VITAL EVIDENCE

Father Knows Best: Education Linked to Dads' Parenting Skills

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

They don't teach fathering skills in school, but education has a big influence on how dads interact with their kids, according to a new government survey.

"Fathers who have higher levels of education are more involved in their children's daily lives," said Gladys M. Martinez of the National Center for Health Statistics, which conducted the survey released yesterday.

Remarkably, the survey marks the first time the government has questioned men about issues related to family life. It involved about 4,900 men age 15 to 44 nationwide who were interviewed in 2002 and 2003.

Based on the findings, researchers estimated that about 28 million American men have children under the age of 19, and that about 75 percent live with their kids.

Of fathers who live with their children under age 5, more than 80 percent say they played with them every day in the past month. Those with more education tend to interact the most, the survey found. Among those who had attended college, about 87 percent said they played with their children daily, compared with about 76 percent of those who had a high school diploma or less.

Similarly, about 65 percent of more educated fathers say they routinely bathe or dress their children, compared with 42 percent of those less educated.

About 32 percent of more educated men read to their kids daily, compared with about 20 percent of less educated men. About 79 percent of the more educated fathers regularly eat meals with their children, as opposed to 70 percent of those with less education.

Education also makes a dramatic difference in a man's likelihood of fathering a child outside of marriage. Nearly half of those without a high school education have done so, compared with about 6 percent of college graduates.

-- Rob Stein


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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