17-year study of hippies' children finds them normal and doing well

December 04, 1991|By Renee Tawa | Renee Tawa,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Children of the '60s, where have you gone?

For 17 years, UCLA professor Thomas S. Weisner and his colleagues followed more than 200 families -- those with "hippie" parents -- and their children.

The UCLA team wanted to see the effects of the parents' lifestyles and values on their junior high school-age kids. They studied single moms and unmarried couples living together -- common today but unusual in those days -- and families in communes.

Weisner, 47, an anthropology professor, said, "There were concerns they might have health problems because of different diets, not do well in school because of different lifestyles of their parents, or they might be stigmatized . . . and in addition, these families were performing social experiments."

The concerns for the children turned out to be for naught, Weisner said. Based on IQ and standardized tests, most of the children were determined to be normal. Most children also are doing well in school.

But 17 percent of the children have emotional or social problems, or drug or alcohol addictions -- a figure that is slightly higher than for the general population, Weisner said.

The UCLA team will follow the children as they grow up and note their political philosophies.

"Most of them will have learned a critical or questioning stance from their parents toward mainstream society," he said. "Their parents, of course, don't mimic their own parents. Similarly, I don't think they'll mimic their parents either, but they will sustain their questioning, reflective orientation toward society."

Most former hippie parents have gravitated toward the mainstream. A few are broke or struggling.

"We found, naturally, as you become a parent, you change your focus," Weisner said. "You become a little less wild and radicalized. Perhaps, also like any cohort, as these families reached middle age, they became a little bit more settled than they used to be.

Researchers worked by visiting the families, calling them and sending them questionnaires. The UCLA team also sent the families holiday cards every year.

"When we started, it wasn't clear that non-conventional and counter-culture families would even participate in a research project with what, after all, is mainstream institutions like UCLA and studies sponsored by institutions," Weisner said.

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