1. Study suggests use of mobile devices at home can carry conflict to workplace

    January 16, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Arlington press release:

    A University of Texas at Arlington researcher is part of a team of authors who have found that using a mobile device at home for work purposes has negative implications for the employee’s work life and also their spouse.

    Wayne Crawford, assistant professor of management in UTA’s College of Business, was one of five authors on “Your Job Is Messing With Mine! The Impact of Mobile Device Use for Work During Family Time on the Spouse’s Work Life,” recently published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

    Dawn Carson, Baylor University; Meredith Thompson, Utah State University; and Wendy Boswell and Dwayne Whitten, Texas A&M University; also contributed to the study.

    In all, 344 married couples were surveyed. All participants worked fulltime and used mobile devices or tablets at home for work purposes.

    “There is plenty of research on technology and how it affects employees,” Crawford said. “We wanted to see if this technology use carried over to affect the spouse negatively at work.”

    The couples’ survey results showed that use of a mobile device during family time resulted in lower job satisfaction and lower job performance.

    “It’s really no surprise that conflict was created when a spouse is using a mobile device at home,” Crawford said. “They’re sometimes engaging in work activities during family time. What that ultimately leads to, though, is trouble at work for both spouses. So, whether companies care or don’t care about employees being plugged in, those firms need to know that the relationship tension created by their interaction with their employees during non-work hours ultimately leads to work-life trouble.”

    Abdul Rasheed, chair of the Department of Management, said Crawford’s work is illuminating for businesses.

    “That extra time spent on mobile devices after hours might not be worth it if the grief it causes results in productivity losses once the conflict is carried back to work,” Rasheed said. “Businesses have to think about accomplishing tasks more efficiently while people are at work.”


  2. Study suggests quality of contact with grandparents is key to youths’ views of ageism

    January 7, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Society for Research in Child Development press release:

    Ageism — stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discrimination against older people — occurs frequently in young adults and can be seen in children as young as 3. A new study from Belgium sought to identify the factors underlying this form of discrimination. It found that ageist stereotypes in children and adolescents generally decrease around ages 10 to 12, and that young people who say they have very good contact with their grandparents have the lowest levels of ageism.

    The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium, appears in the journal Child Development.

    “The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of contact with grandparents,” explains Allison Flamion, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Liege, who led the research team. “We asked children to describe how they felt about seeing their grandparents. Those who felt unhappy were designated as having poor quality of contact. When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency.”

    To assess aspects of ageism, the researchers studied 1,151 children and adolescents ages 7 to 16 in the French-speaking part of Belgium; the youths were primarily White, from urban and rural areas, and from a range of socioeconomic statuses. In questionnaires, the researchers asked the youths their thoughts on getting old and about the elderly. They also collected information about the health of the youths’ grandparents, how often the two generations met, and how the young people felt about their relationships with their grandparents.

    In general, views on the elderly expressed by the children and adolescents were neutral or positive. Girls had slightly more positive views than boys; girls also tended to view their own aging more favorably, the researchers note.

    Ageist stereotypes fluctuated with the ages of the youths studied, with 7- to 9-year-olds expressing the most prejudice and 10- to 12-year-olds expressing the least, the study found. This finding mirrors other forms of discrimination (e.g., those related to ethnicity or gender) and is in line with cognitive-developmental theories: For example, acquiring perspective-taking skills around age 10 reduces previous stereotypes. With ageism, prejudice seemed to reappear when the participants in this study reached their teen years: 13- to 16-year-olds also had high levels of ageism.

    Grandparents’ health was also a factor in youths’ views on ageism: Young people with grandparents in poor health were more likely to hold ageist views than youths with grandparents in better health.

    The most important factor influencing youths’ views of the elderly was the quality of their contact with their grandparents. The study characterized youths’ contact as good or very good when they said they felt happy or very happy (respectively) when they saw and shared with their grandparents. Those who described their contact with grandparents as good or very good had more favorable feelings toward the elderly than those who described the contact less positively. Furthermore, the benefit of meaningful contact occurred in both children with the lowest level of ageism and those with the highest level, and boys seemed to benefit more than girls from high-quality contact.

