Friday, July 06, 2007

Results from Survey of Parenting Styles & Assumptions

This blog post will describe how people are answering our survey. When appropriate, the correct answer is in bold type.
Question 1.
At the time of birth of a firstborn child, how confident are mothers and fathers in feeling adequately prepared for their new role of being a parent?

80% of mothers and 40% of fathers are confident 10.84%
60% of mothers and 60% of fathers are confident 21.67%
40% of mothers and 20% of fathers are confident 38.92%
20% of mothers and 20% of fathers are confident 29.06%

Question 2.
Researchers surveyed teachers to find out which students have behavior problems at school. Then they polled parents, to learn about their parenting styles.

You'd probably not be surprised to hear that it was children of "Disengaged Fathers" who teachers reported being the most angry and aggressive.

But what other parenting style was also strongly associated with children having behavior problems at school - nearly as high as the children of Disengaged Fathers?
answer options Response Percent
The Progressive Father 62.41%
The Traditional Father 37.59%

Question 3.
On average, how well do you think siblings treat each other, compared to treating their friends? (This is for children of elementary school age and younger).
answer options Response Percent
Siblings are 10% nicer to each other than to their friends. 11.58%

Siblings insult each other and attempt to control each other twice as often as they do with friends.

Siblings insult each other and attempt to control each other seven times as often as they do with friends.

Question 4. (In three parts)
Children learn to lie around their fourth birthday (or even earlier). They may, or may not, make a habit of it.

Which statement do you think applies to this developmental stage?

answer options Response Percent
Preschool-aged children who lie a lot just don’t realize yet they’re lying, and are blurring the distinction between the fanciful and the deceptive. 24.73%
Preschool-aged children who lie a lot are worse at distinguishing lies from the truth. 17.58%

Preschool-aged children who lie a lot are better at distinguishing lies from the truth.

Which story, told to children, has a bigger impact on reducing their lying?
answer options Response Percent
The Boy Who Cried Wolf 75.54%
George Washington and the Cherry Tree 24.46%

Outside the United States, which story has a bigger impact on reducing their lying?
answer options Response Percent
The Boy Who Cried Wolf 80.43%
George Washington and The Cherry Tree 19.57%

Question 5.
Scientists have been studying children’s racial attitudes – their tendency to stereotype people of other races and ethnicities, and have negative or positive bias towards them.

Without overthinking this question, which statement would you generally assume to be true?

answer options Response Percent
Children who attend very diverse high schools have dramatically better racial attitudes than children who attend non-diverse high schools. 13.11%
Children who attend very diverse high schools have slightly better racial attitudes than children who attend non-diverse high schools. 29.51%
Children who attend very diverse high schools have slightly worse racial attitudes than children who attend non-diverse high schools. 26.78%
There is no correlation between diversity of high school and racial attitudes. 30.60%

Question 6.
Before your children entered kindergarten, what best describes your philosophy to handling the sensitive topic of skin color and race?
answer options Response Percent
It has very rarely come up, and I think talking about race will only teach my child to notice differences. In fact, by treating people I encounter just as people – without regard to skin color – my children can learn that all people are equal. 47.73%
It has occasionally come up, and yet I don’t want to call special attention to skin color, so I've sometimes told my child general principles, such as “Everybody is equal,” or “God loves us all,” or “It’s what’s inside that matters.” 26.14%
Even before my kids noticed skin color differences, I've handled it very proactively, asserting specific, unmistakable principles, such as “That someone has the same skin color as you is not a reason to like or prefer him.” I've made it super-clear that judging someone for their skin color is morally wrong. 26.14%

Question 7. (In two parts)
True or False:

Kids who sleep a lot are more likely to be overweight.
answer options Response Percent
True 17.32%
False 82.68%

True or False:

Kids who sleep a lot are less likely to have a report card full of A’s and B’s.
answer options Response Percent
True 16.29%
False 83.71%

Question 8.
Another way to describe the majority of the bullies at your local middle school could be to say they are ______ and ______.
answer options Response Percent
a. bad-tempered and physically intimidating 34.64%
b. popular and cool 40.78%
c. loners and withdrawn 24.58%

Question 9.
Which of the following fits you?
When I see a young boy pretending to be in a scenario that involves karate moves and/or shooting an imaginary gun ...
answer options Response Percent
I’m a little nervous that in non-pretend situations, he might be a little more physically aggressive. 35.43%
I’m very worried that in non-pretend situations, he might be a little more physically aggressive. 6.29%
I’m not worried at all that it leaks over to non-pretend situations, and I wouldn’t expect him to be more physically aggressive. 58.29%

Question 10.
Many parents tell their children that they are smart. They believe that this helps build the children’s self concept, which works like an angel on the shoulder. Is this something you do?

answer options Response Percent
Yes 60.23%
No 39.77%

However, of the 51% who have not heard about or read our New York magazine article, 77% are saying "Yes" and 23% are saying "No."

