Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Do Your Kids See You Much? Finally, the World is Listening to the Research

From Po:

For the last year, Ashley and I have been trying to tell everyone something. I brought it up in all 300 media interviews for Why Do I Love These People? I restated it at every bookstore reading. In multiple blog posts, Ashley has referenced it. Each time, it raised eyebrows and provoked surprise. But, frustratingly, the idea never spread on its own. We hoped, (we begged!), for the truth to get some traction, but it felt like spitting in the wind.

Well, finally, that's changed. The New York Times has validated what we've been saying for a year.

It regards this: in our society, there is a deep insecurity that our kids are being shortchanged. Because both parents are working, kids must not be getting face-time with their parents like they used to. The math seems obvious - more time at work = less quality time with kids, right?

Last year, Ashley discovered an enormous amount of research that indicated this simply isn't true. She turned me on to it, and we've been trying to get the message across. Parents have been filling out time-diary journals for sociologists since 1915. These sociologists make a distinction between when the parents was merely supervising the children and when they are actually interacting with the children - playing a game together, cuddling on the couch, reading a book, etc. Kids used to be supervised by their mothers a ton, but didn't interact with them all that much. The kids were playing in another room, or in the yard. Children today actually get more direct-interaction time with their parents than in any decade that's been studied. The kids are all right.

How is this mathematically possible, if both parents are working? Well, parents seem to make time for their kids no matter what. They are also working more. The two categories we do less of, to afford this time, is clean the house and sleep. We do both a lot less than we did 50 years ago.

The most prominent researcher on this topic was Suzanne Bianchi at the University of Maryland. She is held in extremely high regard by her peers. We'd quoted Ms. Bianchi in our Mommy Wars essay in June for Time. Ashley attended the annual convention of sociologists in August, and many sociologists said to her, "Oh, Suzanne Bianchi was my mentor."

Ms. Bianchi has had a new book out for a few months, repeating what we'd been saying for the last year. We have been sorta shocked that she wasn't getting more attention for her research. It almost seemed like the belief that kids are being shortchanged is so darn pervasive that nobody believed the truth.

Well, today, that all changed. The New York Times discovered Ms. Bianchi's book, and her research, and wrote an excellent article about it. Already the article is #2 on the Most Emailed List at nytimes.com.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you have to register with the NY Times to be able to read the article by Suzanne Bianchi.

It is really interesting for me to read about if kids see their families much.

I presume that when we think about kids spending time with their families, we think about kids who live at home and go to school during the day.

In my mind, I am thinking of deaf kids who go away to live at the boarding school (often called state school for the deaf) from the time they are 4 or 5 years old. Now, they may get to see their families on the weekends. In earlier generations, they did not see their families until Christmastime and summertime. Unfortunately, these deaf kids are often the only deaf people in their families and some of the kids cannot communicate with their families since the families do not know sign language. If the deaf kid lives away at the deaf school, then who can the families sign with?

Now, with the newborn hearing screening tests, families can make the decision about their choices. Some of the choices are very controversial in the Deaf community.

Po, my apologies for going a little off point here, but I was thinking that sometimes we do not think about other kids out of the "mainstream".

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Po we love you so very much for writing this article. Us single people are suffering in quiet desperation.
It's very tragic that modernity forces us to plow our way through life in order to be financial sufficient first and then to attend to our most natural needs such as intimacy through marriage and having kids, etc...
I'd love to see an article about what makes a successful marriage in terms of financial statistics alone.In other words how much does financial health contribute to a successful marriage or a first step towards marriage. Can we attribute some percentage to it? Is it largely based on it, say 80% or can such a thing be quantified?
I know it does not owe to finances alone, but I'm sure that the majority of successful marriages or first marriages are based on being able to financially hold down the fort so to speak. Can you do some research on that Po?

8:27 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

We've been looking at various research for awhile, trying to understand the role of money in marriage. There's a few tricks that have kept anyone from quantifying it. First, there's the distinction between marital happiness and just staying married (the divorce rate). So, for instance, we know that if a couple earns less than $25,000 a year (is basically in poverty), they have a 53% chance of divorcing by their tenth anniversary. Couples who earn a very modest amount, only $50,000 or more, have only a 25% chance of divorcing by their tenth anniversary. But we don't have the equivalent stats on marital happiness. We do know that the poorer you are, the more stressors you encounter in life, and the harder life is to manage, and those stressors will tear many marriages apart. If we find the data we really are looking for, we'll post it here for sure, thanks.

9:44 AM  

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