Father Figures; Opinions Help Complete Researchers' Family portrait.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 2002 | Go to article overview

Father Figures; Opinions Help Complete Researchers' Family portrait.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Is it important to teach children younger than 13 to think for themselves? Yes, say most mothers. Can one parent be as good as two parents? Yes, say around 40 percent of women.

In the past, researchers rarely asked men or fathers for their opinions on these kinds of family issues, but that began to change in the 1990s.

Now researchers know most fathers agree with mothers that it's a priority for children to think for themselves, but far fewer men than women think that one parent can be as good as two.

These are just two of the hundreds of findings compiled in a first-of-its-kind report called "Charting Parenthood: A Statistical Portrait of Fathers and Mothers in America," released by Child Trends Inc. this summer.

Government researchers tried for years to understand America's families by asking mothers about parenting, marriage, divorce and fertility, said Brett Brown, senior research analyst at Child Trends.

With fathers' opinions added to the mix, "for the first time we have a comprehensive picture of how mothers and fathers feel about parenting, how they parent and how they came to be parents," he said.

"When men and women are both considered, we find that, in some critical areas, their views and experiences diverge, while in other areas there is surprising agreement," wrote project director Tamara Halle.

"The data also provide important insights into the value men place on family life and child rearing," she said. For instance, it appears that "many men have a deep commitment to raising children in the context of marriage and that substantial percentages of fathers are deeply and regularly involved in play, discipline and primary caregiving."

The 200-page parenting report draws from 13 national surveys to provide data in 40 categories of family life, including parenting, family formation and fertility.

It also fulfills a request by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics that data be collected and published on "male fertility, family formation and fathering."

Roland C. Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, applauded the new interest in fathers and families.

"A lot of men - when they look at the concept of marriage - look at having children as one of the things that's going to cause them to get married," he said, "so I'm not surprised at all that there's a link between marriage and child care and men."

Including fathers in the research "is critical," he said, because they are related to the outcomes for children. …

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