Parenting and Childhood Trends

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Parenting and Childhood Trends - Technology

Technology has been defined as a key differentiator when determining the new challenges parents are facing. To this end, some experts recommend controlling or limiting a child's dependence on technology, which is the top trend in parenting since modern technological developments.

Based on recently published information, I have compiled a list of trends in parenting and childhood that have been directly caused by technological developments. In particular, I have provided extensive information on the idea of "screen time," the practice of limiting a child's access to screens or devices, a long-discussed debate within the parenting community. I focused my research particularly on challenges or new issues parents face as a result of technology. Below I have provided a list of top trends and challenges for parents parenting in a tech and media-saturated world.

METHODOLOGY

Selections on the top trends were made based on their frequency of mention and which credible sources have discussed its importance. For example, I was sure to provide as many academic sources as possible, putting additional emphasis on sources published within the last year to ensure that the information provided is the most recent available within the academic community. Additionally, for each trend, I have provided a detailed description of the issue from various sources.

TOP TWO TRENDS

"SCREEN TIME" & PARENTS PRACTICING WHAT THEY PREACH
The concept of "screen time" is something that has been thoroughly studied and researched quantitatively. Many parents have found that limiting a child's screen time is an easy way to teach their children a sense of respect and awareness for technology as a tool, rather than as an immersing, must-have aspect of life. In The Modern Parent's Guide to Facebook and Social Networks, Scott Steinberg explains that “a lot of what we’re teaching about parenting around technology is just basic parenting,” which seems to be true, based on the research available.
As such, a large part of parenting is modeling the lessons they teach their children, and this applies to the use of technology and screen time. To help children understand the importance of a lesson in moderating the amount of time watching TV or using devices, parents are encouraged to limit their own time. While limiting screen time is an increasingly popular practice, some parents do not limit their children's screen time. NPR published an excellent piece on this subject where parents and NPR hosts discuss parenting decisions in the 21st century, and their strategies for networking, dealing with the idea of "screen time," and educating their children. Of particular interest, at 7:25, one mother talks about how much technology has changed parenting. "One thing that I have as a takeaway right now, is that we can role model how to use our technology. And can we put our phones down, and put them away, like we want our kids to?" (8:10).

QUICK FACTS about usage

-Of those surveyed, 18% of children (age 0-2) had a TV in their bedroom.
-63% of those surveyed (children, age 0-2) watched TV the day before the survey. Their average screen time was 75 minutes.
-In a study of rules regarding technology for children and teens (age 8-18), <30% of those surveyed said there were rules limiting TV screen time.
-58% of children (preschool age) knew how to play a game on their computer, whereas only 9% reported that they could tie their shoes.
-Studies estimate that adolescents are using technology more than 7.5 hours per day, and approximately 25% of that time is spent multitasking and consuming various kinds of media.

ADDITIONAL TRENDS

-DEALING WITH CYBERBULLYING
A 2017 study explains that "emerging evidence suggests that parents struggle to control their adolescents' activity online, including youth involvement in cyberbullying." It goes on to suggest that because most cyberbullying happens at home, parents have a significant role in preventing cyberbullying. The study concludes that "prevention and intervention strategies focused on reducing cyberbullying must be multi-systemic and consider parent-adolescent dynamics and their relationship to community, school and society." There are a number of ways parents are dealing with cyberbullying. There are a number of nation-specific websites that provide support for parenting in the (new) digital age. Additionally, parents are recommended to talk about cyberbullying and general Internet safety when setting screen time or device boundaries.
-MAINTAINING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Before modern media technology, children did not have a draw to stay indoors, so ensuring for children to keep active was not necessarily a concern. Globally speaking, Australian parenting outlet ParentingIdeas explains that "recent research tells us that children’s physical activity peaks at around four years of age in Australia and gradually decreases every year from there. According to the Barna Group, "balancing physical activity with online activity" is the top challenge felt by families regarding technology.
-KNOWING WHAT YOUR CHILDREN KNOW
Part of what makes children using technology so complicated is the extensive amount of information available on the internet. There is discussion about parents being distracted by technology, and one of the many side effects of this distraction is not monitoring their children's behavior online. The American College of Pediatricians has an extensive publication regarding the impact of technology on children, youth, and families as a whole. In it, they have extensive sections regarding the sensitive content that children and teenagers can access through their various devices.
Of particular concern to ACPEDS are children and teen access to sexually explicit content. They explain that "studies reveal that the more an adolescent watches television programming featuring sexual content, the more likely that adolescent is to prematurely initiate sexual activity. Teens exposed to a high level of sexual content were also twice as likely to experience a pregnancy within the next three years as compared to those teens who viewed less sexualized programming."
In order to address these kinds of problems, experts advise setting boundaries. Part of the key to setting boundaries, especially with teenagers, is to set them clearly: "have discussions about when, where, how often, and what they can and can’t do online. Have clear times when phones and tablets need to be turned off, limits on amount of game time each day, and come up with sensible expectations for how much time is spent socialising online." Discussing how, when, where, and what kind of access children have to the computers and to Internet-enabled devices help parents know what their children are doing and learning about online.
-PARENTS USING TECHNOLOGY TO LEARN ABOUT PARENTING
One mother on the NPR segment said it best: back in the 90s, parents did not have the advantage of the Internet as they do today. According to Care's 2017 predictions, Millennial parents are going to be moving toward minimalism, teaching true grit, flexible workplace childcare programs, and nanny shares. Most of these are facilitated with technology's help, especially nanny shares (there was a 23% increase in families seeking shared nannies in 2016 alone). Additionally, many of the guides provided in this brief have been articles published and geared toward parents, such as the NY Times' comprehensive modern parenting guide and the ACPEDS's concerns on child Internet usage.

