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  Chapter Four:
 
FAMILY
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  Marriage Rate and Age
  Premarital Sex
  Cohabiting Couples
  Extramarital Sex
  Attitudes about Sex
  Divorce
  Married Couples
  Married Women
  Fertility
  Nonmarital Births
  Parent-Child Contact

  

 

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FAMILY

Parent-Child Contact

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The time and attention that American parents devote to their children increased significantly.
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The steady and impressive increase in the number of hours, excluding family meals, that both mothers and fathers spent with their children each day emerged from the Middletown community surveys of 1924, 1977, and 1999. The three surveys were based on random samples of married couples with children under age eighteen. 

In the 1999 survey, 83 percent of fathers reported spending an hour or more each day with their children, up from 60 percent in the 1924 survey. Among Middletown mothers, 71 percent indicated that they spent two or more hours with their children every day, compared with only 45 percent of those surveyed in 1924. The change from 1924 to 1999 becomes even more impressive in light of the increased employment of married women, along with the lengthening of the school day and school year. 

The simplest explanation for this change is that both men and women spent fewer hours on the job and much less time doing housework (see pages 34 and 36). As a result, they had much more free time in 1999 than in 1924 and slightly more in 1999 than in 1977. 

But other factors were involved as well. The Middletown surveys provide abundant evidence that the generation gapóthe cultural divide between parents and childrenówas much wider in 1924 than it was in 1990. Most of the 1924 parents had grown up in rural areas before the era of the automobile and the radio. Most had not finished high school. The world of their children was relatively strange to them. By contrast, most parents in 1999 had the same urban background and outlook as their children. They watched many of the same television programs and followed the same sports. Despite many areas of disagreement and conflict between parents and children, they did not have the fundamental communication problems that earlier generations experienced. Moreover, parents at the end of the century were encouraged by the educational system and the media to take parenting seriously in ways that would never have occurred to their great-grandparents.


Chapter 4 char 11

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Middletown I, III, IV, Community Survey, items 34 and 35.

 

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