Reassessing Parents' Leisure Quality With Direct Measures of Well-Being: Do Children Detract From Parents' Down Time?

Sarah Flood, Ann Meier, Kelly Musick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective if this study was to directly assess the contamination and fragmentation of parents' leisure quality with direct measures of experienced well-being. Background: Parents report less leisure than those without children, and the nature of their leisure differs in ways that are assumed to reflect lower quality—contaminated by the presence of children or fragmented by care work or other demands. Previous research on this question has not been able to assess leisure quality directly. Method: Using the 2010, 2012, and 2013 American Time Use Survey's Well-Being Module (N = 5,433 parents; N = 7,066 activities) and random intercept models to account for multilevel data, the authors investigated mothers' and fathers' reports of well-being across multiple dimensions in leisure activities and directly assessed their experiences in leisure activities (a) with children present or (b) interrupted by care work or other demands. Results: Contrary to expectations from prior work, there was no evidence that leisure was of lower quality with children, and leisure interruptions had little bearing on parents' well-being. Well-being was especially high in “family time” with both children and other adults. Conclusion: Leisure time with children, considered of lower quality in prior accounts, was not experienced more negatively by parents. These findings suggest a reconsideration of how we think about and measure the quality of leisure time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1326-1339
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier versions of this work were presented at the 2018 International Sociological Association, Research Committee on Family (RC06) and Research Committee on Population (RC41) Joint Conference “Changing Demography, Changing Families” in Singapore, in the Seminar Series at Motu: Economic and Public Policy Research in Wellington, NZ, and at the 2019 International Association for Time Use Research in Washington, D.C. We thank conference and seminar participants for useful suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023) and the American Time Use Survey Data Extract Builder project (R01HD053654) funded through grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.


  • gender
  • leisure
  • parenting
  • well-being


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