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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

October 18, 2006

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

Parents 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 lives.

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 level.”

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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