Parents who share caregiving for their preschool children may experience more conflict than those in which the mother is the primary caregiver, according to a new study.
Results showed that couples had a stronger, more supportive co-parenting relationship when the father spent more time playing with their child. But when the father participated more in caregiving, like preparing meals for the child or giving baths, the couples were more likely to display less supportive and more undermining co-parenting behavior toward each other.
The results were surprising, and may be disappointing for people who believe mothers and fathers should share equally in the caregiving for their children, said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
But, she said, it shows that there is not just one way to share parenting duties.
“I don’t think this means that for every family, a father being involved in caregiving is a bad thing. But it is not the recipe for all couples,” Schoppe-Sullivan said.
“You can certainly have a solid co-parenting relationship without sharing caregiving responsibilities equally.”
Schoppe-Sullivan conducted the study with Rongfang Jia, a graduate student at Ohio State. The study appears in the January 2011 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.