Question 11. (In two parts)
What percentage of adolescents think it’s okay to lie to their parents about personal and moral issues?
answer options Response Percent
95% think it’s okay to lie 19.21%
90% think it’s okay to lie 36.72%
55% think it’s okay to lie 31.64%
35% think it’s okay to lie 12.43%

What percent of white adolescents accept and follow the restrictions their parents set for them?
answer options Response Percent
Only 5 percent 17.51%
Only 20 percent 47.46%
Only 35 percent 35.03%

Question 12.
When children see their parents fighting, it affects their mood. This is actually measurable – scores of their moods drop by an average of 26%. But boys and girls are affected differently.

For one gender, their moods drop dramatically and recover quickly, within hours. For the other gender, their moods drop moderately and don’t fully recover for many days.

For which gender do you think their mood scores drop moderately and don’t recover for days?
answer options Response Percent
Boys 55.68%
Girls 44.32%

Question 13.
If a heated argument starts with your spouse in front of your kids – and you realize this – what do you do?
answer options Response Percent
Stop immediately, because our arguing can hurt the kids. 8.09%

Ask to take it upstairs or out of the room, so the kids don’t witness any more conflict than they already have.

I try my best not to completely lose my cool, but I don’t shield my kids from the reality of anger and arguing, because I think it’s a reasonably normal part of family life.

I try to make sure my kids witness how the fights end – how they’re resolved – so they have role models for resolving arguments.

Question 14.
If your toddler throws his food (let’s say an apple) off his tray table, how would you respond?
answer options Response Percent
By not responding at all, to avoid rewarding him with attention. I’d clean it up later. 11.63%

By removing the tray table and his food, because he’s probably not really hungry any more if he’s throwing food.

By nicely saying, “We don’t throw food, we eat food.”

By firmly saying, “No throwing or I will take the food away.”

By saying, “Oh, poor Mr. Apple! See how he is bruised?”

Question 15.
90% of kids have been spanked. However, a parent’s demeanor and language can shape the meaning of the spanking for the child.

Which type of meaning assigned to corporal punishment has been associated with behavior problems in school?

answer options Response Percent
A) Spanking is used very sparingly, reserved only for rare occasions like this one where you did something especially wrong. 51.74%
B) Spanking is the normal punishment for when you do things wrong. 48.26%

Question 16.
Researchers have found that fathers who are religious tend to be more conservative when it comes to issues relating to "family values."

These men believe that marriage is very important, that having kids is an important part of a happy life, that single parent families are damaging to kids, and that it's better for the kids if their moms stay-at-home rather than work.

Holding these traditional values, religious men:

answer options Response Percent
are less involved with their kids on a day-to-day basis. 37.28%
hold more egalitarian views about housework and childcare duties - wanting to be equally involved in both. 4.73%
are no more or less likely to be involved in childcare than those who espouse less traditional views. 57.99%

Question 17.
Which of the following everyday school elements has such a dramatic effect on a child that it could reduce a gifted child's performance in class by 18%?
answer options Response Percent
The buzzing of large fluorescent lights 59.28%
The gender of the child's teacher 40.72%


Blogger eggm4n said...

This is really interesting stuff. When is the book being published? Also how large was the survey sample? Do you have any more demographic data about the sample?

2:17 PM  
Blogger serpah said...

This was a great survey, and really enlightening about cultural child-rearing techniques. I loved the part about "Poor Mr. Apple". Will your book talk about culturally different child-rearing techniques? What about the children of people who have emigrated from one country to another? How would child-rearing techniques interact with the new culture?

1:07 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

Absolutely, the book will learn about child development from different cultures. Some of the best things we've discovered emerged after scholars began testing their findings on different populations; when data was not consistent, as it often wasn't, the attempt to reconcile the contradictory results led to far deeper understanding of what was really going on.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

Regarding the question of sample size, a couple points. First, this survey is ongoing, and people are taking it all the time - so we aren't running a cutoff (at least not yet). Thus, the sample size is continuously growing. The numbers you see on the blog right now are based on the results of the first several hundred takers.

Now that I've said this, I don't recommend quoting the survey results in any academic context; we're not using these results as certifiable "poll" results. It wasn't designed for that. We're really using the survey as an introduction to the material.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly is a "progressive father"?

5:17 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

In this research, the fathers were grouped. The group of Progressive Fathers were contributing about half the family income, which meant that both spouses worked. But they had the highest level of responsibility for the kids (versus the other groups of Dads). They played with their kids a lot but were low on discipline. Because they occasionally might have some conflict with their spouse over dividing coparenting, their self-reported sense of their own coparenting was average, but in fact observational reports showed these Progressive Dads were very high on coparenting.