CONCLUSION

Top recent trends and challenges for parents are the question of screen time and modeling what they teach their children, especially with technology. Additional trends include maintaining physical activity, knowing what children have access to, dealing with cyberbullying, and parents using technology as a learning tool (for themselves). Modern parents have the advantages granted by technology, along with the disadvantages of unlimited access to unlimited information on the Internet. To combat this, most experts advise setting boundaries with children and teenagers, particularly when they are younger, in order to teach respect for technology and for technology-free time.
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Parenting and Childhood Trends - Emotional and Physical Health

A review of trusted media articles and supporting academic research has identified a number of trends in the emotional and physical health of US children over the past 10 to 20 years. There are a growing number of young people with anxiety, along with a growing number of those that are obese, and both of these have the negative effects which contribute to the rise in chronic illness in young people today. The increased diagnoses of ADHD has led to rising numbers of children on psychotropic medication. Also, the negative impact of technology on children’s mental health — and in particular, cyberbullying — which is a newer form of bullying that parents may not have experienced while they were growing up. On a positive note, drug and alcohol use by children is mostly steady or in decline. The majority of articles referenced were published in the past two years, however some research relates to earlier years but is included in order to reflect the long-term trend.

INCREASED DIAGNOSES OF ADHD

It is becoming increasingly common for children and young people to be diagnosed with behavioral issues that are medicated using psychotropic medication. At the end of 2015, The Guardian reported that the CDC had found that in the period between 2013 to 2015 almost11% of four- to 17-year-olds in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD” which they refer to as “a label for those who are disruptive in class and unable to concentrate”, with 6.1% taking drugs for the condition in 2011, up from 4.8% in 2007. The article discusses how medicating people this young with psychotropic drugs may simply “mask the ordinary emotional turmoil of growing up” as well as running the risk of turning them into long-term dependents of the medication. The CDC also notes that since the first national survey in 1997, that there has been a “clear upward trend in national estimates of parent-reported ADHD diagnoses” although it is difficult to ascertain whether this is an increase in the condition or an increase in the identification of the condition. Either way, when exhibiting concentration and behavioral issues, a higher proportion of young people in the US are being prescribed ADHD medication, of which long-acting versions were introduced also at the end of the ‘90s.

THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY

In January 2018, The Guardian published an article that discussed a link between the heavy use of smartphones amongst young people and increasing mental health issues such as depression, cutting and suicide. Between 2011 and 2015 these behaviors “all skyrocketed among American teenagers”, during which time the number of people in the US owning a smartphone doubled. Research has shown that when compared to teenagers who spend less than 1 hour per day on electronic devices, those who spend over 5 hours per day using electronic devices “are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide”. Although those with zero smartphone use were also less likely to be as well-adjusted, probably due to the social aspect of access to online devices, it found that for young people’s mental health the best amount of use was limited to 1 hour per day. This was supported by research published in November 2017 based on two surveys conducted in the US on teenagers in grade 8 up to grade 12. The survey found that between 2010 and 2015 “depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates” increased in the age group but that those “who spent more time on nonscreen activities” were less likely to have mental health issues than those who reported heavy electronic device and social media use. In fact, although many teenagers seem to spend a lot of time on social media with 45% using it on a daily basis, only 36% reported that they enjoyed using it “a lot” compared to almost three-quarters of those surveyed who enjoyed listening to music “a lot”. This suggests that social media use may becoming more of a chore and a stressor, rather than an enjoyable activity. Further exacerbating the issue of increasing mental health issues in adolescents is the issue noted by the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health that “there hasn’t a corresponding growth in mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults” resulting in an increasing proportion of teenagers who are not receiving proper treatment.

