Collectively, kids behaving better than their folks did

April 12, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

THE FOUNDATION for Child Development crunches all sorts of statistics from all sorts of places and every year calculates what it calls the index of child well-being, or CWI.

The Duke University social scientists concluded that, overall, children are modestly better off than they were when they began taking this measure in 1975.

But it was a good news-bad news kind of report.

While there have been dramatic declines in violence and risky behavior among children and teens, school test scores are stagnant and the overall health of children continues to decline because of rampant obesity.

In the fine print of the report was some good news for parents: They appear to be playing a significant role in the decline of violence, pregnancy, smoking, drug-taking and binge drinking among their children.

What are parents doing right? They have started to pay attention to what their kids do after school, says Duke's Ken Land, who developed the CWI.

"Today's parents went through the 1970s, when there was an increase in marijuana use, and the 1980s, when there was an increase in the use of cocaine," he said in a telephone interview.

"They may be more sensitive to these risky behaviors, and they may be talking to their children about them. This may account for the better behaviors among those children," he said.

These parents, now in their 40s and 50s, would have been teens when this index was formulated in the mid-1970s. What is remarkable, Land said, is that today's children are better behaved - statistically speaking - than their parents were when Land was collecting data on them: lower levels of teen violence, teen pregnancy, smoking, drinking and drug use.

"Parents are also scheduling their children's after-school hours more. Soccer practice, band practice, dance lessons. That kind of thing," he said. "They are paying attention to their children."

This is welcome news for parents, at whose feet has been laid the blame for most of what is wrong with kids today.

We spoil them, we cater to them, we make excuses for them. We want them to like us, even if it means they don't obey us. We cripple them with our coddling.

But this report paints the statistical picture of parents who are out-thinking their kids and cutting them off at the pass.

"The results are consistent with the hypothesis that it is parental behaviors that are driving this. Parents are more interested in what their children are doing," said Land.

And while it is true that parents can be clueless about the dangerous choices available to their teens these days, parents appear to know enough to keep their kids busy or tired in those free-form after-school hours.

We have been saying it to our children all these years, and now there is scientific proof that it is true.

"Hey, we were kids once, too, you know."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.