Sunday, February 18, 2007

U.S. Ranks Second-to-Last for Child Well-Being

A mom in our homeschooling co-op sent this article to us, from The Economist. Apparently, when calculating the "well-being" of children in 21 rich countries, the United States comes in second-to-last, with Britain being the worst. Of course, any study like this is open to criticism, as their methods of calculating well-being are not in any way exact. For example, to figure the material well-being of children, they take into account household-income inequality, self-reported deprivation, and the number of children's books in a house. Of course, those are very important things to consider, but by no means definitive. However, the article does make a very good point about family life and the effect it has on children.. a point that makes me feel proud of what Doug and I strive for and achieve for our family.

"Where Britain and America really score badly, however, is in the categories of relationships and risky behaviour. British and American children apparently spend less time (and eat fewer meals) with their parents, compared with the other countries, and seem to be somewhat less happy with their friends and in school. Some of this is especially messy to assess and the report's authors acknowledge "obvious problems of definition" when subjective measures and self-reporting are compared. Maybe British and American children are better at moaning than others. But many of the data seem reliable enough. There is statistical evidence (at least in Britain and America) that children in single-parent families are worse off in some ways, when school drop-out rates or eventual educational attainment are measured, for example. And family breakdown may be a contributing cause to the worryingly high rates of risky behaviour—younger sex, more drug taking, dreadful diets, and high levels of drinking, bullying and violence—in Britain and America.

"The question, then, is what to do about any of this? It seems rather more likely that others are going to take up British and American cultural habits—more junk food, more single-parents—than the other way around. And while governments can spend more on cutting child poverty, whatever politicians promoting family values may say, they can do relatively little to encourage parents to stick together for the sake of their children, let alone to enforce a regular family meal or lots of bedtime stories."

So, hey.. at least we can say that we eat together as a whole family at least once a day, and each of the children's meals are with at least one parent. And if our bedtime reading isn't enough, then I don't know what is. :)



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