The survey of children and adults was undertaken for the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Edinburgh University. Lady Milligan one of the project team, told a conference to launch the report that the media "instead of showing men behaving badly" should portray fathers as active parents.
Groups of Edinburgh children and adults were questioned about fathers. The children did not distinguish greatly between what fathers and mothers could offer. They appreciated the activity of their father around the house and commented disapprovingly on a tendency to "laziness". One child said: "Daddy sleeps on Saturday. Gets up to eat, then sleeps again".
Lady Milligan said: "Adults focused on lots of cuddles much more than the children." Fathers themselves showed a lack of confidence in how best to relate to their children.
The project team calls for a minister for children's issues in Scotland to ensure that all legislation takes into account of the implications for youngsters.
There is also a warning to the Government over its attempts to get as many adults as possible into jobs. "British fathers of young children work enormously long hours," the report states. Emphasis on work, though "laudable", is "not always good for family relationships, and children appreciate their father's time and involvement as well as material provision."
"What do children need from their fathers?" by Cynthia Milligan and Alan Dowie is available from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, price pound;9.95.