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Saturday, May 26, 2007

What's Right and Wrong With Parenting Research

Researchers have been learning about parenting for decades, centuries probably. I think that research on parenting is important and some of it is even useful for parents.

Background.
In the mid 1970's, "quality time" came to the forefront on the parenting research scene and in popular culture as women were setting record numbers in their move to full time work outside the home. The difference between amount of time parents spent with kids (quantity) and the kind of time parents spent with kids (quality) was examined.

What is right with parenting research.
Most parenting researchers care about what they are researching and want to contribute to the betterment of research. Tons of studies have been conducted on parenting and quality time. There is no end in sight for parenting research. There is a strong market for it and parents constantly want to know what to do with their children.

I read an article in the May 2007 Journal of Marriage and Family which investigates parenting and quality time. Great article. The basic question it chases is: "How do parents define quality time?" Very good question. If researchers are not doing research on the same "quality time" as parents are doing and defining as "quality time," then there is a disconnect. I am so glad this research is being done.

What is wrong with parenting research.
Why did it take 30 years for researchers to ask parents what they thought quality time was? Why did it take three decades of researchers defining what quality time was or even worse (which is in most cases) just assume everyone was on the same page without even thinking to ask actual parents?

There are some things researchers need to define and set the standard on for language, but then there are things researchers need to humble themselves and ask the real experts (parents) what they do, how they define terms, what makes a difference for them.

There is something wrong with researchers when it takes them 30 years to ask a question that seems so basic and elementary as "How do parents define quality time?"

4 comments:

OnBeingParents said...

I agree with you parents need data faster. The best researcher are parents.

On Being Parents

chris said...

One reason I think most parenting research is worse than useless is that it is constantly changing. When my kids were babies, they were to be put to bed on their stomachs. Today that is not recommended. The same can be said for feeding and any number of things.

Fajita said...

Good comments. I'd like to see some better research as well. However, there is some rally good research out there.

One of the problems with research is that some of the best stuff sits in scholarly journals and and word never gets out.

What is needed are some well written parenting books which are scientifically sound and written in language someone would actually want to read.

And, to the researchers' defense, research is not always or often definitive. Studies do not necessarily reveal truth. Instead, they reveal what the researchers found. There is always bias, error, and other factors that steer researchers from absolute truth. It is true with anyone doing anything.

Good researchers are not only aware of their limits, but disclose what they believe their limits to be.

OnBeingParents said...

I agree with you parents need data faster. The best researcher are parents.

On Being Parents