    Frequency of contact, while mattering considerably less, also played a role: 10- to 12-year-olds who saw their grandparents at least once a week had the most favorable views toward the elderly, likely because of the multiplying effect of frequency with quality, the researchers suggest.

    “For many children, grandparents are their first and most frequent contact with older adults,” notes Stephane Adam, professor of psychology at the University of Liege, who coauthored the study. “Our findings point to the potential of grandparents to be part of intergenerational programs designed to prevent ageism. Next, we hope to explore what makes contacts with grandparents more rewarding for their grandchildren as well as the effects on children of living with or caring for their grandparents.”


  3. Study suggests eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

    December 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Montreal press release:

    Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

    Université de Montréal doctoral student Marie-Josée Harbec and her supervisor, pyschoeducation professor Linda Pagani, made the finding after following a cohort of Quebec children born between 1997 and 1998.

    The study is published today in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

    “There is a handful of research suggesting positive links between eating family meals together frequently and child and adolescent health,” Pagani said. “In the past, researchers were unclear on whether families that ate together were simply healthier to begin with. And measuring how often families eat together and how children are doing at that very moment may not capture the complexity of the environmental experience.”

    The study looked at children who had been followed by researchers since they were 5 months old as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. At age 6, their parents started reporting on whether or not they had family meals together. At age 10, parents, teachers and the children themselves provided information on the children’s lifestyle habits and their psycho-social well-being.

    “We decided to look at the long-term influence of sharing meals as an early childhood family environment experience in a sample of children born the same year,” Pagani said, “and we followed-up regularly as they grew up. Using a birth cohort, this study examines the prospective associations between the environmental quality of the family meal experience at age 6 and child well-being at age 10.”

    When the family meal environment quality was better at age 6, higher levels of general fitness and lower levels of soft-drink consumption were observed at age 10. These children also seemed to have more social skills, as they were less likely to self-report being physical aggressive, oppositional or delinquent at age 10.

    “Because we had a lot of information about the children before age 6 — such as their temperament and cognitive abilities, their mother’s education and psychological characteristics, and prior family configuration and functioning — we were able to eliminate any pre-existing conditions of the children or families that could throw a different light on our results,” said Harbec. “It was really ideal as a situation.”

    Added Pagani: “The presence of parents during mealtimes likely provides young children with firsthand social interaction, discussions of social issues and day-to-day concerns, and vicarious learning of prosocial interactions in a familiar and emotionally secure setting. Experiencing positive forms of communication may likely help the child engage in better communication skills with people outside of the family unit. Our findings suggest that family meals are not solely markers of home environment quality, but are also easy targets for parent education about improving children’s well-being.”

    “From a population-health perspective, our findings suggest that family meals have long-term influences on children’s physical and mental well-being,” said Harbec.

    At a time when fewer families in Western countries are having meals together, it would be especially opportune now for psycho-social workers to encourage the practice at home — indeed, even make it a priority, the researchers believe. And family meals could be touted as advantageous in public-information campaigns that aim to optimize child development.


  4. Study looks at factors that make a happy working mom

    December 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    A happy working mom feels competent in interacting with her child, experiences a sense of freedom and choice in her actions, while having a warm and affectionate relationship with her baby. She is also not too hard on herself about how she is faring as a mother. So says Katrijn Brenning of the University of Ghent in Belgium who led research that investigated what affects a working mother’s sense of well-being. The study is published in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies.

    Brenning and her colleagues showed that a mother’s sense of well-being drops when she feels inadequate, under pressure, and is alienated from her social circle by her efforts to get to work and be a good parent all at once. Her own baby’s temperament has little influence on her sense of well-being, but having a more extrovert child does help some women to feel more positive about motherhood, and to be less hard on themselves.

    “Our findings point to a complex interplay between parent and child characteristics in the prediction of maternal wellbeing,” says Brenning.

    The research team analyzed five days of diary entries made by 126 mothers after their maternity leave ended and they had to leave their babies at a day-care facility for the first time. This tends to be a particularly stressful episode in the life of working mothers because it is often the first time that they are separated from their children. With maternity leave over, they also need to learn how to balance their work and family lives effectively.

    Although the temperament of their children did not have much influence on the mothers’ sense of well-being, Brenning says: “More positive perceptions of the child’s temperament were found to buffer to some extent against the affective difficulties associated with a lack of need satisfaction, high need frustration and maternal self-criticism.”

