June 1, 2006

Govt: Dads Care, Matter Now

The CDC's National Center on Health Statistics released the latest results of the National Survey of Family Growth [NSFG], which is notable because it's the first round of the study to include men. So, uh, thanks, I guess.

The data was collected in 2002, but if you look through the insanely dense tables of the 246 page pdf report, you'll realize they had UMich grad students typing non-stop for the last four years to get it ready.

Anything interesting in the results? CNN and Salon report some of the high-level findings, and I'll wait for Brian at Rebel Dad to parse the survey later [he's the expert on this kind of dad research]. But there are a few things that catch my attention:

  • Both men and women overwhelmingly agreed [98% and 97%, respectively] with the statement, "The rewards of being a parent are worth it despite the cost and work it takes." Duh, as if the "right" answer isn't staring you in the face. How about asking some quantifiable information about those costs and work aspects to see how people really approach their parenting responsibilities? Or their reward-claiming, to use the survey's terminology.
  • Large majorities [70-90%+] of resident dads with kids under age 5 participate in childrearing by doing the following activities daily or several times/week: eat meals with their kids, give them baths, play with them, and take them places. But only 56% read stories to them more than several times/week.
  • There don't appear to be any questions about primary caregiver status, hours/week spent with kids, or other household responsibilities. But while I can see how the daytime activities of parenting can count for the stuff above, it also sounds a little GTWD, night-time duty-focussed. Or maybe I'm just projecting.
  • 22% of men who self-reported as gay or bisexual have biological kids, which seems like a pretty high number, and one that probably gives anti-gay activists the hives just to hear it. But yet only 70% of gay men agreed that gay men should be allowed to adopt kids. How does that work?
  • The biggest gaps between men and women I saw were about the idea of whether a mother who works could have as "warm and secure a relationship with her kids" as one who stays home. The majority agreed, but men strongly agreed much less than women did [18 vs 29%]. Again, it appears the corollary, about a working man's ability to have a warm and secure relationship with his kids, went unexamined.

    This all seems to hint at an unstated bias in the survey, where the roles of fathers and mothers are assumed to be different, and that difference ripples through the questions--and the conclusions--in a cyclical way. Of course, it's the first time they're asking, and it's obvious that the differences in roles and divisions of labor DO exist in the real world. But to some extent, this survey seems designed to quantify preconceptions and conventional wisdom rather than to identify the real situation of dads, moms, and families. I guess we'll just have to wait until 2010 to see how the next round turns out.

    Study: College grads are fussier dads [great/stupid headline from ap on cnn & salon, via dt readers
    damian and alex]
    Hours spent per week reading the full text of the study: 20 [cdc.gov]


    So if I'm reading you correctly, only 29% of women felt that "...a mother who works could have as "warm and secure a relationship with her kids" as one who stays home"??? What I want to know is, what percentage of women surveyed worked? 29%? Or what percentage of those 29% above worked? 100%? i'm a working mom by force (unemployed husband is currently playing stay at home dad with our 4 month old) and I'd hate to think that 71% of women I know think my relationship with my daughter is not as warm and secure as it could be. For some reason, this really sickens me. Bah.

    No. He says that "the majority" think it's true, but only 29% of women "strongly" agree. That 29% must be the women that work - we know that we can have "warm and secure" relationships with our kids! I worried alot about it before I went back to work and during the first few months, so I can see how a mother who doesn't work might not be at the "strongly agree" state.

    [exactly, kate, the majority either agree or strongly agree, but the 10-pt gap between men and women at the strongly agree level was what I was talking about. Still, I wonder if someone's ever gonna write a book about the conflicting emotions, feedback, and pressures between GTW moms and SAHM's. I bet it'd get a lot of attention... -ed.]

    You have to remember that the Bush admininstration has a history of censoring information on official websites and leaving only information which fits their agenda. It should surprise me that they would want to push mothers in traditional stay-at-home roles.

    Although, looking at some of the results on sexual activity, it appears maybe they haven't finished "cleansing" this report yet.

    [lol, yeah, I figured the subject of fatherhood was deemed irrelevant and thus, the report could go through as is. Of course, the other noticeable stat is the % of married non-white dads vs white, both those who live with their kids and those who don't. You'd think groups bent on "protecting" marriage'd get right on that... -ed.]

    I am a gay dad having given a donation to two lesbian friends. Everybody's really happy including the children. All my straight friends love it all too.

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