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'No rush to be older': Kids like being kids, study finds

Kids like being kids, study finds, perhaps thanks to parenting

By Emily Alpert

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, July 30 2013 6:36 p.m. MDT

In many middle-class households, "there's a decreasing sense that parents and children are at odds," said Daniel Cook, an associate professor of childhood studies at Rutgers University-Camden. On top of that, if kids are free to do things once barred from children, staying young might seem all the more attractive.

"Perhaps growing up begins to sound like responsibility as opposed to freedom," Cook said.

Some scholars believe long-standing changes in parenting have already shown up in adults. Twentysomethings today talk to their parents more often and more openly than baby boomers did at the same age, an AARP survey found last year. The Pew Research Center found that most young adults who weathered the recession by moving in with their parents were satisfied with their living situation.

Baby boomers "didn't want to have the same hierarchy and distance with their kids" as their parents did, said Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Clark University research professor of psychology. "They wanted to be more like friends." Among parents of adults ages 18 to 29, 73 percent said they had a "mostly positive" relationship with their children, the Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults found this year.

Yet the changes in parenting could have drawbacks. Some adults fear the devotion to parenting has gone overboard, especially among middle-class families with time and money to obsess over their decisions. Americans have grown increasingly worried that having kids infringes too much on parental freedom, the General Social Survey shows.

Some complain that children are excessively sheltered as parenting goes into overdrive — and lament that parents who aren't totally consumed by childbearing are shunned.

"If you want to read a magazine while they're on the playground, that's seen as selfish," said Linda Williamson, a Granada Hills, Calif., mother of two. "If you don't want to share a bed with your toddler, that's selfish."

Williamson said she once battled an elementary school over letting her son bike alongside her a few blocks to school — something that other parents saw as unsafe.

Writer Lenore Skenazy, who was flooded with media attention after letting her son ride the New York City subway by himself, said children "kept in bubbles" probably see little to envy in their parents' lives.

"Would you rather be the princess or the lady-in-waiting?" said Skenazy, author of the book "Free-Range Kids." "Literally — the lady-in-waiting-in-the-car."

In Tustin, Heather Thome says she is no "helicopter parent." She wants little Hannah to be able to handle the bumps and bruises of life. But she has also tried to make sure Hannah enjoys being a kid, remembering the responsibilities she herself had to shoulder after her parents divorced.

"My daughter has been really funny about saying, 'I absolutely do not want children,'" Thome said. "She says, 'They're just too much work.'"

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