STRESS AND ANXIETY

At the end of 2016 Time Magazine reported that after years of holding steady, since 2012 the number of young people with anxiety and depression was on the rise. This was found to apply regardless of the youth’s demographics, situation or background, and in particular was linked to pressure to succeed at school. In 2015, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that almost a third of teenage girls and a fifth of boys had experienced an anxiety disorder. At the start of 2016, the New York Times also published an opinion piece which posited whether “the drive for success” was “making our children sick”. This NYT article revealed data from the American Psychological Association that almost 1 in 3 teenagers had responded that "stress drove them to sadness or depression", with the main stressor identified as being school. It was found that the increase in stress was not only restricted to adolescents but also being seen in young children, with doctors reporting coming across cases of ulcers and migraines in early elementary school kids. The Chicago Tribune reported in November 2017 about rising numbers of students seeking help for mental health issues with attendance of one high-school’s support groups rising by 58% over the 5 years to the academic year 2015-16 along with 35% more reporting anxiety during the same period.

THE EFFECTS OF CYBERBULLYING

The Huffington Post recently published an article about cyberbullying, which was identified as the top issue in a survey of health topics that are a “big problem” for the young with 61% of parents finding it a concern. Its most negative impact is seen in the media reports of children and teens who die by suicide following cyberbullying, which this article refers to as “bullycide”. Although children have always teased and bullied each other, technology has allowed more covert but equally hurtful methods of bullying which includes “bullying...through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website, text messaging, or videos or pictures posted on websites or sent through cell phones”. And although the CDC reports a higher proportion of middle school and high school students bullied on school property compared to those who have been victims of cyberbullying, the proportion of people that have been subject to cyberbullying has increased from 18% to 34% between 2007 and 2016. The negative health effects of cyberbullying, like those of bullying, are both mental and physical. Between 2013 to 2015, there was a 6% rise in cyberbullying victims who “turned to self harming behaviors” and a 5% rise in those who had suicidal thoughts.

THE OBESITY CRISIS

In October 2017, CNN reported on the staggering rise of obesity in children worldwide. Although the worst-offending countries with the highest rates were within the Pacific Islands, where over a third of young people are obese, the US was amongst the next group of countries which had levels of obesity over 20% in the same age range, along with some Caribbean and wealthy Middle Eastern countries. As previously identified by a Harvard School of Public Health article, “the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents is on the rise, and youth are becoming overweight and obese at earlier ages”. The CDC reported that since the ‘70s, the number of obese children in the US “has more than tripled”. Obese children are more likely to have chronic health conditions “such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, [and] type 2 diabetes”. The risks are not only physical, as obese children are also more likely to become a target of bullying and “more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem”. Obesity during childhood has both short-term and long-term health impacts as it not only increases risk of obesity in adulthood, it also increases later risk of heart disease.

DECLINING DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE

Although CNN reported in an August 2017 headline that the “rate of teen drug overdose deaths” in the US increased by 19% between 2014 and 2015, in general the “use of illicit substances…and misuse of prescription drugs” has been constant or on the decline according to the annual survey of drug use in young people, Monitoring the Future. The 2017 survey found that “[s]ince 1992, there has been a significant decline in daily cigarette use among 12th graders” although the use of marijuana on a daily basis has increased. Further, the consumption of alcohol by those under the legal drinking age of 21 has been decreasing, with a drop of 6.1% between 2002 and 2013, down to 22.7%. Based on the 2017 Monitoring the Future Survey, “past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana holding steady at the lowest levels in over two decades” and despite the opioid abuse crisis that is claiming many adult lives, opioid use amongst 12 graders — the only grade surveyed on opioid use — “dropped significantly over the last five years”. It may be worth noting the suggestion from director of National Institute of Drug Abuse that drug use in teens may have declined partly due to their heavy use of smartphones — constantly stimulated by use of "interactive media", adolescents are using electronic devices in the place of drugs to achieve a high.

