On Good Intentions & Bad Outcomes of the Anxieties of Modern Parents

On Good Intentions & Bad Outcomes of the Anxieties of Modern Parents

“The components of anxiety, stress, fear, and anger do not exist independently of you in the world. They simply do not exist in the physical world, even though we talk about them as if they do.”

–Wayne Dyer

New Reasons for Anxiety in the Modern Period of Baby Care History

The 2004 book “Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Child-Rearing in America” by author, professor and historian Peter N. Stearns looks at the baby care history of the 20th century. He points to several factors that increased parental anxiety, including mobility, urbanization and smaller nuclear families. Many parents no longer have the advice and support of extended family that they did in the past. Another factor was the shifting societal view of children as being fragile and vulnerable, rather than resilient, as they had been considered to be in earlier generations.

A review of the book talks about the five main topics of the book, which are the degree of vulnerability of children, discipline, education, work outside the home, and entertainment. Parenting manuals from from earlier periods in baby care history were apt to focus on the importance of obedience and parents’ setting a good example, as well as information about health and gender roles. Rather than being written by experts in child psychology, they were often written by members of the clergy.

Today, parenting manuals cover nearly as many topics as there are diagnoses of mental and emotional illnesses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Many emotional states that were once considered normal within the human continuum of experience are now considered to be mental disorders. Each edition of the DSM has increased the number of disorders, and today lists more than at any other period in baby care history. In 1952, it listed only 106, increasing to 265 by 1980 to 297 in the most current issue. Due to complaints about the ever-increasing number of “disorders”, has led to a new practice of creating subtypes of disorders.

According to an article in Slate magazine, a study compared societal levels of neuroticism, associated with anxiety, from 1963 to those of 1993 and found that Americans showed higher anxiety levels in 1993. Ironically, some of the increased anxiety parents experience is related to their fear that making parenting mistakes will result in a future diagnosis of a mental or emotional disorder. Other modern causes for anxiety include the discovery that germs cause disease and that the majority of fatal accidents occur in the home.

Reasons for Educational Anxiety in Today’s Chapter in Baby Care History

One impact of increased parental anxiety was an increase in parental involvement in education, leading to the development of the term “helicopter parents“, coined in 1969. While parental involvement in children’s educations can be positive, Stearn believes that excessive hovering, especially with adolescents, may increase their need to differentiate themselves from their parents and interfere with the natural process of emotional separation.

The U.S. has the largest percentage of home-schooled children in the developed world. Many attribute their reasons for home-schooling to their desire to have greater control over their children’s influences. For many parents, teaching children to do chores at home is more important for both future life skills and character development than completing hours of academic homework.

Others are concerned about what they view as declining educational standards in public schools. For example, in 1968, less than half of high school grades were A’s and B’s. However, since the focus shifted from academic achievement to self-esteem, the number of A’s and B’s rose steadily, and by 1994, 32% of high school students received A’s. Grades have continued to rise despite the fact that by 2002, 25% of all children in one Virginia public school system were designated as having special needs. Additionally, children in U.S. schools use 90% of Ritalin prescribed world-wide.

The Role of Entertainment in Today’s Chapter in Baby Care History

For the first time in baby care history, one of parents’ worries is that their children are bored. Boredom may in fact be a symptom of childhood depression linked to the constant availability of mass media entertainment. This entertainment is sponsored by advertisers that deliberately create feelings of dissatisfaction in order to sell more products.

A review in Salon magazine sums up many of Stearn’s most salient points regarding the reasons for an increase in parental anxiety during this period in baby care history. It also points out that modern mass media, dependent upon sensationalism to capture ratings, often exaggerates the dangers of modern life. Stearn’s book provides parents with the valuable service of presenting actual statistics regarding actual incidences of things that the media sensationalizes, such as child abductions, school violence, and abusive nannies. The review also gives him credit for superior research, as well as including a list of the most widely read child rearing manuals throughout baby care history beginning in the 1920s.

