Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Weakest Link

I have struggled for a bit on whether or not I should post this. I have worked VERY hard on it and got an "A". :0) Remember this post? I asked you all for some opinions on a subject I take very seriously. It was for this paper.

I hope no one takes offense to the paper. Remember that it is an expository essay. Everything contained within in it is fact based on research and numerous studies done by REALLY SMART PEOPLE. However....it is my opinion as well. Anyway....read on....

Each generation for the last several decades has criticized the generation after it. Whether it is that the new era of children are lazy, too dependent, or even brazen, it is not often that the older generations cannot find fault in the younger. Children are facing new challenges with each passing year. They experience limited parental availability and family support, lack of responsibility, and more exposure to the ways of the world at a younger age. These occurrences were not familiar to the youth of 50 years ago. Unfortunately, these new challenges are proving to be too overwhelming for the children of today. Are the older generations correct? Are the parents of today raising a weaker generation? Due to the challenges stated, the next generation of children will be the weakest our society has ever seen.

The family is the nucleus of American life. In the 1950’s the normal American family consisted of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and multiple children. All members of the family lived in the same home. Because of this, children had a more stable environment. Today’s world is far different. The normal family unit as it was known then has dissolved. Due to the rise in divorce rates and the growth in out of wedlock childbirths, the family unit has never been more diverse or unstable. The divorce rates in the 1950s were as low as 2.1 per 1,000 people. In this decade alone, the divorce rates reached 4.0 per 1,000 people (Harvard Magazine, 2004). Though there are still families with parents and children, this rise in divorce rates has added step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings to the mix as parents remarry. Some children are now living in two separate households after the divorcement of their parents. This new “mixed” family is now the new norm.

To prevent the loss from a divorce, some couples choose to not marry at all. According to the Rutgers National Marriage Project, “The number of U.S. couples living together without a license shot up 1100 percent between 1960 and 2002…In the 1950s, 95 percent of adults were husbands and wives….and in 2002, just over half.”(2004). Due to these numbers, it is only a natural result that children will be born to unwed parents. Some children do not even have this for an option. According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control, the number of children born to unwed mothers has increased from an average of 4% in the 1950s to 27.1% in 2000 (2000). These children are born into a single parent household, leaving them with far less stability than even those with unmarried parents.

With the rise in divorce rates and children born to unwed or single parents, children today are not allowed the same parental availability and supervision that was given 50 years ago. In a single parent household, that parent must be the sole provider. There is no stay-at-home figure for the child to turn to. This single parent status creates limitations on a parent’s ability to be available to the child because there is only one parent to do the job of two. Such children are left unsupervised and unprotected as their parent may be too burdened financially and emotionally to be effective. For households having two parents, more often than not both parents now have careers outside of the home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Of married working couples with children under 18, the percentage of dual-earning couples rose …to 68...” (2001). With both parents working, there are more latch key kids. They are without their parents for more time. This also results in both parents feeling drained at the end of the day, making them less likely to be fully available to their children even when they are home. Ambert’s research noted that, “in a context of social instability, caregivers are required to sustain a higher level of supervision than would be needed in a period of stability. There are now more dangers that confront adolescents than was the case 50 years ago….Poorly monitored youngsters are at a greater risk for delinquency, illicit drug use, early sexual involvement, and even school underachievement.” (2007). As these are unstable times, it can be hazardous to leave children unsupervised in a society where opportunities for problematic behaviors are plentiful. There is a connection that links misbehavior to lack of supervision. If children have parents available to them, the less likely they are to engage in problematic situations.




In 2002, Juvenile crime statistics reported that 2.3 million juveniles were arrested. “Juvenile crime statistics show that crimes committed by juveniles are most likely to occur on school days in the hours immediately following the end of a school day.” (2008). The hours between the school bell ringing and working parents arriving home are prime time for unsupervised children to get into trouble. Without proper guidance and supervision, children are left to figure things out by themselves. This can be detrimental.




Teachers are a dependable source of information on the changes in children’s behaviors over the past 50 years. They have reported that there has been an increase in the number of children misbehaving. Children have become “more difficult to teach, less focused, less able to concentrate, and less self-disciplined.” (Ambert, 2007) Children of this generation expect more from others and give less than children of past decades. They refuse to be held accountable for their actions. With no parental examples, and the constant barrage of wrongful actions being glorified on television and in video games, they can be left with a confused sense of right and wrong.