RISE IN CHRONIC ILLNESSES

An ABC news article which reported on Harvard research about chronic illness in young people in the US found that over 7% “were hampered in their daily activities by an illness that lasted three months or longer in 2004”, up by 5.2% compared to the youth of 1960. What are considered the "big three" chronic health conditions for young people have all shot up including obesity and ADHD, already discussed in sections above, along with asthma which currently 9% of children have, almost double the proportion from the ‘80s. Despite being a wealthy country the incidence of chronic illnesses in the US has increased, with The Journal of the American Medical Association noting the total figure going up from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006. Further, a 2016 poll of 2,700 US adults, conducted by University of Michigan researchers and published on Parents.com, found that only 29% thought children were in better physical health today, and 42% said they were faring worse. The same survey found adults considered only 16% of children faring better when it came to mental and emotional health, and 55% believing they are currently worse off.

CONCLUSION

The trends of the past 10 to 20 years reported in the media on US child health, both physical and mental, tend to paint a dark and foreboding picture with increasing levels of obesity, chronic illness, mental health issues and dependence on electronic devices and psychotropic medication. However, given advances in medical care and treatment, both parents and children should be well-equipped to deal with these emerging healthcare problems.
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Parenting and Childhood Trends - Family Dynamics

Below is an extensive overview of the family dynamic evolution over the last 10-20 years, as it relates to the following: Single parenting/single mothers working parents, with the increase of working mothers and the subsequent financial ramifications, changing perceptions of gay families and the positive and negative side effects of more frequent technology use in families. There is also an overview on overly involved parenting, changing time spent with fathers, and views on male and female roles within the household. I also included an overview of “The American Family” at the end of the write-up, as it pertains to changes seen from 1980 to 2014, related to numerous family demographics and insights. While this study was conducted in December 2015, I thought it pertinent to include, as it is the most recent holistic study done on the American family that is publicly available, and includes different parenting dynamic trends on the rise in recent years.

SINGLE PARENTING/SINGLE MOTHERS

Children who grow up in a single-parent household “have the same success of those with married families”. Previous research has tried to determine that children are better off in a married family, which is still a struggle. Phillip Levine, an economics professor at Wellesley College, said “We’re trying to get a little bit past that, just to recognize that the impact might not be the same for everyone.”
67.9% of children growing up in an unmarried household graduate high school, while 73.6% in a married audience graduate high school, which is a difference of less than 5%. Further, pop culture references are helping “illustrate why (the dynamic of single families vs. married families) varies based on age and education levels”. The MTV reality show “16 and Pregnant”, showcases that their age and less-than-ideal partner options for potential marriage “is not beneficial for the well-being of that child”. Yet, the TV show from the 1990s title Murphy Brown, “had a child as a single, successful, educated, 30-something”, and given her resources, “her kids were going to be okay, regardless of if she married”. Levine explains “In some sense there’s a margin on what you need to get over the line, it’s in the middle where having the father around can help put you over that line”. Additionally, statics show that growing up in a single-parent or married parent household doesn’t have an effect on college graduation rates.

INCREASE OF WORKING MOTHERS AND FINANCIAL RAMIFICATIONS

Families are facing the increasing challenge of the mother earning her appropriate amount of pay in the workplace. In the past decade, "the number of caregiver-discrimination lawsuits has tripled, compared to the previous decades", which includes claims from both mothers and fathers. "More than half have led to compensation for the victims, which is a higher-than-average success rate for job-discrimination claims". A direct example from a software company called Qualcomm, involves "seven high-level female employees (who) sued the company on behalf of more than 3,000 female works for discrimination of motherhood, as they were passed up in promotions for less-qualified men". The women stated: "This policy disparately impacts and causes the Company to undervalue caregivers of school-aged children ... These common policies stigmatize employees with care giving responsibilities and disproportionately penalize women".

Further, women who work fewer hours, or work hours from home to take care of their children, are passed up for promotions by less qualified men that don’t have families, or are not a caretaker for their children.

Working households (when looking at a male and female household) have more aid in their parenting than ever before. Extensive resources have become available for single family and working family households, including “books, podcasts, round tables, and foundations that are dedicated to navigating the delicate-sometimes-impossible juggle of career ambition with childcare duties”.

