Friday, December 15, 2006

Kids Think the Darnest Things (?!)

I'm not sure whether to be angry or confused or depressed over research from the University of Maryland that found that while kids between 7 and 10 years old think that moms are perfectly capable as parents *and* wage-earners, they're less impressed with a father's ability to stay home. Waaay less impressed:
Most kids said that dads should go back to work and not stay at home because "they would probably sit on the couch with potato chips and not much around the house would get done."
The findings -- dropped in an ABC News piece as part of their aneurysm-inducing "mommy wars" series, came from conversations with more than 100 kids, but the piece was light on the numbers and heavy on anecdote. I don't mean to suggest that the children interviewed by researchers Melanie Killen and Stefanie Sinno didn't knock the idea of dads-as-parents, but the lack of detail makes it difficult to pick the conclusion apart.

I'm sure there is some blame to go around here. I'd love to know whether the researchers controlled for parental involvement -- did the kids who saw dads as incapable parents have distant/workaholic dads? Did children of egalitarian marriages have more charitable views? And where'd these kids come from? I imagine that 100 kids in my progressive neighborhood -- even the ones with nose-to-the-grindstone fathers -- know at least one super-involved dad of one of their friends. But though we're probably not representative, I have no way of knowing how representative the University of Maryland sample is.

If the results *do* reflect reality, I'd also like to portion some blame to the media. Where in the world did the sit-on-the-couch-eating-potato-chips-while-the-house-falls-apart stereotype start? Oh yeah! 1983, with Mr. Mom. (Followed by Al Bundy, Homer Simpson, Jim Belushi, etc. etc.)

Fortunately, by age 10, these impressions start to fade. But still -- oy! -- it sounds like we have some work to do with the little ones.

Manifesto Update: Thank you all tons for the wonderful manifestos. There are a dozen or so already posted, with a few more in the hopper. Please keep them coming. And, of course, thanks to Hugh for the inspiration.

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