    Brenning believes that in their interaction with their children, mothers should seek out experiences that also help to satisfy their own daily psychological needs. Mothers should not be too hard on themselves about how they are faring as a mother, search for activities with their baby that they enjoy, and create opportunities to spend with their offspring in a warm and affectionate way. The positive influence and energy this creates could be beneficial in that it allows mothers to interact with their child in a more sensitive, patient, and positive fashion.

    The researchers also believe that clinical counsellors should highlight to their female patients how important it is to ensure that their own psychological needs are met, amid the pressures of motherhood and work.

    Need frustration relates to daily distress and to more cold and intrusive parent-child interactions,” she says.

    The findings highlight how difficult it is for women whose personalities tend to veer towards the depressive and the self-critical to adjust to parenthood. Brenning therefore thinks that prevention and intervention strategies should be in place to help such women cope in their first few months of parenthood.


  5. Study looks at difference in effect between a walk in the mall or in the park

    November 28, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences press release:

    Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature — even just a 20-minute walk — together can help family members get along even better.

    The research is based on the attention restoration theory which describes how interaction with natural environments can reduce mental fatigue and restore attentional functioning. Many studies have supported the theory, but most, if not all, previous studies have only looked at the benefits of spending time in nature on an individual’s attention.

    U of I family studies researchers Dina Izenstark and Aaron Ebata believed that if this theory worked for individuals it might also work for families and help to facilitate more positive family interactions and family cohesion. So last year they developed a new theoretical approach to studying the benefits of family-based nature activities.

    “Past research shows that in nature individuals’ attention is restored but we wanted to know, what does that mean for family relationships? In our theoretical model we made the case that when an individual’s attention is restored, they are less irritable, have more self-control, and are able to pick up on social cues more easily. Because of all of those dynamics, we believe they should get along better with other family members,” Izenstark explains.

    In a new study, Izenstark, now an assistant professor at San José State University, and Ebata, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I, test their theory by looking at sets of moms and daughters (ages 10-12 years) who were asked to take a walk together in nature and a walk in a mall. The researchers then tested both the mothers’ and daughters’ attention and observed their family interactions after each walk.

    The results were clear; a walk in nature increased positive interactions, helping the mothers and daughters get along better. It also restored attention, a significant effect for mothers in the study.

    “We know that both moms and daughters experience mental or attentional fatigue. It’s common especially after a full day of concentrating at work or at school,” Izenstark says. “If you think about our everyday environments, not only are you at work, but maybe your cell phone is constantly buzzing, and you’re getting emails. With all the stimuli in our everyday environments, our attention is taxed more than we realize.”

    Izenstark adds that in order to relieve some of that mental fatigue, people need to restore their directed attention. “In nature, you can relax and restore your attention which is needed to help you concentrate better. It helps your working memory.”

    To test the mothers’ and daughters’ cohesiveness and whether attention was restored, 27 mom/daughter dyads met at a homelike research lab on campus before each walk. For 10 minutes they engaged in attention-fatiguing activities (i.e. solving math problems, word searches) while a recording of loud construction music played in the background. The researchers gave them a “pre-attention” test, and then set them out on a walk — one day to a nature arboretum, and then on another day to a local indoor mall. Each walk was 20 minutes long.

    After returning from each walk, the moms and daughters were interviewed separately. They were given a “post-attention” test, and were surveyed about which location they found the most fun, boring, or interesting. They were then videotaped playing a game that required them to work together.

    For moms, attention was restored significantly after the nature walk. Interestingly, for daughters, attention was restored after both walks, which Izenstark says may be a result of spending family leisure time with their mother.

    “It was unique that for the daughters walking with moms improved their attention. But for the moms, they benefitted from being in a nature setting. It was interesting to find that difference between the family members. But when we looked at their subjective reports of what they felt about the two settings, there was no question, moms and daughters both said the nature setting was more fun, relaxing, and interesting.”

    The last aspect of the findings was in regards to improved cohesion or togetherness in the mom/daughter pairs. After analyzing the videotaped interactions during the game, the researchers only found an effect for nature; after the nature walk, moms and daughters displayed greater dyadic cohesion, a sense of unity, closeness, and the ability to get along, compared to the indoor walk.

