A few years ago a friend gave me a self-published book by two of her cousins (sisters) to read. It was about the way they co-ordinated care of their ageing parents while living in different parts of the United States. Not surprisingly, as more people live to a ripe old age and as families are increasingly dispersed, the literature on this subject is increasing.
On the New York TimesThe New Old Age blog Paula Span, herself the author of one of these books, draws attention to the just published, They’re Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy. Author Francine Russo obviously thinks there is a largish market out there of baby boomers who a) have siblings, and b) are likely to disagree with each other about how to look after mum and dad.
With Michelle Obama heading up a new anti-obesity programme in the United States studies analysing the problem of childhood obesity are coming thick and fast.
Few of them contain any surprises to a person of average intelligence -- like the discovery by Ohio State University researchers that four-year-olds who ate dinner with their siblings and parents, got a lot of sleep and had their TV viewing rationed were almost 40 per cent less likely to be obese than those from less disciplined households.
My guess is that family dinners generally mean a balanced diet and good family relationships -- so less compensatory eating, for one thing. A good long sleep means plenty of energy for the mental, physical and social tasks of the day. And all of that means not much time for lolling about in front of the TV, with its constant invitations to eat more.
The sexualisation of children’s entertainment has reached a new low with the arrival of an online game in which kids can “hook up” and play strippers and prostitutes with avatars.
One hates increasing the notoriety of sites like My Minx, but it might be just as well for parents to be warned about this free registration, easily accessible trap for youngsters, and to be aware of the brazen defence mouthed by its author -- a Briton named Christopher Evans.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, although the site has features appealing to tweens and even younger kids -- including web links to other tween games such as Hanna Montana, Bratz and Scooby Doo -- Evans claims it is targeted at late teen users who, he told a British paper, are capable of making “their own distinction between a game and real life”.
The New York Times editors have had to eat their recent words dismissing abstinence education as a “narrow, ineffective and fundamentally dishonest approach” not worthy of federal funding or, by implication, any funding whatsoever.
In an editorial acknowledging the important new study showing clearly the greater effectiveness of abstinence-only education compared to other approaches or none, the Times has to concede:
The only program that successfully delayed the start of sexual activity was the abstinence-only instruction. By the end of two years, only a third of the abstinence-only group had engaged in sexual intercourse compared with almost half of the control group.
Predictably the paper, which has an irrational faith in the effectiveness of teaching teenagers to use contraception, makes it’s concession a grudging one, sniping at abstinence advocates for making too much of one study, “misreading” its implications and trying to promote…
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It appears that the Australian government has embraced a campaign to roll back moderate changes to family law made in 2006 giving children equal access to both their mother and father in the event of separation. At the time these changes were endorsed by both Government and the Opposition.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland released three reports of reviews of the Family Law Act on January 28. One report by Professor Richard Chisholm, recommends complete dismantling of the 2006 shared parenting reforms.
But shared parenting is only happening in a minority of cases. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) reports that only 26 per cent of children aged 5-11 whose parents separated after the 2006 reforms were in place are experiencing "shared care time", that is, at least 35 per cent of nights with each parent. Why is this outcome considered by the Attorney-General to be "regrettable"?
How serious is America about parental rights in education? Pretty serious, it seems. Last week an immigration judge in the US granted political asylum to a German family who want to homeschool their children -- something that is illegal in Germany. Germany for its part is very serious about suppressing what it calls “parallel societies” based on religion or worldview -- which is how it sees homeschoolers.
Tennessee Judge Lawrence Burman ruled that, after several years of run-ins with the authorities in Germany, the Romeike family’s human rights were being violated in their own country and that they had “a well-founded fear of persecution” if they stayed there. Burman said homeschoolers “are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress” and this was “repellent to everything we believe as Americans”. Strong stuff, and it is not yet clear what political actions may follow.
Big news today on the sexuality education front: solid evidence from a federally funded United States study that a programme limited to an abstinence message can significantly reduce the onset of sexual activity among young adolescents.
Publication of the study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine comes only days after the New York Times agreed with the Alan Guttmacher Institute that there is “a link between the [recently reported] rise in the teenage pregnancy and abortion rates and the Bush administration’s reliance on abstinence-only sex education programs that bar teaching about contraception.” The Times editorial added, “This is not an unreasonable inference.” And: "The [Guttmacher] study is timely. As part of the broader health care reform effort, abstinence-only advocates are trying hard to restore financing for the narrow, ineffective and fundamentally dishonest approach"
Usually it is adult children borrowing from parents; sometimes it’s unemployed or sick parents borrowing from children; but either way, this kind of dependency can put a strain on family relationships. Money can be the hardest thing to give. But doesn't charity begin at home?
“I think money changes everything,” says a man interviewed by the New York Times -- a married father of two young children who, with the co-operation of his wife, is helping to support his 62-year-old, unemployed mother. Following separation from a “partner” (during which the younger couple also helped her financially) she had bought a modest home unit, but then lost her job. Her son has been paying $750 a month for her mortgage and helping with other bills.
A report from the Pew Research Centre this month draws attention to what it calls The New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives. Statistically, between 1970 and 2007, wives have gained a significant edge over husbands in education and their economic contribution to the home has grown faster.
From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage. In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women.
This has led to much favourable comment -- anything that changes gender roles is A-OK with the educated class, and it is they who largely enjoy the benefits of the trend: greater equality between spouses and increased income -- and greater marriage…
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A twenty-something New Yorker living in an area of Brooklyn where she finds “the mommy culture run amok” (most residents have children and she does not) complains that she is running into infants in -- of all places -- her favourite bars. Double strollers on the streets and toddlers in cafes are bad enough, she frets, but “bar-babies” are the limit.
No matter what breeders might think, bars are not family-friendly. If I am out drinking and sobbing about a bad breakup, I don’t want my cries to compete with those of an infant sitting next to me. If I go to the bathroom to correct my wayward mascara at the end of a long weekend night, I don’t want to watch a baby being wiped down on the soggy sink counter.
Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@ mercatornet.com