Yet, the United States has also seen a rise in the amount of women who stay at home with their children, in comparison to recent history (past 3 or 4 decades). “29% of mothers now stay home with children, compared to 23% in 1999”. Additionally, more millennials are becoming parents in recent years, as "one million millennials become mothers each year" (no data on fathers), and millennials who have children are "notably confident in their parenting skills" than previous generations.

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF GAY FAMILY DYNAMICS

In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%. In 2017, the “majority of Americans (62%) support same-sex marriage, while 32% oppose it”. This is partially due to a generational change, as “younger generations express higher levels of support for same-sex marriage”. Other generations are still changing their views on gay marriage though, with “more than half (56%) of Baby Boomers favoring gay marriage”.

Please note: I found it difficult to find recent sources is it directly pertains to dynamics within gay families, with the most recent ones dating to 2010 and 2013.

TECHNOLOGY USAGE IN FAMILIES

With the creations of smartphones, social media, home assistants (Amazon's Alexa), technology use is on the rise in families in the United States, which brings both positive and negative outcomes.

Positives:
Toddlers can “learn shapes, colors, numbers, and letters, all from free apps and download". "With technology, parents see kids learning more at a younger age than anyone ever thought was possible”. On average, "children spend 7.5 hours a day, seven days a week, on technology", through classrooms, home electronics, and communication devices. This has lead to an increase in overall aptitude in the United States. "In 2012, the average person living had a higher IQ than 95% of the population from 1990".

When it comes to single vs. married households, “69% of single parents use technology as compared to 80% of married parents”, which can be “credited to the simple fact of yearly income”, making the assumption that a single parent makes less money than a family with two working parents.

Negatives:
Parents have become too reliant on technology “as a babysitter” in the past 10 years. They’ll utilize their phone or tablet to hold the attention of their children “through games or streaming a movie”. Further, too much time on technology can lead to "vision problems" from staring at screens, "weight grain" from a decline in physical activities, and "emotional regulation changes". Too much technology use can lead to a "loss of interest in offline life" and children can experience "difficulty communicating in person" when they're too reliant on technology as a way to express their feelings.

OVERLY INVOLVED PARENTING

Some parents are too involved once their children are in college, from a growing trend in recent years of “self-help books, research papers, and parenting cellphone apps”, leading to some parents being dubbed “helicopter parents”. While studies show it still varies from family to family how much a parent is involved, “kids with more involved parents were overall more likely to finish college and find good paying jobs after graduation”. Further, families in middle and upper classifications had parents who were more involved. This further involvement among families is attributed to “the rising cost of college tuition…between 1995 and 2015, average tuition at national private colleges jumped 179% in the United States”. Public tuition increase as well, by over 226% from 1995 – 2015.
Excessive parental involvement is when parenting “extends past the time frame of 0-18 years…it delays adulthood in children…and exacerbates socioeconomic inequality”.

INCREASE IN NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS RENTING

Since at least 1965, more households in the United States are renting than at any other point in our history. “The total number of households in the United States grew by 7.6 million between 2006 and 2016”, while the “number of households owned remained relatively flat” due to after effects from the housing crisis.
As of 2016, the number of households in the United States renting was 36.6%, and rising. “The increase in U.S. renters over the past decade does not necessarily mean that home ownership is undesirable to today’s renters. Indeed, in a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 72% of renters said they would like to buy a house at some point.” When asked about challenges of owning versus renting, “the majority of renters, especially nonwhites, cited financial reasons”.

Grandparents involvement in families

In 2017, approximately 2.9 million children received assistance from grandparents, including “making their breakfast, organizing their activities, and helping them with homework in the evening”. Called “custodial grandparents” (primary responsibility for raising one or more of their grandchildren). Important to note that grandparents in racial and ethnic minority groups are over-represented in the population of caregivers. Further, "67% of the grandparents in question are younger than 60, and 25% live in poverty, despite the fact that about half of custodial grandparents are in the labor force".

Numerous social conditions since the 1990s have caused an increase in custodial grandparents, including "addiction and incarceration, child abuse and neglect, and economic factors". The current opioid epidemic that the United States is facing is also "contributing to this trend". Further, the incarceration rate of women is changing family life, as it's been increasing since 1990 in comparison to fathers.

