Archives for June, 2012
Leaving Home Sooner or Later: What Does It Mean for Your Relationship with Your Parents Down the Road?
The sooner you leave the parental nest, the farther you fly. Those are the results I told you about last time. A wide-ranging study of nearly 15,000 parents and their grown children, from 15 countries, was just published. The implications of leaving home early or late for geographical closeness are quite clear. But what about other kinds of closeness? If you think the answer to that question is obvious, then you are probably blissfully removed from academic debates. Those scholars who believe in “classical life course theory” predict that young adults who stay with their parents “too long” are at risk for a world of trouble. First, those kids are off schedule. They are not doing what everyone else is doing, at the same time as everyone else. They are “failing” in their transition to the role of a real adult. They are a burden on their parents – interfering with their preferences and “disrupting other relationships and activities.” In the popular press, those late-leavers are chided as lazy and greedy.
Leaving Home in 15 Countries: How Old Are the Grown Children When They Leave and How Far Do They Go?
There is a lot of angst these days about grown children hanging out in the parental nest for what is considered by some to be “too long” a time. Is the concern justified? If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know me – I love data. A just-published study provides lots of that. In fact, the author (Thomas Leopold) studied nearly 15,000 pairs of adults and their grown children, from 15 countries. That means we can get beyond our own cultural and personal beliefs about the way things should be, and see how things actually are. We can learn whether different patterns of leaving home really do matter.
Discussions of topics such as “juggling” and “work/life balance” have focused most intently on women who have children and paying jobs. They are the ones who most crave free time, it has been assumed. They would take more free time over more money in a heartbeat. There is some truth to that assumption. More magazine commissioned a survey of women who had professional employment, at least a college degree, and an income of at least $60,000 if single or $75,000 if married. (No, those two figures do not make sense to me, either.) The results revealed that 62% of the women who had children said that they would take more free time over more money.
The most recent Census Bureau Report, released just yesterday, described the latest demographic trend. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of American adults who are sharing a home has grown markedly. You don’t count as sharing a home if you live only with your spouse or cohabiting partner. You don’t even count if the adult in your home with you is enrolled in school, so this trend is not about young adults staying with their parents while they go to college.
Across my past three posts, I have been trying, with little success, to find evidence for the claim made in the Wall Street Journal that “sharing a bed is good for your health.” In this final post on the topic, I’ll take one last dive into original sources to see if I can find any good evidence for those elusive health benefits of sharing a bed.
[This is Part 3 of a 4-part series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.] When I read the Wall Street Journal stories about the supposed health benefits of sharing a bed, the study that sounded the most promising, methodologically, was described this way: “The study involved 10 young dating couples who shared a bed at least 10 nights and slept apart 10 nights for the study.” The couples were all heterosexual. Ten is not an impressive number of couples. Still, if the researchers had randomly assigned the couples to sleep together on particular nights and separately on others, and included some solid measures of health, then they would have a nice experimental study.
This is Part 2 in a series assessing the claim made by the Wall Street Journal that “sharing a bed is good for your health.” In Part 1, I invited you to think about the questions you should ask yourself when you read these kinds of claims. Here I’ll spell out a few of those questions that could be posed by discerning readers. (Bonus points if journalists begin to ask these kinds of questions more often.) Let’s start with the headline, “Sharing a bed is good for your health.” At the heart of good research methodology is the question, “Compared to what?” That’s the first question you should ask.
“Sharing a bed is good for your health.” That was the title of a recent blog post in the Wall Street Journal. The longer article, also in the Journal, asked “Who sleeps better at night?” The tease offered an answer: “Men vs. women, couples vs. singles: New studies find benefits in sharing a bed.” Was the answer accurate? I never take media reports of social science research at face value. If I really want to know if “sharing a bed is good for your health” or anything else, I go to the original sources and read the actual journal articles. It is not enough just to ask other people – not even the people who authored the articles – what the studies showed.
June has arrived, and with it, wedding season. For the newlyweds, whether it is their first marriage or their umpteenth, that means an orgy of presents – often shower gifts as well as wedding presents. Once upon a time, the tradition of showering the new couple with money or useful things made some sense. People used to marry much younger than they do now, and marriage was more commonplace. Cohabitation was rare; the two people about to marry really were putting together the pieces of a household from scratch.