In the 1950s most households had one television with few channels. Families sat around it together to watch their favorite shows. Today, there are an average of 2.4 televisions per household. According to a study done in 2006, the average American child spends more time watching television than in school. This is not surprising based on the fact that the typical American household has the television on for more than 7 hours per day. This number is staggering, but hardly surprising. Due to these statistics, before finishing grade school, “the average child will witness about 8,000 murders depicted on TV.” (Zimmerman, 2006). Additionally, research has shown that “children are active social actors and participate in the reconstruction of the messages they receive from the media.” (Ambert, 2007). It is no wonder the juvenile crime rates have skyrocketed. Exposure to violence desensitizes the tolerance level of children so that they believe that conflicts can only be resolved with aggression. They lose their ability to deal with frustrations, which makes it harder for them to deal with problems as they come along. Worse yet, as children are exposed to violence, they become impervious to the severity of the consequences involved with such an act.




Not only are our children addicted to television, but once supplied with video games and the internet, they are exposed to far more than children were 50 years ago. A new report from the Nielson Company shows that “more than 40% of television households have a video gaming system.” (McGoughey, 2007). Killing is the goal in many video games. Not only this, but in some, committing crimes is the task that must be completed to win the game. Unfortunately, most of these games are targeted towards children. The child may, in turn, act out what they have done with gaming characters in real life. Additionally, 41.5% of households today have internet access (Newburger, 2001). Though the internet has many useful aspects, if children are left unsupervised as they browse through websites, they may find themselves in places inappropriate for their viewing. Furthermore, having access to everything encompassed within the World Wide Web may not be beneficial. The exposure to things too mature for them may cause them to act inappropriately older.

If it seems like more children are getting into trouble, it may be that there are more problem children today than 50 years ago. The causes for these problems are as diverse as the problems themselves. As Ambert stated, “There are now more dangers that confront adolescents than was the case 50 years ago….Poorly monitored youngsters are at a greater risk for delinquency, illicit drug use, early sexual involvement, and even school underachievement.” (2007). After looking at the research, it appears we have created an enabling environment for children. Of course there are parents that do a good job of raising very well grounded children, but unfortunately a greater proportion are being affected by these new challenges.

Since the 1950’s divorce rates have doubled, parents are less available to their children, juvenile crime rates have skyrocketed, and the access to advanced technology introduces children to too much, too early. Our society may present too many challenges for children to avoid developing problematic behaviors. As we become more technological, materialistic, and sedentary, our children are at a higher risk of emerging from their youth unscarred. It seems we are, in fact, raising a much weaker generation than that of our grandparents.



So, do you still love me? :0)

My opinion on the matter is also this.....our parents didn't have it as hard as our kids do. They could be stronger because they had the ability to be quite a bit more ignorant of the "real world". And yet, I think we also live in a society of permissive parents who place little responsibility on their children and allow them to behave in ways that my parents would have NEVER allowed, let alone my grandparents allowing it of their children. Respect, loyalty, perseverence....these are things that this generation seems to be lacking. Of course, I speak generally here. In no way do I think that EVERY child is lazy and rude. Unfortunately, I find myself talking about "punk kids" doing some "punk thing" and wondering if I was that way when I was younger. And honestly, though I was NEVER perfect...my mom would have grounded me for life for acting disrespectful or rude to anyone. Also...please remember that I have been divorced...I've been the single mom doing my best, but feeling strained and frustrated by the lack of "quality" time I felt I had with my son. Though I think in the end I smothered him a little too much...but that's a story for a different day....We also have three tvs in my house...the internet....and two video game systems on top of the stupid Nintendo DS {did I say stupid? I meant useless.} So don't think I am attempting to portray myself as perfect or wonderful. My paper was based on research. Am I going on too much here? I don't usually get on a BIG soap box...we'll see how it works this time around...

I love a good discussion and I know there have to be some strong opinions out there. Also...in no way do I think that my opinion is better than yours. :0) We are only as smart as we allow ourselves to be. We can't have a good opinion if we don't know all the facts, right? So, lay it on me....what do you think?

12 comments:

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

hi ashlee,

of course i still do.

take care, kathleen

Sister Honey Bunch said...

I agree with so much that you say here. And I think parents are way to permissive these days. They are so afraid to upset their kid (especially in families where both parents work) that they don't enforce boundaries, rules, values, etc.

Anonymous said...

I am in complete agreement with you on it. I only hope that I can raise my boys to be the strong ones and not those punk kids, but unfortunately I feel they get away with to much from me. But at the same time they will need those strong wills to face the challenges that will come their way growing up.

