Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Want to See the Revolution? Look for the Babies.

Once again, Keith has sent me scurrying down a rabbit hole of interesting links and stats and conclusions. Via my del.icio.us account, he pointed out this post from Time columnist Po Bronson.

Bronson's post crows that active dads are on the march, despite the general lack of good data to suggest that what I am seeing on the playground is actually a national trend. And he unearths some nuggets of information that appear to show that very new dads -- those with a 9-month-old in the house -- are involved in a way that we haven't seen since before the industrial revolution.

The nuggets come from the U.S. Department of Education's exciting-sounding Fathers of U.S. Children Born in 2001:
Findings From the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort
(PDF). As in most dry government surveys, this did not catch only gentlemen with Yale diplomas -- 70 percent had no more than a high school degree.

I agree with Bronson that the stats from these guys -- tracked down nine months after birth -- are pretty impressive. For starters, these are confident men who are happy about the kids:
*79 percent had fathers who said they were a better than average father or a very good father.
* 69 percent had fathers who reported that they talked all of the time to family and friends about the child.
* 74 percent had fathers who reported finding themselves thinking about the child all of the time.
And these are guy who are taking their dad duties seriously. Seventy-two percent read to the kids at least once a week (remember, these are pre-verbal nine-month-olds), 71 tell stories, 89 percent sing songs. Seventy percent are changing at least one diaper a day, almost 80 percent are feeding the kid at least once a day.

But it was the less-obvious signs of involvement that really struck me. Thirty-seven percent "always" or "often" are the ones up in the middle of the night. About a third "always" or "often" go to the pediatrician. A quarter "always" or "often" is the parent to stay home when the kid is sick.

There are impressive numbers, especially when you look at similar stats from the CDC that look at fathers with older kids. It sounds there is even a difference between a new father and one that was initiated even 10 years ago. This report suggests there's a new generation of involved fathers, and I can't wait to see the stats on how this group of guys evolves.

** Caveat: I am talking here about the stats for resident fathers.

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