Skip to comments.Home Alone and Unhappy; Reflections on the State of U.S. Children
Posted on 02/11/2005 9:38:27 PM PST by Salvation
Home Alone -- and Unhappy
Reflections on the State of U.S. Children
STANFORD, California, JAN. 29, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Concern over problems facing the younger generation is nothing new. A recent book, however, links juvenile difficulties with another controversial subject: changes in family structures.
Commentator and author Mary Eberstadt, a part-time research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, argues that for some years now there has been an "historically unprecedented experiment in family-child separation in which the United States and other advanced societies are now engaged."
In her recent book, "Home-Alone America," Eberstadt explains that there have been two main causes of the "empty-parent home": the explosion in divorce and the number of children born to single parents; and working motherhood, or what she terms the absent-mother problem. A third factor of lesser importance is the absence of grandparents due to geographical separation, and the reduced number of siblings.
Eberstadt sidesteps the debate over the merits or demerits of the changes in family structures and concentrates on examining what is happening with children and adolescents. Her thesis is that in recent years children have spent less and less time in the company of their parents, and simultaneously many measures of their well-being have declined. This is no mere coincidence, she maintains.
For starters, the author analyzes day care for infants. Numerous studies and books focus on the effects of leaving babies in child-care centers while their mothers go off to work. Some maintain there are positive results in terms of higher academic achievement, while others point to emotional damage that can have dire consequences for character development.
Instead of trying to discern what may happen 20 years down the line, Eberstadt focuses on the more immediate impact on infants. Babies left in institutional care, for instance, are far more likely to get sick due to being exposed to all the other children. And an increase in aggression among children who are left in child-care centers is well documented, she argues. Overall, Eberstadt concludes that packing children off to day care will make them unhappy. She further contends that parents who rationalize about this phenomenon, end up less sensitive to their kids' needs.
Teen violence is rising too. Eberstadt pointed out that many of the most publicized cases in recent years, such as the 1999 killings at Columbine High School and the 2003 sniper attacks around Washington, D.C., involved adolescents who spent most of their time without any parental contact.
She quickly admits that having two attentive parents is no ironclad guarantee of decent character, but "not having them can turn out to be disastrous." Substance abuse, suicide and violent behavior are just some of the social indicators that have dramatically worsened in recent decades, and Eberstadt points the finger at absent parents as one of the main causes.
The discipline situation in some schools has meant that teachers are forced into the role of virtual U.N. peacekeepers, she contends. And many of the most feral children come from single-parent backgrounds or households where the adults are out working all the time.
The number of children and teen-agers diagnosed with mental disorders has exploded in recent years, noted Eberstadt. A January 2001 report by the U.S. surgeon general spoke of a "public crisis in mental care" this age group. Dealing with attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, obsessive compulsions, along with the daily administrations of behavior-altering drugs, is now a daily fact of life for many families.
Chaotic home environments, absent parents and trauma caused by divorce in many cases can be factors contributing to mental health problems suffered by children. The causes of psychological problems are complex. But they are due in part argues Eberstadt, citing some studies -- to the emotional response of the disappearance from children's lives of protecting parents and a stable home environment.
Then, too, the "cures" offered through pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin and Prozac bring with them a series of side effects. And too infrequently is there talk about the risks of over-prescribing such psychotropic medications, Eberstadt observes.
In another chapter Eberstadt draws on the teen music scene to gain an insight into adolescent concerns. Lamentations centering on divorce and broken homes are finding an ever-more popular reception among young listeners. Even rap singers, long known for extolling violence and misogyny, complain about the lack of decent family life.
The singer Eminem -- a target of lesbian groups, feminists and conservative family organizations alike -- is one of the clearest examples of this tendency. Along with vulgar language and the exaltation of sex and violence, "he returns repeatedly to the same themes that fuel other success stories in contemporary music: parental loss, abandonment, abuse, and subsequent child and adolescent anger, dysfunction and violence."
Eberstadt finds here an important difference with the preceding generation. Baby-boomer music was characterized by rebellion against what was considered as an overly protective parental presence and authority. By contrast, "Today's teen-agers and their music rebel against parents because they are not parents, not nurturing, not attentive, and often not even there."
Other consequences of parental absence are the rise in teen sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases. Eberstadt notes that sexual activity begins earlier when adolescents' lives are effectively out of any parental control.
