ScienceDaily (May 4, 2008) — Almost one-third of U.S. parents have a surprisingly low-level knowledge of typical infant development and unrealistic expectations for their child’s physical, social and emotional growth, according research from the University of Rochester. The new findings, which suggest that such false parenting assumptions can not only impair parent-child interactions, but also rob kids of much-needed cognitive stimulation […]
[…]once a baby is born, an astonishing number of parents are not only unsure of what to anticipate as their child develops, but are also uncertain of when, how or how much they are to help their babies reach various milestones, such as talking, grabbing, discerning right from wrong, or even potty-training.”
Moms and dads often misinterpret behaviors — some parents expect too much of babies too soon and grow frustrated; others underestimate their child’s abilities, preventing them from learning on their own.
The study points to a correlation between education level and lack of parenting knowledge, and suggest that paediatricians could do more to make parental expectations of infants, whether too positive or too negative, more realistic. But this is ignoring the elephant in the room of why so many people don’t know anything about infant norms, and frankly it’s giving too much credit to those who’ve managed to acquire some book-smarts. Books about early childhood are available and are useful resources that certainly can help fill knowledge gaps, but they’re no match for actual exposure to the company of young children as part of normal social interaction while one is growing up, and that’s what is lacking.
For a moment here, I’m going to make some social conservative’s day – the problem is that there are too few children in most households, so that older children never share a house with infants and learn what is and is not normal. But, unlike the social conservatives, I don’t think that the answer is for couples to have larger families with the wife staying at home to raise the children all together. The answer is NOT for nuclear families to have more children, the answer is to get over the fetish for nuclear families altogether, and radically rethink the way that adults live in a community while they are parenting young children.
Nuclear families reinforce the model of the gendered division of labour. In almost all nuclear families, one parent ends up being the primary earner and the other ends up being the primary housekeeper and carer, and nearly always it is the traditional division of father earner, mother homemaker. Children in nuclear families see this gendered division of labour reinforced every hour of every day.
The idea that having your own separate home is the marker of true adulthood, and that anyone who is still living with their own parents when they themselves start having children is some sort of “loser”, has grown from a combination of hyper-individualism and toxic consumerism: own your own home and buy, buy, buy to fill it with items just for you and your own family.
You know, it’s really not that rational a way to live if you intend to raise children. Historically, extended family households were the norm, with plenty of adults to share both the labours of earning an income and the labours of keeping house and raising children. Even before women gained property rights and the vote, women in these extended family households often worked outside the home as seamstresses, laundresses, shop counter clerks, waitresses, barmaids etc., rostering their employment hours and their housework hours with the other adults in the home. Men worked set hours just as their wives did, and came home to pitch in, with fathers spending far more time interacting with their children back then than average fathers in the West do now. There was sufficient time for adults in these households to tend to herbs, vegetables, chickens and rabbits in the garden, with the children learning to help them. There were shared household appliances instead of every parenting couple having to have their own.
originally uploaded by chefranden
Was there less privacy? Less independence? Certainly, and this was anathema to the individualist mantra. However, there were marked benefits for parents, particularly primary carer parents. Those at home caring for children had other adults around for conversation, advice, and respite when required, unlike the isolation of many new mothers in a nuclear family. It’s also much easier to socialise a child with more than just a couple of adults modelling social interactions: the more people interacting around a child the better they absorb social lessons. Such households offer children more than just age-stratified interaction with other children: older children offer different social lessons than parents and other adults, and allow younger children to gradually progress from constant parental monitoring to gradual increases in independence in a group rather than on their own.
originally uploaded by freeparking
Is it possible for most people in the post-modern economy to return to the traditional extended family model? Probably not, given that the post-modern workforce is a mobile workforce. Good luck getting your parents and sibs to follow you wherever your particular career happens to take you, just to provide that special family support to make it easier to raise your kids.
Could there be other ways to organise a household around a co-operative parenting model? Design housing around a shared parenting model for couples with young children? I would think so, wouldn’t you? They wouldn’t have to be hippy-commune situations unless that was the particular choice. Why not a development geared towards groups of 6-8 couples raising children? Townhouses built around a central courtyard with a playground, cubby house, seating area and BBQ area, with the kitchen/family rooms of all the townhouses opening up to it? Co-op rosters for organising working hours amongst the adults so that there would always be a few adults home at any given time to share child-care? One big workshop? One big hobby room? One big library?
Originally uploaded by adactio