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Hsin, Amy. 2009. "Parent's Time with Children: Does Time Matter for Children's Cognitive Achievement?" Social Indicator Research: Special Edition on Time Use, 93(1): 123-126.
The time parents spend with children is the central construct in theories of child development and human capital formation. According to human capital theory, the amount of time parents spend with children can be seen as crucial inputs in the production of child wellbeing (Becker 1981). Parent-child interactions create social capital, or the social interactions that facilitate the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and skills (Coleman 1988). Conversely, theories in developmental psychology contend that long periods of daily separation, particularly during early childhood, can be disruptive, leaving parents less sensitive and responsive to their children’s needs, thus leaving children less exposed to the stimulation necessary for their cognitive development (Vaughn et al. 1980; Belsky 2001).
More importantly, the literature points to key disparities in the quantity and type of parent child interactions—the verbal interactions and the type of activities performed together, for example—that suggests that children are socialized in ways that reinforce existing inequalities (Lareau 2003; Hoff 2003). These studies suggest that there may be important differences in how time is used and that these differences may contribute to socioeconomic disparities in child outcomes.
In spite of these studies, research that has sought to establish an empirical link between time with children and child outcomes is relatively limited. This article provides a brief review of the literature on parental time and child cognitive outcomes, relates recent, new findings by the author to this literature, and discusses how these findings may help guide future research.
Country of focus: United States.