All of which is to say, Progressive Fathers was not a measure of how they voted in elections.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

The answer and results on the lying question were most surprising to me - does our apparent lack of faith in George Washington's heorism imply a rather cynical generation of parents? Or, as we get older do we forget the power of fables? This book ought to be great.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

I think that's a good question, if we're cynical about George Washington and honesty in this age of lying politicians and executives. I don't have the answer, but I like your hunch. It's also possible that we're jaded about kids' character, and so we assume kids would blow off George, while they might actually listen to the threat implied by the Wolf.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous FOL said...

When it comes to bringing up the young, one must bear in mind to lead by example. Do not be a hypocrit. Family harmony is also extremely important. Truth is better and always more preferable than confidence building.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous jeanine said...

Will you collect any information about where people who have answered the survey live to see if there is a difference in parenting styles across different countries? Will there be a discussion about split, blended or shared parenting and the effects on children in the book? When will this book be published? Thank you for sharing this information, it is interesting and unique.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

We aren't asking people where they live, to respect their privacy. So we won't be doing that analysis. However, other (and better) science is being done all the time on parenting style differences by region, class, educational status, and country. In fact, this is probably the driving theme in all of child development research - how's our theory work in other countries?

The book is being written now. Some pieces of it might appear along the way in periodicals, and if you join my mail list, you'll hear about those. The book itself won't be published for some time, perhaps spring 2009?

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a comment on "George Washington & the Cherry Tree" vs. "The Boy Who Cried Wolf": My reason for choosing "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" was simply that I don't remember ever being told the full story of George Washington and the cherry tree when I was a kid! I have to admit that while I do have a vague sense that G.W. cut down a cherry tree at some point (or is at least said to have done so), I couldn't remember what the outcome or moral of the story was, and as a result I couldn't speculate about how that moral might affect kids' behavior. Perhaps it would be a good idea to add a one-sentence summary of each story to the survey so that people's level of familiarity with the stories won't determine how they respond.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This survey was so interesting. I picked up your book "Why I love These People" today in our business library at work. I decided to google you and found your web-page. Wow. I love your work, Po.

It's interesting that different cultures is brought up in the blog.

I'm from Canada and I would say generally that spanking has been frowned upon for a period of time but now that we are so multicultural all of that is changing and is a big point of discussion.

The difference in cultural beliefs is fascinating.

For example, my friend, Cristian, has an amazing story. He grew up in Chile. He came from a home that some would consider the worst family environment you could ever place a child in..father an alcoholic, violent and abusive, threatened Cristian's life many times with a knife to his throat and repeatedly tried to strangle him, raped one of the sisters for 5 years, hit the kids repeatedly and so randomly that they barely slept at night, didn't think sending the kids to school was necessary, etc., etc...and yet after 19 years of this life in Chile, Cristian came to Canada seeking freedom, and finally discovered (after having become involved in the ecstasy/club drug scene and unsuccessfully searched for love) that he was loved every step of the way...that he learned more than most people will ever know about how to handle every type of situation in life and now seeks to write a book about his life to help others have the courage to never give up.

He believes strongly in the law of attraction (as do I) and is manifesting so many things in his life now. He is not advocating that children should grow up in such an environment by any means, but on the other hand, it does not necessarily lead to their destruction as a human being. It could, as with him, be the making of them.

I know that many people will object to even daring to say this but it is true. His story is true so it's not supposition. Other members of his family, however, are still stuck in the misery, even though the father died years ago. Now Cristian is seeking to help them learn how to use what they have learned to rise above the struggle but the resistance he is encountering is strong.

My main comment is this: What makes one child resilient and have hopes and dreams of a better life when another from the same family does not? Is it spiritual this I mean something in the spirit, in the soul, that makes the difference? Is it more based on personality traits? Look at Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happyness) and what he overcame. He is like my friend, Cristian.

I tell you, it's an inspiration to me. I want to hear stories from these people...stories of people who have overcome the worst odds, only to make them the kind of person who can now give back to society in a big way...what makes them different? what is in them that makes them go on to overcome when many others give up?

I'd love to her your view on this Po...maybe some further research?

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts,

Mary Baxter
Mississauga, Ontario CANADA

6:00 PM  
Anonymous hedra said...

I think the tendency to discount the Apple Tree story is because we read a different lesson than the child does from it. We read 'we're teaching you to be honest by showing you someone fessing up' and the child reads 'if I tell the truth, I won't get punished, I'll be praised or at least escape punishment' (compared to 'people who lie have scary and bad things happen to them' which is in the crying wolf story.). Anyway, that's what I remember out of the story as a kid - and it was what my parents did, too. If I told the truth, I'd get the absolute minimum negativity, even if it was over doing something I shouldn't have done in the first place.