Yet the mere presence of parents in the lives of children isn't enough, argues another author. Kay Hymowitz, in her 2003 book, "Liberation's Children," insists that adults must also provide children with instruction on how to live. Hymowitz, a journalist, says that today's adolescents have absorbed from the surrounding culture an ethos of "nonjudgmentalism."
Too often, she notes, parents have left aside their traditional role of instructing their offspring in values and concentrate on being their "housemates and friends." The consequences are nefarious. Without any education in the limits of human nature, teens are left to "stumble into experiences" that all too often spiral out of their control.
In the past it was assumed that children would receive a basic moral education that was learned as part of family life. But in recent decades many theories of child rearing espoused the need to let kids act naturally and without any constraints.
Along with this, many Americans have been imbued with the idea that to create an "authentic self" complete autonomy is needed in beliefs, opinions and choices in life. Thus, teaching children how to behave becomes forbidden and parents are transformed from figures of authority "into facilitators, cheerfully escorting the child's own unique self into maturity."
Every society, argues Hymowitz, needs to civilize its new generations by means of some form of education. Unfortunately, the values that predominate today are those of tolerance and open-mindedness, which, albeit laudatory at times, "cannot help the young person to build a self." Liberation's children, Hymowitz notes, "live in a culture that frees the mind and soul by emptying them."
Eberstadt, at the end of her book, turns to the question of what can be done to remedy these problems. She maintains that it would be much better if parents were to spend more time with their children. Hymowitz agrees with this same idea, but makes clear that forming children in basic moral values is also an essential part of parenting. How to bring about these changes remains a difficult, but urgent, task.
It only harms our nation when people are more interested in money than their own children.
Today, the neighborhoods are eerily quiet - the kids warehoused in daycare.
a child's birthright is a parent in the home.
I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my boys for the most of their younger years, but found myself having to work after my little girl was born.
I went to one daycare after another, looking for one I could feel comfortable leaving her in. I would come home in tears, thinking I simply could not leave her in any of them
So I started my own day care - and had a ball. And made more money than had I been working an outside job and then had to pay dare-care on top of it.
She now has 3 little girls and she is a stay-at-home mom. And it shows...
My older two children stayed with my mom during the day when they were younger and my ex and I worked. Now, my current husband stays home with our toddler because I make more than him and have better benefits. We are both totally against daycare.
Lived through it. It's even worse than is being presented here.
Couldn't agree more, stayed home with mine, never could have put them into what I call 'a kiddy-kennel'. Many might be forced to work due to the high cost of living, but then many don't need those humungous mansions with one or two kids or that Lexus SUV. I have thought it for years that the decay of society, in regards to kids, for the last 15 yrs. or so started when Mom left the home.
This is quite possibly the stupidest "theory" about raising children I have ever seen. Who thinks up this nonsense? My children are quite welcome to become their "own unique self" when they're old enough to be on their own. Until then, they will be given moral guidance and shared family values. We're a one income family in a 2 income world and we struggled for most of those years. There were times when my husband would work a second job so I could be with our boys. Now that they're older (one is just out of the Coast Guard and the other just starting at the local community college), both of them say having me home was more important than the stuff their friends got (even if they didn't think they felt that way at the time).
It's interesting, though that as the spoiled boomers children are having children, there's almost a reverse exodus back into the home. They won't regret it as the perks are priceless...you just can't get open-mouthed jelly-kisses in the secretarial pool (okay, maybe you can in this day and age).
You are so right. I lived it too, but as a boomer being left to watch my younger brothers every summer from the age of 12 on up, starting in 1967.
And no values either. Dad was a big atheist.
My parents were putting each other thru college.
One of my brothers died of AIDS in 1990.
The other has never had the courage to marry.
I still marvel at what my parents were willing to do to their childern, as I watch my daughter grow up.
Somehow, God found me and I got saved in my late twentys.
Married, stay-at-home mom, homeschooling our daughter.
There will be a bigger crop of people just like me coming into adulthood.
Children need a nuclear family with a mother and a father and the mother home when the children are home especially during the middle and high school years.
"a part-time research fellow". Swell. Well then, it's gotta be true. Why have we been so blind?
...and the Dems just love Head Start and want to expand it to what - birth?
Actually, their wording is :from age 0 to 18" - in other words, monitoring from pregnancy thru age 18 - they consider our children as belonging to the state...and are still implementing "home health visitors" that will have the authority to do just that...
Scary. And the sad part is that so many Americans are more interested in watching "American Idol" than watching what the Dims/Libs/Socs/Comms are doing to this country.
