Thursday, May 27, 2010

Which headline do you believe?

Today, I read two news stories that seem to contradict each other.

Parents spend more time with children than generation ago

Parents are spending triple the amount of time with their children compared with a generation ago as middle classes try to give their offspring a head start in life, a study by an Oxford academic has found.

Family life 'squeezed into 49 minutes a day'

Average parents spend just 49 minutes with their children, figures show, as a lack of cash is identified as the biggest obstacle to a positive family life.

Research suggested that rising numbers of “pound sign parents” only valued activities that cost money – leaving children to themselves at other times.

I'm curious about the methodology of both studies. I wonder how they measure and quantify time. For example, does the Oxford study take into account declining family size. I can see how it could seem like parents are spending more time with their children simply because they have fewer children to divide their time. [20 hours per week divide by 4 children versus 20 hours a week divided by 2 children].

Do the studies count time spent in the same location with an electronic device (television, video game, driving carpool with the radio on, a teenager texting on his cell phone) the same as playing ball in the yard or a face to face conversation?

Both articles concur that parents spend a great deal of time "entertaining" their children.

The research, by a leading sociologist at Oxford University, suggested that many parents are as keen as possible to spend hands-on time with their children, going on cultural trips or reading to them – whereas in a previous generations many parents were more relaxed about children entertaining themselves.

From the "pound sign parents" article:

“A third of all parents think quality family time costs money and an astonishing 68 per cent of parents see money as the biggest barrier to spending more time with their family.

Looking back on my own childhood, I can remember quite a few trips to museums and state parks, but few activities outside of school and church. I remember lots of time playing with my brother and sister or with the kids in the neighborhood. I don't think my parents knew where we were most of the time. We just had to be home for dinner.

If I participated in a study like the above mentioned, I'm not sure how I would measure the time spent with my children, even though were are home together much of the day. Walking through a room and having a short interactions, still doesn't add up to a lot of time. What does "Did you do your Spanish yet?" and "Please, unload the dishwasher" count for in "family time?"

Technorati tags: parenting, children, education, government schools, public school, public education


Robert M. Lindsey said...

Quality family time costs money? Sense when? Dominoes, cards, board games, balls, all these do cost a little at the initial purchase, but after that, it's juts the time.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

I used the wrong "sense." Since when?

Crimson Wife said...

It was commonplace when my parents were kids to be shooed out of the house and told not to come back until dinnertime. The reason was so that the mother could thoroughly clean the house, typically without the help of timesaving appliances like a dishwasher, self-cleaning oven, electric dryer, etc. Maybe the kid had one organized activity (my mom did ballet, my dad Little League) but usually he/she walked to it himself/herself.

When I was growing up, the norm was for a bit more time in adult-organized activities but still a fair amount of free time spent roaming the neighborhood while mom cleaned.

Today, most families hire cleaning services and the mom devotes herself fully to driving the kids around from one organized activity to the next.

Crimson Wife said...

I should mention that my parents are Boomers and grew up in the late '50's to early '60's. I'm Gen X and grew up in the '80's.

Janine Cate said...

Robert, it took me a day to understand your second comment. ;)

Crimson Wife, good observation.

Tom James said...

Well I guess that may your child education is way more important than money itself, although is commonly misunderstood, homeschooling is a great alternative when it comes down to spend some time with your kids!