"Men who live with [their] kids interact with them more. Just the proximity makes it easier," said study author Jo Jones, a statistician and demographer with the U.S. National Centers for Health Statistics.
"But significant portions of fathers who are not coresidential play with their children, eat with them and more on a daily basis. There's a segment of non-coresidential dads who participate very actively," Jones said. "Then there are the coresidential dads who don't participate as much, although that's a much smaller percentage -- only 1 or 2 percent. Living with children doesn't necessarily mean a dad will be involved."
Jones said other studies have shown that a father's involvement helps children academically and behaviorally. "Children whose fathers are involved usually have better outcomes than children who don't have dads in their lives," she said.
The findings were published online Dec. 20 in a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study included a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 men between the ages of 15 and 44, about half of whom were fathers. The study included adopted, biological and stepchildren. The men were surveyed about their involvement with the children in their lives.
Seventy-three percent of the fathers lived with their children, while another 11 percent had children they lived with as well as some they didn't live with. Sixteen percent of the fathers had children they didn't live with at all, according to the study.
For children under the age of 5, 72 percent of dads living at home fed or ate meals with their child daily, compared to about 8 percent of dads who didn't live with their young children, the study found. More older fathers, Hispanic fathers and dads with a high school education or less reported not having eaten a meal with their children in the past four weeks.
Ninety percent of fathers living with their young children bathed, diapered or dressed them, compared to 31 percent of dads who lived apart from their children. Older dads, Hispanic fathers and those with a high school diploma or less again were less likely to have participated in these activities, according to the study.
Dads who lived with young kids were six times more likely to read to them.
Image: Father and child, via Shutterstock