March 10, 2006

No Pressure, But Depression Hampers Parenting

DT reader Buck calls it possibly the "most obvious headline" ever: "Depression Hampers Parenting." A new study shows that parents--the study is only of mothers, wtf--who show symptoms of postpartum depression are slightly less likely to do child-interactive-type activities with their kids. For example, 22.4% of mothers with PPD read books with their kids each day, compared to 28.4% of non-depressed moms.

While I can understand that it's important to get a sense of the impact of PPD on parenting and all, when is someone gonna start figuring out why 72% of parents aren't reading books with their kids?? What? Is up? With that?

Depression Hampers Parenting
[ via dt reader Buck]
Previously: PPD: it's not just for mothers anymore


I was as depressed as anyone off and on through the first 4 years of my parenting experience and I still managed to read.

In fact there were times where reading was all I could do.

Reading is overrated. Speaking of which, ever thought of doing audio blog entries to spare me reading more than I have to?
All the best,

I grew up in a house with two high school teachers, surrounded by print--books, magazines, newspapers. I was encouraged to read, to have my own books, to write--to get to bring home a book of my choice from a bookstore was a favorite treat. I grew up thinking that this was normal, or the case in all families, but as a student of education, I learned that it wasn't.

Back when I was an education student, we read "Ways with Words : Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms" by educational anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath (1983). She looked at the intersection of race, class, work, and culture with attitudes and practices about education, traditional literacy and oral communication in two small adjacent industrial towns. She found that working class blacks and whites in these two towns had a different relationship to print than middle class persons of both races in the same towns. There was less print in the home environment, as print was seen as a functional form of communication--for the transmission of specific information. Oral literacy and storytelling often had primacy in these homes and communities, but there was a disconnect when these nontraditional forms of literacy were devalued in school in favor of print, and thus print's relationship to formal education (from which many of these people were alienated) was further underscored. This created a generational effect, in that children in print-poor homes and environments tended to replicate that situation when they were parents, and vice versa for those raised in print-rich environments.

So really, we're talking about issues of class, race, culture, work and education, and entire histories of disengagement with reading for non-functional purposes. The question shouldn't stop at why aren't parents reading to their kids, then; we have to go further, to solutions.

One example of a solution is the national Read Out and Read program, which promotes early literacy as a health and well-being issue by connecting parents with books at the pediatrician's office. According to their website, "The ROR program model is based on research that shows a connection between the frequency of sharing books with babies, toddlers and young children and enhanced language development." It's about creating both a culture of engagment and a system that supports parents who want to do this but previously hadn't the resources or opportunities.

Just some stuff to think about...

But why read to them when TV can do it for us? :)

Seriously, our kid is 14 months now... loves books, loves reading, and usually can recall (and blurt out) what's on the next page faster than I can. My wife took her to the library and she went absolutely nuts with all the books around... same thing in the bookstore today. The TV stays off until she's asleep, usually... I don't think it's the only factor, but you can't underestimate the corrupting influence of the flickering idiot box!

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