Byline: by Kay Smith and Graham Grant
FOR many babies, 'dadda' is one of their earliest words. Yet despite that early recognition of their father (perhaps because dad is easier to pronounce than mum), many children grow up seeing a lot more of their mother.
The pressures of working life mean fathers' contact with their offspring might amount to only a few snatched minutes before bedtime.
Although most mothers now also work, they spend more time with their children, often because they are working part-time.
The disturbing conclusion that childrearing is often left to mothers emerged in new research which has prompted calls for men to become more involved in family life. The study, by Dr Killian Mullan of the University of New South Wales, involved 1,260 eight to 18-year-olds in the UK - 156 of whom lived in Scotland.
It found that those aged eight to 13 spent an average of 40 minutes a day on 'achievement-related activities' such as reading, homework or artistic and creative pursuits - 12 minutes of which was spent alone with mothers but only three minutes alone with fathers.
Fourteen-to-18 year olds generally spent more time on achievementrelated activities in the home. But out of an average of 61 minutes a day, only 13 minutes was spent alone with their mothers and only seven minutes with fathers.
According to the Office for National Statistics, average working hours for UK married mothers have more than doubled since 1974 while those for married men have remained relatively static.
Around 70 per cent of married mothers worked last year - while the equivalent figure for fathers is 88 per cent.
Dr Mullan said: 'Overall, children are getting less intensive one-toone engagement with a parent on attainment-related activities when their mother works full-time. The father is just not making up the difference of the time lost.' Adrienne Burgess, head of research at the Fatherhood Institute, said more had to be done to increase fathers' participation in their children's development.