CHANGES IN FATHER ROLES and relationships WITHIN THE FAMILY

While fathers in the United States are spending more time caring for their children than they did half a century ago, 63% “say they spend too little time with their kids, while 36% say they spend the right amount of time with them”. Women are “more likely to be satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their kids (53%)”.

For both dads and moms who say they spend too little time with their kids, work obligations are cited most often as the main reason: 62% of dads and 54% of moms say this is the case. However, a sizable share of fathers (20%) say the main reason they spend too little time with their children is that they don’t live with them full-time.
Further, education is a main driver for fathers who live apart from their children (“one-in-four fathers of children 17 or younger [24%] are living apart from their children”). 28% of men living apart from their kids don’t have a four-year college degree, while only 8% of those with a college degree or more live apart from their children.

CHANGES IN PERCEPTIONS FOR MALE AND FEMALE FAMILY ROLES

In 1/3 of “married or co-habitating couples in the United States, women bring in half or more of the earnings, a significant increase from the past”. However, in most households, men contribute the most income, due to “Americans placing a higher value on a man’s role as a financial provider”. 71% of adults in the United States report it “is very important for a man to be able to support a family financially to be a good husband or partner”, while only 32% say the same thing about women.
This aligns with increasing awareness in the United States as it relates to the gender wage gap for women in the workplace as previously discussed. “In 2/3 of married or co-habitating couples, men earn more than women”. However, dynamics are slowly shifting. “In 1980, only 13% of married women earned more than or as much as their husbands”, compared to 25% in 2000, and 31% in 2017.

Whether someone thinks their significant other is a good partner based on their ability to financially provide for their family is dependent on socioeconomic differences. 81% of adults with no education beyond high school say that, for a man to be a good husband or partner, being able to support a family financially is very important, compared to 62% of adults with a four-year college degree". The trend is similar regarding if a woman is a good partner or wife if she can financially provide for the family, with 40% of high school graduates agreeing with the sentiment, and only 25% of college educated adults agreeing.
In regard to the “importance of a well-educated spouse or partner” for the family, 57% of women and 57% of men say “it is very important for men to contribute to household chores to be a good spouse or partner”. This varies dependent on the adults age, as “younger adults view contributing to household chores equally important for both men and women, while adults over the age of 65 say it’s very important for a woman to contribute to household chores to be a good spouse or partner”.

SUMMARY

In all, numerous dynamics are changing within families in the United States, as it pertains to male and female roles, technology use by children, and perceptions on gay parenting households. Further, grandparents are still helping raise their grandchildren, and families are working through the reality that women in the workforce make less than a man, even if she is more qualified. As stated in the introduction, below is the study that I thought relevant to review, even though it is from 25 months ago.

THE AMERICAN FAMILY: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

Highlight statistics:

Two-parent households are declining, with divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation on the rise.
Families are smaller, both due to the growth of single-parent households and the drop in fertility.
Comparing various living scenarios from 1980 to 2014, for who children are living with:
Two parents in a first marriage: 46% (2014) vs. 61% (1980), a 25% decrease.
Two parents in remarriage: 15% (2014) vs. 16% (1980), a 1% decrease.
Co-habitating parents: 7% (2014) vs. 0% (1980, not measured).
Single parent: 26% (2014) vs. 19% (1980), a 55% increase.
No parent (other guardian): 5% (2014) vs. 4% (1980), a 1% increase.


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Parenting and Childhood Trends - Education

OVERVIEW

In the last 10-20 years, the education system has changed to meet the needs of the students. Kindergartners are expected to know more; more students are on medication for behavior-related issues and the rise of technology. On top of this, there are more students to teach and new ways to educate those students, but less parental involvement. Through all of this, there are still students to educate and teachers working to do their best among the obstacles.

FINDINGS

In classrooms all over the US, there are similar trends happening regarding education. Class sizes are growing to keep up with the demand for education. Widespread funding cuts are not helping the situation especially with the rise of technology in the classrooms. Special education is changing to integrate the students with their classmates and counselors are taking on larger roles in the schools, but parental involvement is either depending on the school system.

