‘Mum, Dad, where are you? I need to talk’

It’s Youth Week in New Zealand and a survey of almost 10,000 students at 96 secondary schools shows that more than half of them want to spend more time with their parents.

Some 54 per cent “sometimes” or “hardly ever” get enough time with their mothers and 61 per cent sometimes or hardly ever get enough time with their dads. This is “big stuff”, says Auckland University researcher Simon Denny. “Having a close relationship with a parent is one of the most important predictors of good health and wellbeing for young people.”

An important reason for not seeing enough of one or other parent is family breakdown. Only 73 per cent of students in 2007 lived in their main home with two “parents” -- and that included step-parents. Some 29 per cent of students said they lived in more than one home, usually spending part of the time with each parent.

The majority (81 per cent) reported that family members got along well or very well, but only 71 per cent said they were happy about how they personally got on with their families. That was better, though, than the 2001 figure of 59 per cent. And 90 per cent said at least one parent cared about them a lot.


But the proportion saying they got enough time with at least one parent "most of the time" fell from 62 per cent to 56.5 per cent. Among the others, 62 per cent said they did not get enough time with their mothers because they were at work, and 72 per cent gave the same answer for their fathers.

"What we see is that from 2001 to 2007 was a period of relative economic good times when both the parents might be working more," Dr Denny said. "That means there is more money in the family, so overall the family relationships are good.

"But if parents are prioritising their work over their teenagers, I'd get concerned. [Australian author] Steve Biddulph says you can't be a good father if you're working more than 50 hours a week. I think that's a reasonable guide."


Around one in five teenagers said they missed out on parent time because either their mother or father was simply “out”. ~ NZ Herald, May 23


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