    Although the study only focused on mothers and daughters, Izenstark says that the overall aim of the research is to examine different ways in which nature affects family relationships in general.

    “First and foremost I hope it encourages families to find ways to get outside together, and to not feel intimidated, thinking, ‘oh, I have to go outside for an hour or make it a big trip.’ Just a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood before or after eating dinner or finding pockets of time to set aside, to reconnect, not only can benefit families in the moment but a little bit after the activity as well.”


  6. Study looks at how family and friends affect drinking behaviour in young people

    November 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Research Society on Alcoholism press release:

    The etiology (i.e., underlying causes) of a behavior, such as alcohol drinking, can change during adolescence and young adulthood. Prior alcohol research has shown that, in general: shared/common environment influences are strongest in early adolescence, declining in strength until young adulthood; unique environmental influences are moderate, but stable, during adolescence and young adulthood; and genetic influences are weakest during early adolescence, steadily increasing in strength until young adulthood. This study examined the relations between genetic and environmental etiologies of alcohol use and the influence of peer use, parental autonomy granting, and maternal closeness on this behavior.

    Researchers analyzed the first three waves of data collected during the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health for 2,447 twin and sibling pairs (30% male pairs, 32% female pairs, 38% opposite sex pairs) ranging in age from 13 to 27 years. Wave 1 was collected from 1994 to 1995, Wave 2 from 1995 to 1996, and Wave 3 from 2001 to 2002.

    Results supported previous findings showing that genetic and environmental influences on alcohol use change during adolescence and young adulthood. In addition to genetic and environmental influences that were common to these age groups, there were genetic and environmental influences that were important only during adolescence. Friends’ drinking behavior was a more pervasive influence on adolescents’ drinking than parenting practices. The authors suggested that interventions and prevention programs geared toward reducing alcohol use in younger populations could benefit from a focus on peer influence.


  7. Study looks at aspects of caregiving

    October 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan press release:

    They don’t get pay, recognition, or much of a break. They spend hours a day helping someone who may not even recognize them anymore.

    Now, a new poll gives a glimpse into the lives of the spouses, grown children and other family members and friends who act as caregivers for up to five million Americans with dementia.

    The strain of providing such care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions came through in the latest results from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, with 78 percent saying caregiving was stressful.

    But the poll also reveals the positive side of caregiving, with 85 percent of family caregivers calling it a rewarding experience. In fact, 45 percent rated it as “very rewarding”, compared to 19 percent who called it “very stressful”. However, 40 percent of those who called dementia caregiving very stressful also said it was not rewarding.

    Another potential benefit? Perspective. Ninety-one percent of the caregivers said they had thought about their own future care needs because of their experience taking care of someone with dementia.

    Right now, though, 66 percent of dementia caregivers say their duties interfere with their own life and work – including 27 percent who said they had neglected something related to their own health because of caregiving’s demands on their time.

    Only 1 in 4 had taken advantage of resources designed to help caregivers, but 41 percent of those who didn’t expressed interest in such support.

    The poll was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. It is sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

    Knowledge to build on

    The results are based on responses from 148 people between the ages of 50 and 80 who take care of a loved one over age 65 with dementia.

    This group made up seven percent of a nationally representative sample, so they represent a sizable number of older adults across the general population. The poll team hopes the findings can form the basis for further exploration of caregiving issues specific to dementia.

    “We need to understand the challenges, benefits and barriers that dementia caregivers face, because of the important role they play for their loved ones, in their families, and in our society and economy,” says Erica Solway, Ph.D., associate poll director and IHPI senior project manager. “We can see from this report that better support to these family caregivers is needed, which health care providers, family, friends, social service organiations, clergy and policymakers can all help to address.”

    Caregivers were most likely to be women, under age 65, and taking care of a parent. Nearly half were employed in addition to being caregivers. They took care of medical needs, household tasks, and other activities to keep their loved one safe. One-quarter said the person they were caring for couldn’t be left alone for more than an hour.

    Solway notes that the experience of caregiving may actually help encourage the kind of planning that many Americans haven’t attended to but should – such as completing advance directives, designating someone to make medical decisions in case of serious illness, or engaging in conversations about their wishes as they age.