CLASS SIZES

Across the United States, class sizes for elementary students are growing, and teachers must teach more students than ever before. In Wyoming, the Legislature's Select Committee on School Facilities is looking to expand class sizes from 16 students to 25 students per teacher. The reason behind the change is that currently, they don't have enough room for all the students in the report given to Wyoming Legislature. The report is written by the planning supervisor for the School Facilities Division. It states that with the current policy of 16 students per teacher they only have room for 7,545 students. In Laramie County School District 1, the district is represented in the study; there are roughly 7,730 students enrolled in elementary school. This means that technically there are 185 students over the limit for the district. Since the population is growing, they need to find a solution and therefore raising the student to teacher ratio appears to be the answer. Raising the ratio to 25 would allow for 8,517 students in the elementary schools, but that doesn't mean the classrooms can accommodate up to 25 students. In Laramie County, there are only four classrooms that can hold 25 students and 400 that can't hold that many. The number of students a classroom can hold is found by taking the square footage of the classroom and diving it by 40. Using that calculation most of the classrooms can hold a max of 21-23 students each. This would mean that although they would change the policy to 25 students per teacher, it doesn't mean that every teacher will have that many students, at least in theory.
In Downingtown, class sizes are determined by how many students are in each grade. The maximum class sizes depend on the grade level and can be anywhere from 24-28 students per teacher. In response to parental concerns regarding a teacher's ability to work one on one with students, the Downingtown Area School District stated that teacher's 'can handle the various class sizes.' In the case of this district, the reason for the change in class size has to do with having fewer teachers at the next grade level. Therefore, each teacher must take on more students to meet the demand for education.

FUNDING CUTS

Since the Great Recession back in 2008, money has been a major concern in states all over the US. Cutbacks have been happening everywhere, but especially in education. A survey was done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the results are disheartening. The survey looked at changes in funding from 2008, before the Great Recession, and after in 2014.
-31 states provide less support than they did before the Great Recession and 15 have cut funding back by at least 10% since 2008.
-Local governments are trying to supply money to make up for the deficits in 27 states, but they can’t do so.
-In 18 states the local government funding has decreased.
-Ten years after the Great Recession and 12 states are still cutting funding, and many of those states are already among the worst hit with cuts as is.

TECHNOLOGY

The rise of technology must lead to advances in just about every industry we know of, and education has also been affected by this. In the classroom technology is used to help individualize learning to the student. Teachers can set up different curriculums per student including using different forms of content depending on how the student learns the best. Students and teachers can stay in touch via email and file-sharing applications which helps enhance the experience for each student. Students can also take tests and quizzes online which gets them results quicker and uses fewer resources and time on the teacher's side. Technology has changed how we do everything from spending time at home to interacting with friends and the rest of the world; education has also been affected by this and technology has enhanced the educational experience for students.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Special education teachers have been critical to student success for those students that need them. There has been a struggle to find teachers who are qualified to work with special needs students for a few years and recently more students need special education resources. Over the last two decades, this increase has led to a larger burden on those teachers that are qualified. Los Angeles area schools have recognized the problem and worked to try to find a better solution. In their case, they closed special education centers and integrated the students into existing schools. There they can take classes both academic and elective. In Portland, Oregon they had integrated their special needs students and begun working to ensure the move is successful. Michigan is just beginning to follow with what LA and Portland have done and integrated their students. They are also working to eliminate special needs classrooms as well. While the school districts believe this to be the best solution, many teachers believe this will likely leave special needs students in the dust. They won't get the attention they need likely leading them to fail and act out in class. Integrating special education students is the new trend, but it is yet to be seen if this is truly the right direction to take.

COUNSELORS

School counselors are the people students go to when they are stressed, emotional or need someone to talk to about life. Now school counselors are more central to a student’s development and education. They work with students to help them become members of a team and work together not only with other students but with teachers and other adults as well. This has been evolving over the last few years, and while counselors used to focus on college applications, they are now focused on ensuring students will be able to work together in the future.

PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

Teachers and parents have historically not always get along when it comes to a student's education. While the teacher sees the student every day and sees what they do (or in some cases don't do) parents aren't always aware of these things. Back to school nights and notes home used to be how teachers communicated with parents about their kids. There is a trend where it is less frequent for parents to be involved in their kid's education as they have been previously. Except in NYC where parent involvement has been improving. This doesn't mean that only NYC sees more parental involvement depending on the region and even community they live in. Some communities are seeing more involvement while others are seeing less, but the trend appears to be towards less involvement.