It seems that this book may give some parents some much-needed perspective and perhaps some relief from the anxieties of parenting in the modern world.

baby care history

September 23,2016  |

parental rights

Parental Rights : Really A Right Or A Privilege?

“Your children are not your children, they come through you, but they are life itself, wanting to express itself.”  – Wayne Dyer

Meaning Of Parental Rights?

Parental rights is a term most often used within the legal system in custodial cases. The history of parental rights is a long one. Not everyone agrees on the definition, but with the help of philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists, that definition continues to evolve.
One of the earliest definitions was termed propertarianism.

According to this theory, children are the property of their parents. While the children have no rights, parents have the obligation to care for them. This theory is based on the concept that parents own the genetic material that produced the children. Since most people now find the concept of owning another human being offensive, with few exceptions, this extreme view has been largely replaced by other more progressive theories.

Biology coupled with advances in reproductive technology made it necessary to rethink the basis of parental rights. For the first time, it became possible for people to donate genetic materials to create children for parents other than themselves. Even in cases of adopted or step-children, there is no “ownership” of genetic material. Some adherents of the biology theory claimed gestation as the basis for parental rights, and that men could only acquire those rights through marriage and adoption as allowed by the mother. It held that when there was a conflict between genetic and gestational mothers, the law should favor the gestational mother. The once all-important biological connection has lost much of its power in favor of other important aspects of parenting.

Parental rights based on biology alone was replaced by parental rights based on the best interests of the child. This theory is still often used in custody cases where there is suspected abuse or neglect, or when one parent proves more capable of meeting the child’s needs than the other. Another closely related school of thought focuses on the interests of parents and children. According to this theory, parents satisfy some of their own needs, such as the need for closeness and intimacy, through satisfying the needs of their children. Children need individual attention and guidance based on their dispositions and preferences, the knowledge of which is gained over time through consistent interaction. In this way, strong familial relationships are forged, relationships that can be damaged by excessive intrusion by the state.

Critics of this theory developed another called constructionism, which argues that the rights and obligations of parents aren’t based in biology, but are in fact social constructs. According to constructionists, parental rights are the result of a social agreement between prospective parents and the social community responsible for the care of its youngest members. One manifestation of this community is the state. In the contructionist’s view, sufficient care and nurturing is more important than biology, and the state plays a larger role in ensuring a minimum standard of care.

The Children’s Liberation movement holds that parents should have no rights over children and that children should have the same legal status as adults. Since they aren’t able to reason as adults, proponents of this theory argue that to make decisions, they can consult adults they trust who do have that capacity. Good parenting according to this theory is the process of assisting children in becoming fully autonomous. It concludes that it is not possible for parents to simultaneously have rights and satisfactorily perform their parental duties. Closely related is the right to an open future theory, which holds that parents shouldn’t limit their children’s future options with their own personal beliefs or preferences. Some examples of what would constitute such limiting would be an arranged marriage or an expectation that a child follow in a parent’s professional footsteps.

The pendulum swing from children being considered the private property of parents towards children’s rights went so far that philosopher Hugh LaFollette suggested licensing parents. In his view, enforcement could consist of tax incentives and other benefits for those in compliance. Alternatives to licensing that have been suggested as ways to improve the quality of parenting include paid family leave, government day care, and mandatory birth control. Most agree that monitoring or counseling is better than licensing due to the potential biases and fallibility of the educational content and testing process for such a license.

The rights of parents and children alike are best served by a shared sense of responsibility for the care and nurturing of children by the entire community in which they live. Like justice, a lack of human rights for anyone results in fewer human rights for everyone. The refinement of the definition of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood will continue to evolve with each new scientific and technological development. Whatever direction the pendulum may swing next, the one basic parenting principle with which everyone has always agreed is the unchanging importance of love.

Broken Eggs, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1756, Credit Line Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920
Broken Eggs, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1756, Credit Line Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920

October 23,2015  |