Why Parenting Matters
LAURA E. BERK
Numerous signs indicate that the quality of parenting in the United States has eroded. America's population of poverty-stricken children and youths—at 16 percent, among the largest in the industrialized world1—suffers in manifold ways from a pile-up of stresses that undermine parenting, including family turmoil and instability, chaotic households, and run-down, violent neighborhoods devoid of social supports.2 But many American children in families with adequate to plentiful incomes are experiencing an increasing array of problems that disrupt their chances for a happy, healthy, successful adult life.
In worldwide comparisons of academic achievement, American students typically score no better than the international average, and often below it3—a disappointing picture confirmed by The Nation's Report Card, a biannual national assessment of educational progress. In the most recent assessment, 37 percent of fourth graders scored below the [basic level] in reading, and 31 percent did so in math. In each domain, less than one third had reached or exceeded a