science Daily


About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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