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Source: University of Guelph

Intimacy New Norm in Parent-Child Relationships, Say U of G Researchers

October 18, 2006

have shed their thick disciplinarian skin from 50 years ago and have begun
getting fun, pleasure and companionship out of their children on a regular
basis, University of Guelph researchers have found.

"The idea of intimacy and companionship is a neglected part of the research
on parent-child relationships," said family relations professor Leon
Kuczynski, who’s been studying the topic for three decades. "Parents have
always been thought of as the givers. They give social support, food,
guidance and a lot more. Now we’re seeing a shift where parents are getting
fulfillment out of the relationships with their children."

Love and intimacy are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same
things, said Kuczynski. "When we interview children who have a more formal
relationship where they’re brought up to obey their parents, they make it
clear they love their parents, but say they wish they had more open
communication with them."

Although parent-child intimacy seems to be most prevalent in North America,
it has become a worldwide phenomenon, he said. "As cultures become more
modernized, the number of offspring decreases and parents say their reasons
for having children are emotional rather than economical."

Kuczynski and master’s student Amy Oliphant have found that parents place
great value on intimate moments they have with their children, such as
sharing a laugh or a moment of silliness or conversing about their daily

Oliphant interviewed 50 mothers and fathers of children aged seven to 11
throughout southern Ontario.

"Establishing a sense of intimacy is built upon all the intimate moments
that children and parents might have together," said Oliphant. "It’s really
about creating moments where parents and children share the same
psychological space."

Even though it’s been well-documented that, overall, mothers have more
intimate relationships with their children than fathers do, Oliphant’s study
found that mothers and fathers value intimate interactions with their
children equally and have similar experiences of closeness and enjoyment
during these times.

The good news for parents wishing to nurture or establish intimate moments
with their children is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort, resources or
money, she said.

"Intimate moments can occur on a regular basis during daily routines such as
waking, meals and bedtime, and also on occasions set aside for one-on-one
time." Parents don’t need to buy their children presents or take them on big
vacations to have a close relationship with them, although they do need to
make time to be available for their children, she added.

"It also requires parents to let down their guard and get to the child’s

Kuczynski admits that this research has not been without controversy. "Some
cultural groups say this type of parent-child relationship is inappropriate
because they believe it undermines the traditional authority of a parent."

The researchers point out that parents who establish intimate moments with
their children don’t throw out all the other roles they have. "They’re still
an authority and a teacher," said Oliphant. "This is just one more part of
the relationship with their children."

Leon Kuczynski
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
519-824-4120, Ext. 52421, or

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona
Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.



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