(My apologies to all "American Idol" fans. :) )
Good for you, and your daughter too!
Parents like you give the rest of us hope. :-)
I'd argue that it's somewhat difficult for a young person to make a *lot* of money and have much time to recreate.
Or is it just that I'm getting old. :-)
Ahhh, I see your point. I think I've seen this in action on "American Idol". It's startling to see because I don't really come into contact with these kinds of people as I go about my day.
Our family loves to watch American Idol...
the genuine humility of some of the best singers,
in contrast with some selfish, arrogant brats.
The wonderful young mom who was advanced to the next
level, only to realize she missed her son too much
and what she thought was her "dream" was not worth
sacrificing her child.
I enjoy watching "AI" too. My #25 was referring to the selfish arrogant brats you mention, such as the ones at the earliest auditions who brag about being the best singers/performers in the world and then get hysterical and potty-mouthed when they're rejected due to the fact that they are actually the most *horrible* singers/performers in the world.
Actually, I think its wonderful that you stay home and care for your husband. I've always thought it ironic that the "freedom" and "self-worth" some working women think they'll find out in the world, I've always had at home. No one tells me what to do or regulates my day. I have the time to learn about anything I want, play with kids and pets, garden, do crafts, read Free Republic (LOL), etc. Not that it's all sweetness and light, some days are frantic and hectic and stressful. Raising boys is sometimes like trying to tame a tiger with a fly swatter, but the next thing you know, they're all hugs and kisses again.
What I love about the show is that it shows what
hard work it really is to hone your craft.
Talent alone is not enough.
Maturity, perseverance, humility, grace under pressure, week after week.
This season has some dynamite voices.
Making a living in the arts is very hard work,
and misunderstood by most.
It may look glamorous, but performing under pressure
takes incredible skill and discipline.
I love the judges, especially Simon.
His honesty is refreshing in this era of flattery.
Yes indeed. The poor neglected kids go from RugRats to MallRats to DemocRats without stopping to think. But they do watch Oprah and know they should be everything they can be, whatever that is.
Simon is definitely refreshing, whereas Paula is just so sappy. *LOL*
Several of the current contestants really impress me--not just because of their voices but also their maturity and poise.
I think this season is going to be waaaaaaaaay better than the last one.
Does anyone have any idea at all how it was possible for the wacky ideas of a few radicals, to become the "gospel" for the majority of large corporations (hiring practices and advertising), the media, the educational system (all levels) and all levels and branches of government? There are probably many who are too young to remember the pervasiveness of these idiotic theories, but there were few areas unaffected.
There are plenty of theories out there, that might be pursued, but thankfully they are not. Though there are a few that should be. What or who was the force behind the culture-destroying theories of the 60's and 70's?
"contributed to the rise in child anger, hyper kids, over-medication"etc.
No problem, just give them more drugs after instituting a national mandatory psychological screening so the term "normal " can be eliminated from the language. We wouldn't want anyones parents to feel badly about raising children.
So if she admits that there has been an explosion in divorce and single parenthood why does she blame daycare? Why not condemn the root cause?
This attitude of parents today is exhibited in the atrocious behavior of their children in public. No one is bothering to civilize the children. The parents seem to be feckless bystanders, while their children feel frightened at being in control when they know they can't handle it. Very sad for our society.
Ditto. No one will ever rock a sick child like its mother can. Gosh, we didn't have money but I remember my mother being home all the time. I loved her cooking and being there. She didnt' say I love you every 15 minutes but...we knew (my brother and sisters) her and our dad loved us by how they acted and what they did for us on a daily basis just by doing the things moms and dads did. They loved us by doing!!!
We had what we needed. Not a lot extra but...who cared? We didn't take vacations to faraway places (unless you called the playground a couple blocks away a faraway place) nor did we have weeks off at a time for spring, winter breaks. We had a couple days off and we traveled "Outside" and met our friends to play ball, skate, jump rope, play tag or jacks or some simple game like that.
Exercise was gotten by doing all those activities. We had class, had recess (where they would bring a couple boxes of candy around for you to buy or little cartons of vanilla or chocolate milk. AFter that we went back to work in the classroom which was quiet with kids respectful to the teacher and...the teacher was in charge.
Oh I would beg mothers ... IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORK, stay home. Please...stay home and raise the children you have been blessed with. They need you. They WANT you.