    “Caregiving is a complex experience that affects people across every demographic,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. “Providing family caregivers with resources to support them in balancing work and life pressures and reducing their stress is critical not only for them but also for those that might care for them in the future.”

    The need for resources

    The rise in the number of people with dementia has led to the creation of many resources for caregivers that can provide vital support. These range from self-help tools and classes for learning new skills that may be needed in the role, to support groups and respite care that can help give caregivers a break from their duties.

    Though the poll didn’t ask why caregivers had or had not turned to such resources, the data do suggest that many caregivers who are not currently doing so want to access them. A lack of time may be a key factor, since two-third of the caregivers in the poll said that their caregiving duties had interfered with work, family time, or even getting to the doctor when they had a health problem.

    Organizations such as AARP are developing and deploying more local and online resources for cargivers. Health care providers who tend to dementia patients’ medical needs could be a key gateway to specific local and electronic resources for their patients’ caregivers, Solways notes.

    But she also observes that health care providers should routinely ask patients if they serve as a caregiver to a loved one, so they can identify and address needs and concerns during the caregiver’s own appointments.

    The poll results are based on answers from those who identified themselves as dementia caregivers among a nationally representative sample of 2,131 people ages 50 to 80. The poll respondents answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have it.


  8. Study suggests having a parent with an alcohol use disorder increases risk for teenage dating violence

    October 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University at Buffalo press release:

    Having a parent with an alcohol use disorder increases the risk for dating violence among teenagers, according to a study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions.

    In addition, researchers found that the root causes of teen dating violence can be seen as early as infancy.

    “Although teen dating violence is typically viewed as a problem related specifically to adolescent development, our findings indicate that the risk for aggressive behavior and involvement in dating violence are related to stressors experienced much earlier in life,” says Jennifer A. Livingston, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA and lead author of the study.

    Livingston evaluated 144 teenagers who had fathers with an alcohol use disorder and who had been initially recruited for study at 12 months of age. By analyzing data that was collected regularly over the course of their lifespan, Livingston was able to identify factors that led to some of the teenagers to be involved in abusive dating relationships.

    “It appears that family dynamics occurring in the preschool years and in middle childhood are critical in the development of aggression and dating violence in the teenage years,” she says.

    Mothers living with partners who have alcohol use disorder tended to be more depressed and, as a result, were less warm and sensitive in their interactions with their children, beginning in infancy. “This is significant because children with warm and sensitive mothers are better able to regulate their emotions and behavior,” Livingston says. “In addition, there is more marital conflict when there is alcohol addiction.”

    These conditions can interfere with children’s abilities to control their own behavior, resulting in higher levels of aggression in early and middle childhood. Children who are more aggressive in childhood, particularly with their siblings, are more likely to be aggressive with their romantic partners during their teen years.

    “Our findings underscore the critical need for early intervention and prevention with families who are at-risk due to alcohol problems. Mothers with alcoholic partners are especially in need of support,” Livingston says. “Our research suggests the risk for violence can be lessened when parents are able to be more warm and sensitive in their interactions with their children during the toddler years. This in turn can reduce marital conflict and increase the children’s self-control, and ultimately reduce involvement in aggressive behavior.”


  9. Study looks at factors that affect which child parents spend more money on

    October 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Consumer Psychology press release:

    Imagine a parent who is shopping and has a few moments to spare before heading home. If the parent has both a son and daughter but time to buy only one surprise gift, who will receive the gift?

    Findings from a new study available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggest that a mother would have a high likelihood of buying something for her daughter, while a father would choose a gift for his son. While more than 90 percent of people in the study said they treat children of different genders equally, researchers discovered that most parents unwittingly favor the child of the same sex when it comes to spending money.

    “We found that the effect was very robust in four different experiments and across cultures,” says researcher Kristina Durante, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey. “The bias toward investing in same-gendered children occurs because women identify more with and see themselves in their daughters, and the same goes for men and sons.”

    In one experiment, the researchers recruited participants who had a child of each gender. The participants were told that they would receive a treasury bond of $25 for one of their children, and they could choose who received it. The majority of mothers chose to give the bond to their daughters, while the fathers preferred their sons. To test if the gender bias occurred in a different culture, the researchers conducted the experiment among parents from India, and the results were the same.

