We already knew that Helicopter and Tiger Moms were a menace. Now, we have research to back up our anecdotal experiences. NPR interviewed the conductors of a study about leaving children alone. To sum up:
Additional analyses suggested that it was indeed participants’ judgment of the parent’s immorality that drove up their assessments of risk. The authors sum up their findings like this: “People don’t only think that leaving children alone is dangerous and therefore immoral. They also think it is immoral and therefore dangerous.”
So, the research conducted byAshley Thomas, Kyle Stanford and Barbara Sarnecka of the University of California showed that people are judgy about parenting generally and women, both parents and childless, particularly overstated risk to children:
I guess what surprised me the most was the difference in responses that we got from different groups of participants — men vs. women and parents vs. nonparents. I expected that mothers would be less likely than other people to buy into this paranoid view that any child, of any age, left alone for any length of time is going to drop dead the minute the mother looks away. I guess I figured that I’m a mother, and I’m not hysterical about this, so I assumed that other mothers weren’t either. But I was wrong — mothers rated all the situations as more dangerous than fathers did; followed by childless women and finally childless men. The people with presumably the most child care experience (mothers) actually expressed the most exaggerated overestimates of risk. I was genuinely surprised by that. But I guess that’s because I was expecting people to be rational, and people are just not rational about this subject.
There’s lots more at the link about how they set up the study, but just think of the Gorilla mom who was excoriated for not paying close enough attention to her four year old who fell into the gorilla cage.
Here’s what I want to know: Why are people today, especially women, so judgmental compared to a generation ago? I have a couple theories:
Kids are pretty resilient. People as the age, though, because more calcified–both in body and mind. Older parenting may not be so great for risk-taking and encouraging an open and freer environment for kids. Even as risks decline, the baseless fears and the moral nitpicking that goes with it seem to increase. Is it any wonder people are having less children?