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Parents are much more likely to say that time has gone ‘very fast’ than adults without children

Home-schooling time warp! Parents are much more likely to say that time has gone ‘very fast’ than adults without children, research finds

  • Research finds parents much more likely to say that time has gone ‘very fast’  
  • Age-old adage that ‘children grow up so fast’ may be based in scientific truth 
  • Time passing ‘fast’ could be due to parents seeing children change as they grow

Parents struggling with home-schooling during the pandemic may well be experiencing the passing of time at a different rate than those without children.  

New research has found that parents are much more likely to say that time has gone by ‘fast’ or ‘very fast’ compared to adults without children, when asked to look back at the past decade.   

Researchers in Germany and Switzerland say the age-old adage that warns parents to ‘cherish every moment’ as ‘children grow up so fast’ may be based in scientific fact and could be because children change more than adults.

Lead researcher Dr Marc Wittmann, at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany, said: ‘Over ten years, children go through dramatic changes not only in their physical appearance, but also in their cognitive abilities and their status.

New research has found that parents are much more likely to say that time has gone ‘fast’ or ‘very fast’ compared to adults without children

‘Experiencing such remarkable changes in a person we live with, while adults change minimally, might lead to the perception of accelerated time.’

It is also possible parents experience a child’s ‘magical and novel’ stages as ‘slowly evolving time intervals’.

But as routine takes over as a child grows up, this could lead to a ‘quickening effect in subjective lifetime’, the scientists added, though further study is needed.

Another explanation stems from parents dedicating a large chunk of their time to their children, leaving less for themselves and their own hobbies.

This feeling may leave parents feeling like time has flown, even though the scientists found no difference in the time pressures recorded by parents compared to non-parents in the study.

Parents also dedicate a large chunk of their time to their children, leaving less for themselves and their own hobbies

Parents also dedicate a large chunk of their time to their children, leaving less for themselves and their own hobbies

Dr Wittman added: ‘Lastly, having kids is considered by many as an important step in life, and reflecting on having crossed this threshold in one’s life could have an influence on autobiographical memory.’

For the study, the team asked 431 people aged between 20 and 59 to fill in a subjective questionnaire, to measure their time perceptions.

They were asked: ‘How fast did the last ten years pass for you?’ Answering ‘very slowly’ scored -2; ‘slowly’ was -1; ‘neither fast nor slow’ gave 0; ‘fast’ was 1 and ‘very fast’ was scored 2. The faster they felt time had passed, the higher the score.

Non-parents had an average score of 0.76 – considerably below ‘fast’, compared to the parents who averaged 1.22 – much quicker than ‘fast.’

The study, published in the journal Timing & Time Perception, found no differences between the groups when asked how quickly the last year, month and week had passed.

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