Physical Activity Key To Happy Families

  • Ireland scores 65.3 (out of 100) in the first national Family Togetherness Inde
  • Very active families experience 48% stronger family togetherness than inactive families
  • Four in ten parents (40%) are dissatisfied with their family work/life balance
  • Mums spend 29% more time with their children, however, Dads rate the time they spend with their children 25% higher in terms of quality
  • Working parents experience similar share of quality time with children in comparison to stay at home parents.

The first Family Togetherness Index for Ireland has a score of 65.3 out of a possible 100. That’s according to new research issued today by Center Parcs Ireland in collaboration with Child Psychotherapist, Dr. Colman Noctor. Center Parcs Ireland, which will open the doors to its luxury forest resort in Longford in 2019, developed the Family Togetherness Index to chart and understand what brings Irish parents and their children together and makes them happy.

The nationally representative study, which was carried out among parents of children aged 16 and under, found that there is a direct correlation between the happiness a family unit feels and the level of family togetherness they experience. Satisfaction with quality of time spent with their children, satisfaction with physical activities they participate in as a family, frequency of moments of closeness and work/life balance were the key factors that contributed to the overall Index score.

17% of parents in Ireland felt ‘extremely happy’ over the past six months as a family unit while 50% felt ‘happy’.

Commenting on the research findings, Dr. Colman Noctor said: “The research shows a direct correlation between how happy a family is and the amount of quality time they spend together. Irish families seem to be doing well when it comes to family togetherness, but with the pressures of contemporary life and the challenges it presents, they feel that they can do better. The good news, particularly for working parents, is this is relatively easy to address as an abundance of time is not what’s required, it’s merely quality time or time well spent.”

Physical Activity Is The Key To Happy Families

According to the research, 67% of families are physically active together with 10% of those claiming to be very active. The Index shows that physical activity is a key contributor to family togetherness and thus happiness with very active families enjoying 48% stronger family togetherness than inactive families. Despite the high proportion of families participating in physical activities together, 56% of parents would like to be doing more.

Dr. Colman Noctor noted; “The research strongly suggests that collective physical activities as a family create moments for shared experiences, which in turn positively contribute to togetherness.”

One in three families in Ireland described themselves as inactive as a family. The Index found that these families enjoyed a far lower level of family togetherness or happiness as a result.

It’s the simple physical activities that families enjoy most together – walking the dog emerged as the top activity that families enjoy, followed by going to a beach and swimming together as a family.

Quality Vs Quantity Family Time

More than half of the time that parents in Ireland spend with their children is considered quality time, however, their satisfaction levels with the amount of time clearly indicates that they would like more quality time with their children, particularly during the work week. Over half (51%) of those surveyed revealed that they are less than satisfied with the amount of quality time they have with their children during the week and one in five admit that they are dissatisfied.

It seems that the cult of busyness is a stumbling block for many looking to achieve family togetherness with 40% of parents saying they are less than satisfied with their family’s work/life balance. When asked what the biggest challenge they experience as a parent is, ‘a busy life schedule’ was cited as the top challenge. Despite the difference in time spent with children, working parents experience a similar amount of quality time with their children as stay at home parents, proving the struggle to balance time exists for all parents.

Commenting on the findings, Colman Noctor said: “Both the parents and children who were involved in this study referred to the busy nature of their lives impacting negatively on family togetherness but the results show that the quality of time spent with our children far outweighs the quantity. Whether it’s the drive to school or a family meal, everyone can find pockets of time to build closeness.”

When it comes to mums and dads in Ireland, overall, mums spend more time with their children (29%), however, dads rate the time they spend with their children 25% higher in terms of quality.  Interestingly, over half of parents (51%) believe that they spend more quality time with their children than they received when they were young, with 28% of those spending significantly more quality time with their children today.

The Simple Things

More than 70% of parents in Ireland frequently experience moments of true closeness with their children. Irish mums have these moments 13% more often than dads and it’s the everyday conversations like ‘what do you enjoy?’ and ‘how was your day?’ that connect parents with their children on a closer level. However, almost 30% of parents believe they could do with having moments of connectedness more frequently. Dr. Colman Noctor said; “Closeness is achieved through mutual self-disclosures of matters that are deemed important to us. We need to get to know those aspects of each other in order to develop togetherness. The simplest way to achieve a greater sense of closeness is to speak to children about the things that matter to them – what their friends are chatting about, if they’re happy at school or if someone is bothering them online.”

The in-depth study from Center Parcs Ireland shows that it’s the simple things in life that bring families together and are key contributors to overall family togetherness and thus happiness. The family moments that provide real joy, according to parents and children alike, include family meals, movie nights in, the day the holidays start, chatting on the way to school and family get-togethers.

Martin Dalby, Center Parcs CEO, commented: “Family is at the very heart of everything we do at Center Parcs so it is great to see the degree to which Irish families value quality time together and to find out more about parents’ experiences and challenges. We look forward to bringing our version of family togetherness to Ireland in 2019 and facilitating time for families to achieve quality time together in the unique and beautiful surroundings of Longford Forest.”

Center Parcs Ireland will open in Longford Forest in summer 2019, offering a new, luxury destination for families to spend quality time together. For more information, visit


Research Background and Objectives

The study set out to develop an index to measure and track ‘family togetherness’. The intention was to get below the surface of what parents say on initial thinking about the concept and explore the various elements that actually contribute to ‘family togetherness’.  The concept was to combine these key factors into the final index score that would be nationally representative of the Island of Ireland and trackable over time.  In addition, we wished to ensure the index took account of the full gambit of issues facing parents today so as to better understand the complexity of parenthood.

Research Methodology

The survey was conducted with a representative sample of parents with children aged from 0-16 years across the Island of Ireland.

We set out to achieve a sample of 500 in ROI and 120 in NI. In the end, we conducted interviews with 636 parents across the country.  Both dads and mums were eligible.

Demographic quota controls (age and region) were used to ensure correct representativeness.  Regionally, the analysis is based on 5 regions which sets NI in its correct proportion within the total population of the IoI, alongside Dublin, Rest of Leinster, Munster and Connaught/Ulster.

Fieldwork was undertaken online using Behaviour & Attitudes Acumen panel in ROI and the Research Now panel for NI. Fieldwork on the project took place between the 12th and 22nd of December, 2017


About Center Parcs

Center Parcs Ireland is set to open its doors in summer 2019 and will offer weekend, (Friday to Monday) and midweek (Monday to Friday) family breaks in the unique setting of Longford Forest.

The Center Parcs concept is to provide a range of high quality accommodation, shops, restaurants and exceptional leisure facilities, carefully nestled amongst 400 acres of protected forest environment.

The Longford Forest resort will include 466 luxury lodges and 30 stylish apartments which will accommodate up to 2,500 guests in a safe, peaceful, and car-free environment. Guests will be able to enjoy more than 100 family activities – both indoors and out – a range of restaurants and shops, and our famous Subtropical Swimming Paradise, which will be Ireland’s biggest water park.

Center Parcs currently has five villages across the UK; Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire and as the leader in the UK short break holiday market, welcomes more than 2.2 million guests each year, with 96% of guests expressing an intention to return.


About Colman Noctor

Colman Noctor is a Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist. He has worked across a range of Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services both in Ireland and abroad and he has a wealth of national and international clinical experience.

Having completing a Post Graduate Higher Diploma in Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Dublin City University Colman completed a Graduate Diploma in Psychoanalytic Studies in Dublin Business School and a Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Trinity College Dublin. Colman has recently completed his Doctorate in Psychotherapy in Dublin City University.

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