Teenagers have decided that Mom (and Dad) is OK

March 05, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER

ALL IN ALL, IT IS A GOOD TIME TO BE a mother.

A survey issued by the prestigious Pew Research Center reported that a growing number of adults either see or talk to a parent every day.

And it is almost always Mom.

In addition, a study of teens from all over the world prepared by a division of the well-known advertising firm BBDO, shows that teens consider parental relationships more important than peer relationships and -- get this -- teens report that it is more important to spend time with Mom than anyone else.

The Pew survey of social trends looked at the nature of family ties and the frequency of family contact and found great change from 1989, the last time these researchers took the family temperature.

And they credited what they call the communications revolution -- cheap long distance, cell phones, e-mail, instant-messaging. It has changed the way families relate in profound ways because they are in ever more frequent touch.

For example, 42 percent of adults have contact with parents every day. Another 44 percent have contact once a week or more.

If you live far away from your parents, you are almost three times more likely to call them every day than you were in 1989.

And "when it comes to family communication, Mom is still the undisputed champ," the researchers wrote.

Among those adults who have both parents living, 61 percent say they have the most contact with their mothers, while just 18 percent say they have the most contact with Dad.

Paul Taylor, author of the report, said he was not surprised by that result.

"I think other surveys of this kind have found the same thing," he said. "The non-expert in me wants to say, 'What's the surprise? Moms have been on the pedestal since the beginning of time.'"

Dads have narrowed one gap. When asked whether their relationship with their parent was "close" or "distant," 87 percent said they are close to their mother, and 74 percent said they were close to their father.

In 1989, 90 percent said they were close to Mom but just 69 percent reported being close to Dad.

Asked whom they would turn to in times of trouble, nearly half of the respondents named a member of their family and, among those, Mom got the most votes.

And women were more likely to have talked to or shared a meal with a family member in the past day.

"The mother angle is fascinating," Taylor said. "It is clearly easier to communicate with her."

Meanwhile, the researchers for Energy BBDO concluded that this generation of teenagers is much closer to their parents than perhaps any before them.

"Not only do parents provide the safe harbor teenagers need in an era of increasing violence and chaos, but evidence suggests this generation is more comfortable and trusting in authority," said Chip Walker, executive vice president and director of planning.

There is another reason, Walker said, why teenagers would glom onto their parents.

"Kids get exposure during the day -- all day -- to their friends, but they may not have time with their parents, and particularly their mom," he said.

The researchers interviewed teens in 13 countries, including North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia. (Teens from Africa and the Middle East were not interviewed.)

"There were a number of unifiers (things in common)," said Walker, "But this came across very clearly.

"Love and appreciation for family was a major link across all of these countries.

"We asked them to rank their relationships and No. 1 in every single country was with mom."

Why Mom?

"We asked ourselves that," Walker said. "Mom might be viewed as a more sympathetic and understanding figure."

Walker said that he had some sense that Western kids liked their parents much more than is commonly thought.

"Western kids have decided that their parents are, frankly, a lot more fun to hang around with.

"What surprised me was that even in China and India, it is a cool thing, and nothing to be ashamed of."

Of course, for many of us mothers, this contact with our children can be expensive. Every time my cell phone rings, it is one of my children asking for money. If they called every day, I'd be in the poor house.

But I have to say, it is nice to be needed -- whatever the price.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com / reimer.

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