I love reading the parenting research. So much of what we're told 'by folk' is just baloney. I can usually hear it coming (it often comes with 'they'll never' or 'they'll always' statements). I'd read about the spanking issue (reliable less-angry-and-expected spanking creating less trouble that out-of-control spanking down the line), as well. So I think I skewed a bit of the research. I also noted in the survey some stuff where we're at neither end, or maybe at both?

Any info on gender-'typical' behaviors? One of my favorite studies on that was that parents watched their kids longer when they were doing gender-typical (for culture) behaviors, EVEN when they didn't 'believe in' inborn gender-based behaviors. And I then spotted myself doing exactly that - watching my daughter when she played with a doll, totally unintentionally. Bonus for me, I saw her notice me watching, and then I spent the next three days watching her test me on why I was watching. She was just over a year old, I think. When I watched for a count of 10 for everything she did, she eventually went back to playing with balls (mainly - they'd been her first obvious passion) but incorporated some doll play in at that point. It was really scary how astute she was about exactly how long my eyes had been pointing in her direction. Makes ya wonder what else you reinforced without meaning to...

10:27 AM  
Blogger ahahunter said...

On the question about lying to parents: I'm wondering if the answer would change, and in which adolescents it would change, if the word "okay" was swapped for "necessary."

Also, the most interesting question was the one about the lighting in classrooms. It makes sense, though, now that I think about it. I know that the high pitched sound in "store alarm systems?" was annoying to me.

all the best.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The progressive father question was so interesting to me and something I've suspected all along. I am the envy of most of my friends because my husband is so much more sensitive, engaged and participating in our life particularly in parenting. Which, at first glance, one would think would make for a more harmonious home. Well I am here to say that is has the exact opposite effect. I've suspected for quite some time that it is the loose boundaries and "weak discipline" that does not help the children but hurts them by rattling their sense of security. Kids need to feel safe and have loving but strong parents. When the patriarch of a family parents in inconsistent and unreliable ways, often letting the kids push the envelope as it were in the name of "friendly parenting", it compromises the foundation of the family's stability causing uneasiness, insecurity and anxiety in the children. And not that I want to revert back to the staunch traditional roles of the 50's, but the blurring of the gender roles and responsibilities of the mother and father also has a negative effect on intimate relations as well. At least this has been my experience.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Ann said...

I'm not clear why progressive parenting is regarded as automatically meaning poor or erratic standards of discipline. My husband and I took 50/50 roles on childcare and family/household chores because we also took 50/50 roles in the family business, but we were pretty clear on what was acceptable behaviour and what wasn't and the children knew what the punishments would be (we used the naughty stair system not spanking). Because we were running a business our children were expected to be responsible from an early age (e.g. trusted not to wander off the premises, fall into the water from the wharf, organised own sandwiches for lunch in school holidays) but they expected to get into trouble if they broke trust.

1:18 AM  
Blogger hybrid said...

Parents need to be very careful in dealing with today's teenagers, any kind of relaxation might leads to various types of consequences. Parents need to cautions in finding any new kind of behaviors. troubled teen parenting is not the easiest things these days. Parents need to communicate more often to get close to their teens in each and every things related to them. Parents need to take a professional help and also discussing with other parents about various teens issues, makes struggling parents to gather most of the information about troubled teens.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous clevelandmom said...

Yeah, I didn't understand the definition of progressive fatherhood as equating high involvement with confused discipline standards. I think it can happen, sure, but it's not a necessary connection.

Also, I was not happy with the options for discussion of race. I have learned that being color blind is an inappropriate denial of a key aspect of many people's identity, but that doesn't mean I'm going to make a big deal about skin color before my kid even notices it.

Overall though, very interesting and I've shared the articles with my friends because I found them very helpful.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Kaira said...

I found the article very interesting. This kind of survey is really very important.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The arguing interests me. I argue with my husband in front of my infant, and see her eyes go wide. Knowing that this impacts her mood is distressing. My parents never argued in front of me until I was ten, and I found it disturbing. I will try to never argue in front of her again, but it will be hard as my husband is a blockhead.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon your work by chance, resonates on so many levels.
One question i have with regards to this particular project is - how do you actually figure out which approach is right for your kid? I have a 10-year old boy and I can't say I have nailed it (it certainly feels that i should have by now!). I suspect it's a bigger question than you plan to tackle in your book or can be answered definitively by anyone, but would love to know your thoughts or findings as to how much we should actually be interfering with who they develop to be. The reason I am so hung up on this question is that only now, in my mid-30s, do I start to realize how much my parents' and others' positive affirmations had led me to believe that I was (had to be!) what I really was not. In the meantime, the person that I really was went into hiding, and still resists to being excavated. Not sure, maybe it's just me blaming my parents for all the ills, but your question about the effects of praise really brought it home and reminded me of how much I do it with my boy. So, where is the golden in-between?

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never heard of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, so found that question hard to answer.

5:29 AM  

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