CONCLUSION

Childhood is not the same as it was even ten years ago. More is being expected of kids, and new trends have developed in education. Technology is being used more often to deliver lessons to students, class sizes are growing, and funding is disappearing. Parents appear to be less involved with their kids, and special education is going through a major transition to full integration with local schools. These changes are just the current trends being seen, and we don't know how they will change going into the future.
Part
05
of five
Part
05

Parenting and Childhood Trends - Gender Issues

In my research, I found that the most significant change in gender norms in the past 10-20 years with regard to parenting has been the shift towards accommodating different gender identities in non-cisgender children. With this in mind, I set out to answer the questions posed.

GENDER IDENTITY

Gender identity has been a hot topic for the past few years, and questions around it are currently re-shaping the way teachers and parents interact with children. However, gender identity is often also misunderstood: it is thus useful to go over the basics of it before looking into its impact on parenting and teaching.

As a society, we have tended to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. We assign a newborn’s sex as either male or female, based on their genitals. Once a sex is assigned, we presume the child’s gender. However, there are 3 separate dimensions of gender: body, identity and expression.

Body corresponds to the sex we were born with: most often male or female, but intersex bodies do happen biologically as well. Identity relates to our internal experience of gender, which can differ from that of our body. If you identify as the same gender than your body, you are cisgender. If you don't, you are transgender: this includes identifying as the opposite gender, non-binary (neither fully male nor female) or agender (no gender at all). Expression relates to how we demonstrate our gender to the outside world through our appearance and behavior. All of these differ fully from sexual orientation, which is who we are attracted to.

NEW TEACHING LEGISLATION & GUIDELINES

In some areas of the U.S, new legislation has indeed been put in place to change the way teachers deal with non gender-conforming students.

In New York City and Washington State, official guidelines have been published by the government outlining how teachers are to deal a variety of issues surrounding transgender children including bullying, correct use of names and pronouns, dress codes, and use of restrooms and locker rooms.

Only 15 states have anti-discrimination laws that cover transgender students, and these vary from state to state. For instance, California, Connecticut, and Washington allow students to participate in sports teams according to their preferred gender identity, whilst Colorado and Maine have both specifically ruled that transgender girls had the right to use the girls' restroom in public schools.

Aside from legislative changes on a state level, many teachers or schools have independently endeavored create a safe space for transgender children. Resources such as checklists for gender-inclusive classrooms are available from dedicated programs, and give advice such as using gender-inclusive phrases ("Hello everyone!" instead of "Hello boys and girls!") and not separating groups by gender.

PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

There is currently plenty of research and information out there on how parents can better support their transgender and non gender-conforming children. Parents are encouraged to be involved and to actively support their children by accepting and accommodating their identity. This includes using their preferred name and pronoun, taking their lead on issues like transition, and becoming informed on issues of gender.

The latter is particularly important, with parents being educated on the 'Gender Revolution' and what that means for their children. Because gender identity has only very recently been openly discussed, many parents simply do not know what is happening to their child, and communication and patience are key.

However, this does not only concern parents of non gender-conforming children; parents of cisgender children are also being encouraged to discuss gender with them. Studies have shown that children are fully capable of understanding that there are more than two genders when explained to them in a simple, straightforward manner, and all parents are encouraged to do so in order to instill tolerance and respect from a young age.

PARENTAL SUPPORT GROUPS

There are several parental support groups across the country, aimed at giving parents and family members a place to openly discuss their experiences and struggles. These are often run by charities and LGBT associations such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the oldest organization in the country dedicated specifically to this.

IS THIS AFFECTING CHILDREN?

The number of transgender children is estimated at around 1% of teens, however there is no way of knowing for sure, as there has never been a widespread effort to identify how many children in the U.S. do not identify as cisgender.

A study by Child Development Journal recently found that young transgender children as young as preschool age displayed the same expression of gender than their cisgender counterparts. This seemed to indicate that transgender children learn to develop socially in very much the same way as cisgender children, and in that sense the two differ little from each other.

Whilst the fact of being transgender itself does not affect children's development, negative societal pressure has a very real effect on their health and well being. Transgender teens are disproportionately likely to be targeted for bullying and have a higher rate of suicide later in life. Recent research shows that 70% of transgender students have actively avoided using school restrooms, leading to dehydration and even urinary tract infections.

CONCLUSION

There is currently no concrete evidence that the slow shift towards tolerance and acceptance, both in schools and at home, is helping with the issues outlined. However, many believe that legislative change and better communication between parents, teachers, and children — both trans and cis — is the solution.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02