    Participants also favored children of their own gender when deciding who would receive more in the family will. The researchers conducted another experiment at a zoo where participants with a child of each gender were given one raffle ticket after filling out a survey. They had to decide whether to enter the raffle for a girl’s back-to-school backpack or a boy’s backpack. Mothers chose the girl’s backpack 75 percent of the time and fathers picked the boy’s backpack 87 percent of the time.

    The findings have implications for children as they are growing up in different families, Durante says. If mothers make most of the decisions about a family’s spending, then daughters may receive more resources such as healthcare, inheritance and investments than their brothers. If fathers are in control of the family finances, then sons may be more likely to benefit in the long-run. This unconscious gender bias may also have ramifications far beyond the family, Durante says.

    “If a woman is responsible for promotion decisions in the workplace, female employees may be more likely to benefit. The reverse may be true if men are in charge of such decisions,” says Durante. “If this gender bias influences decisions related to charitable giving, college savings, promotions and politics, then it can have profound implications and is something we can potentially correct going forward,” says Durante.

    Find more online at: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-consumer-psychology/forthcoming-articles/do-mothers-spend-more-on-daughters


  10. Study looks at how economic factors affect parenting styles

    October 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Yale University press release:

    Settling on a parenting style is challenging. Is it better to be strict or more lenient? Have helicopter parents found the right approach to guiding their children’s choices?

    A new study co-authored by Yale economist Fabrizio Zilibotti argues that parenting styles are shaped by economic factors that incentivize one strategy over others.

    Zilibotti and co-author Matthias Doepke, a professor of economics at Northwestern University, assert in a paper published in the journal Econometrica that economic conditions, especially inequality and return to education, have influenced child-rearing strategy.

    “All parents want their children to succeed, and we argue that the economic environment influences their methods of childrearing,” said Zilibotti, the Tuntex Professor of International and Development Economics at Yale. “For instance, greater occupational mobility and lower inequality today makes an authoritarian approach less effective than generations ago. It’s not that parents spare the rod because they are more concerned about their children’s wellbeing now than they were 100 years ago. Rather, parenting strategies adapted to the modern economy.”

    Zilibotti and Doepke assert that parents are driven by a combination of altruism — a desire for their children to succeed — and paternalism that leads them to try to influence their children’s choices, either by molding their children’s preferences or restricting them. These motivations manifest in three parenting styles: A permissive style that affords children the freedom to follow their inclinations and learn from their own experiences; an authoritative style in which parents try to mold their children’s preferences to induce choices consistent with the parents’ notions of achieving success; and an authoritarian style in which parents impose their will on their children and control their choices.

    “There is an element of common interest between parents and children — a drive for success — but there is tension where parents care more about their children’s wellbeing as adults,” Zilibotti said. “We postulate that socioeconomic conditions drive how much control or monitoring parents exercise on their children’s choices.”

    The researchers apply their model across time periods and between countries. Parenting became more permissive in the 1960s and 1970s when economic inequality reached historic lows in industrialized countries and parents could realize a return on letting children learn from their own experiences, they argue. Across countries, they document a link between parenting, on the one hand, and income inequality and return to education, on the other hand. Using the World Value Survey, where people are asked which attitudes or values they find most important in child rearing, they identify permissive parents with those emphasizing the values of imagination and independence in rearing children, whereas authoritarian and authoritative parents are those who insist on the importance of hard work and obedience, respectively. They show that parents in more unequal countries are less permissive. The same pattern emerges when they consider redistributive policies. In countries with more redistributive taxation, more social expenditure, and even stronger civil right protection, parents are significantly more permissive.

    The researchers assert that their theory can help explain the recent rise of “helicopter parenting,” a version of the authoritative style in which parents seek to influence their children’s choices with a combination of persuasion and intensive monitoring. They argue that the style gained purchase in the United States as economic inequality increased, inducing a shift to more intensive parenting to strengthen children’s drive for achievement and prevent them from risky behaviors. Meanwhile, they argue, more permissive parenting remains popular in Scandinavian countries, where inequality is lower than it is in the United States.