Rachelle

~Virginia~ said...

statistics and research data makes me question if i even want to have kids--like the odds are already against me having a happy decent kid.

but i firmly believe it's up to the parents to provide good examples and a foundation for "goodness".

Montay said...

OKay so I say WOWZA that was a long paper but so great!!! Way to go girl you are a brain...

Bridget said...

Yeah, I agree. Parents are not nearly as strict as they were. Kids pretty much get to spend their free time doing whatever they want. My kids have to work Saturday mornings on chores before we do anything fun. I get strange looks from neighbors sometimes when I tell them this. I had SO much more work to do when I was a kid though, its pathetic.

gab said...

Amen. It's tough to raise good kids in today's indulgent society.

Cameron said...

Nice work. Very well written and good arguments backed up with studies and such.

The next question becomes, do we create public policy to move our society back to a 50's era family?

Ashlee said...

Cam, I would say no. I think we, as a society, need to put our focus back on the family in general. Not necessarily the hard working hubby, housewife, and kiddos thogh. Life is much different in many ways as compared to the 50s, and not just in the ways I described in my paper. Life is expensive PERIOD. Some families need the second income. And, as with my case, becoming a single mother was a far better choice than staying in my previous marriage. Divorces are sometimes necessary. Do I think that divorce is overused? Yeppers, I do. But, that's for another day to discuss.
It's more the permissive parenting and lack of discipline that is at issue here. I did a darn good job as a single mommy, I think. :0) Yes, he was spoiled rotten, but there were rules and he had to obey them. He had chores {even at 3 and 4 years}. It's called life, and too many parents say, "kids will be kids". Unfortunately, if you don't teach your kids about reality, once they get into the real world, they will continue to expect things to be handed to them without working for it. There's far too much gimme, and far too less hard work, respect, and discipline. I see it creeping into my son as he gets older and all I hear about is how so and so's mom lets them do blah blah blah. It drives me crazy! I've heard how mean I am countless times. :0) I just tell him that it means that I love him WAY more than so and so's parents love them. :0) I'm mean because I care.

Cameron said...

But all your facts say that the 50's era family made better kids-people-society. Laws and social mores have changed dramatically since then, which has caused the problems you cite. So doesn't it follow then that in order to reverse the bad trends we should reverse the things that caused them?

Ashlee said...

Cam, to get a little more specific here....
in a lot of ways technology has improved our society. Though the laws have changed, I don't believe it's the laws that are at fault. What has changed is people's perceptions of what is appropriate. The reversals that should be made aren't as general as you state. Parents MUST take a more active role in their children's lives, more specifically the mothers. Fathers have actually gotten better since the 50s {in general}, it is the mothers that have changed. Children need nurtured. They need structure. They need boundaries. They need rules. Not to the point where it's like living at military academy, but they need to be taught about reality. And reality is that if you want something you have to work for it...you are not going to get along with everyone you meet, deal with it....if you act inappropriately there will be consequences, and you should have to deal with them....money doesn't grow on trees and everything costs money, your parents cannot pay for everything all the time....

You seeing what I'm saying? Parents give and give and give so much that they are only doing a disservice to their children. They think that the supply of money is endless, and that things should come easily. They think if it isn't fun, it shouldn't be worth doing as a job. They think they are indestructible, irreplaceable, basically...all that and a bag of chips. If they get into trouble, too many parents bail them out quickly. The kids don't pay the consequences and therefore don't understand the complexity of the situation. OR, the parents turn a blind eye making children believe it's ok to act inappropriately.

Parents have changed. Parents are the ones that are to guide and protect their children. Society is ever changing and progressing. You can't stop it. It's life. :0) However, parents can ensure that their children are prepared to face an ever changing world. That they should be adaptable, but steadfast in their values and morals. They must be strong in a weak world. The tvs, video games, internet, bad friends etc....the problems I mention in my paper...parents must educate their children. We can't hide them from the world. But we can teach them what is right and wrong. We can teach them to be respectful, hard working, and good. If we can parent the way our grandparents did with our parents {in general of course} perhaps their generation can change the world. :0)

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

ashlee,
amen sister! great comment there, too. our 17 (will turn 18 in 2 months) daughter is working and paying for her first car. you bet she will look at that car differently.

she wants to go to college and she will put herself through college (just like her mom and dad did). we worked full time while going to school part time and you bet i valued and appreciated and wanted it!

i don't agree with giving them everything.

great thoughts ashlee, thanks, kathleen