This article makes my heart ache.
LOL...isn't it fun to watch their eyeballs spin around in different directions?
I can still fondly recall the reaction my college advisor had when I told her that Carol Brady was my role model. I thought she was going to burst a vessel.
You have a right to your voice as does anyone else. I too believe feminism has destroyed a lot of things and so do a lot of other people.
The family is the heart and soul of everything. Without it there is chaos. We are experiencing the reaping now what has been sown.
We are experiencing the reaping now what has been sown.
Oh I apologize for that terrible sentence. Don't even know how I got there. What I meant to say and say correctly was: "We reap what we sow and now it has come full circle to haunt us."
Remember when all moms were home? Everyone kept an eye or ear out for the kids? Everyone knew whose mom was who and whose kid was who?
Moms are wise and strong people. The feminists tried to tell them otherwise. Why would they have listened? It was the feminists who were insecure about who they were and so they had to put that on the backs of moms who were home with their children. Now see what has happened. Moms....stand tall. Stay home UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO WORK and tell the feminists it's YOUR LIFE and YOU will do what is right and best for YOUR FAMILY.
Make those cookies, fix that dinner, wash the clothes, change those diapers, settle the kids in bed at night and enjoy the rest of the evening with our husband. There's nothing wrong with it. Motherhood and... Fatherhood is a noble profession. How dare anyone else tell mothers their jobs are not jobs.
Misery loves company and that's what the feminists are all about. They seem to hate all men and bash men and can't stand it when someone is happily married and does nice things for a man. If a man and woman truly love each other they WILL do nice things for each other and not because some dip says they should or shouldn't. Had a young man open a door for me the other day and I stopped and said: "Thank you very much...I appreciate that." I want men to treat me like a lady. I don't want to act like a man.
Mothers and Fathers are important. The man is the Head (figuratively speaking of course) of the home and the woman the heart. You can't change that no matter what. Maybe now things will change. The kids need the love of their parents and they need them there for them.
I was a latch-key kid of the 60's and sooo needed my mother to be there for me. The situation wouldn't allow it (single mother) and I understood that. I vowed to do things differently. I'm a stay at home mother who home educates, and conducts a business from the home...and the whole family loves it!
bump to your post!
You're living my dream.
Husband half jokingly said when I wanted to quit working outside of home: "Are you going to seek gainful employment?"
Due to that comment I'm still working. How do you "justify" getting to stay home without the kids? I could use some pointers. LOL
I'm one of a few stay at home moms in our neighborhood. It's interesting how they come to one of our homes to chat, get a band-aid, drink of water or a kind word - even when their parents are home. Hmmm.
This all ties into a subject which has gotten me into some spirited disagreements on this forum, just how is the standard of living now higher than in years past? I maintain that the true standard of living is actually falling. I don't see how you can say it is rising unless you measure it solely in how many bathrooms per person are available and other such measures, perhaps the abundance of color televisions available for viewing garbage? I could write a long essay on why I see the living standard as declining.
Your journey out of that dysfunctional family made me cry. Isn't it the most liberating thing to be "found" by God? You have been blessed. How can anyone have a negative thought about Christians? Christ has pulled so many millions of souls out of the muck and set them on the mountain. God bless you for caring for your family the right way.
I thought the village was sposed to be handlin this.
Good explanation - thanks - Kassie - our boys fit this description don't you think?
I would like to see a book compiled by 'latch-key" kids to tell the REAL story of how they were impacted.
I get sick when the libs say "kids adjust" - well, yeah, like they had a choice!
Not to mention - if a child goes off to day care at mere weeks old and grows up in that system - how are they to know life should be different?
All they know, instinctively, is that something is missing. There's a detachment - and that will be there always.
.(Besides my daughter, I have 4 sons - and altogether 15 grandchildren - one son worked nights for years so that one parent would always be with the children, then started his own business out of the home - and 2 sets of g'kids were watched by grandma's (me one ;o) ) - so that NONE were 'warehoused.' I am so proud of them all.)
What most parents don't know is that the educrats TAUGHT, at middle school age, our school kids that NO "man" should ever accept that his wife should be a stay at home - that she should be responsible for 50% of all finances. I sat in on one of the "latent imprinting" sessions once, as a reporter. (19080's) I was flabbergasted. They had bussed several counties worth of kids to a conference where a rep from Wash. DC lectured them. - and that was the mildest part of the c*ap they instilled in them...much was anti-parent.