It may be uncool to admit it, but more than half of New Zealand teenagers want to spend more time with their parents.

It may be uncool to admit it, but more than half of New Zealand teenagers want to spend more time with their parents.

Details of a survey of almost 10,000 students at 96 secondary schools show that 54 percent of students “sometimes” or “hardly ever” get enough time with their mothers.

And 61 percent, sometimes or hardly ever get enough time with their dads.

Auckland University researcher Simon Denny, who led the project, said the results shattered the myth that teenagers hate their parents.

“This is big stuff, much bigger than it sounds,” he said. “Having a close relationship with a parent is one of the most important predictors of good health and wellbeing for young people.”

The survey found that only 73 percent of students in 2007 lived in their main home with two “parents”, including step-parents.

A further 22 percent lived with one parent, 3 percent with grandparents or other relatives and two percent in foster care or independent flats.

Twenty-nine percent of students said they lived in more than one home, usually spending part of the time with each parent. Ninety percent lived with their mothers in their main homes, 76 percent with their fathers and 8 percent also with a parent's partner or step-parent.

The majority of students reported happy family lives. Asked “How do your family members get along?” 81 percent said well or very well. Asked about their own relationships with their families, 71 percent said they were “happy about how we get on” - up from the 59 percent in a previous survey in 2001.

Ninety percent said at least one parent cared about them a lot, barely changed from 92.5 percent in 2001. But the proportion saying they got enough time with at least one parent “most of the time” fell from 62 percent to 56.5 percent. Among the others, 62 percent said they did not get enough time with their mothers because they were at work, and 72 percent gave the same answer for their fathers.

“What we see is that from 2001 to 2007 was a period of relative economic good times when both the parents might be working more,” Dr Denny said. “That means there is more money in the family, so overall the family relationships are good. “But if parents are prioritising their work over their teenagers, I'd get concerned. [Australian author] Steve Biddulph says you can't be a good father if you're working more than 50 hours a week. I think that's a reasonable guide.”

Other reasons given for not getting enough time with mothers were that they were busy with housework and other children (51 percent), just “out” (19 percent) or that mom “chooses not to spend time with me” (seven percent). A further 25 percent said, “I choose not to spend time with her,” and 13 percent said, “I don't live with her.”

For fathers, 25 percent said he was just “out”, 23 percent said he was busy with housework or other children and 12 percent said he “chooses not to spend time with me”. Only 22 percent said, “I choose not to spend time with him,” but 26 percent said, “I don't live with him.” -

The New Zealand Herald