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A Vocabulary of Motives: Understanding How Parents Define Quality Time


Institute for Women’s Health Research, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 303 E Superior Street, Suite 5-129, Chicago, IL 60611 (


Although discussions of parenting refer to quality time, parents’ views of quality time have not been explored. Using the Sloan 500 Family Study, this article examines how 220 parents from 110 dual-parent families define the spending quality time with their families and finds 3 distinct views: Structured-planning parents saw it as planned family activities, child-centered parents emphasized heart-to-heart talks with their children, and time-intensive parents believed that all the time they spent with their families was quality time. Mothers and fathers both valued quality time, but, particularly when parents within a household disagreed, mothers more often described having a more active parenting role and assumed greater responsibility for quality time, reflecting a gendered division of parenting within the home.