MEDIA CONTACT: Virginia Rutter
Council on Contemporary Families
In preparation for the Council on Contemporary Families’ 15th Annual Conference, Crossing Boundaries: Public and Private Roles in Assuring Child Well-Being, at the Crown Plaza Chicago Metro Hotel, April 27 and 28, 2012, the Council asked conference participants to submit short descriptions of recent research and best practice findings relevant to child well-being, for the Fifth Edition of “Unconventional Wisdom.” Here are some highlights of the 37 submissions CCF received.
Sexual mores and behaviors: Some things change, some things stay the same…
- Sharon Sassler (Cornell University) reports that the rapid progress of couples toward sexual intimacy has been a consistent pattern reaching back at least four decades. But the increasing age at first marriage means that the period between initiating sexual involvement and getting married has become considerably longer, with cohabitation an intervening stage in the majority of new marriages.
- Past studies found that couples who cohabited before marriage had a greater chance of divorce than those who entered directly into marriage. But Wendy Manning (Bowling Green State University) shows that for couples married since 1996, cohabitation before marriage is not associated with an elevated risk of marital dissolution. In fact, among the subgroup of women facing the greatest risk of divorce, cohabitation after engagement but before marriage is now tied to lower odds of marital instability.
Who has it better (or worse?) – employed moms or stay-at-home moms?
- Judith Treas (University of California Irvine), reports that surveys of married women in 28 countries show full-time homemakers and part-time employed wives with a small overall advantage over full-time working wives in general life satisfaction. However, the gap narrows in countries with social policies supporting working mothers.
- But Rachel Gordon (University of Illinois-Chicago) and Margaret Usdansky (Syracuse University) show that the happiness ofnew moms depends on both their work-and-family preferences and their job options. Women who prefer to work and have high-quality jobs have as few depressive symptoms as women who are homemakers by choice. Women who are homemakers but would prefer to work are at much higher risk of depression, as are women who work low-quality jobs, even if they want to work. But employed women who would prefer to stay home have few depressive symptoms if they have high-quality jobs.
- Suzanne Bianchi (UCLA) reports that the majority of new mothers now return to work within 6 months of having their first child. Paula England (NYU) points out that although highly educated mothers are more likely to return to work, they also spend more time in childcare than their less-educated counterparts.
Class matters more than ever
Sean Reardon (Stanford University) notes that the academic achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 40 percent higher today than it was 25 years ago. Fifty years ago, the achievement gap between blacks and white was twice as large as the gap between rich and poor. Today the income-achievement gap is nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.
But racial and cultural differences remain important
- Conference keynoter Dorothy Roberts (Northwestern University School of Law), points out that black children are more likely than white children to be placed in foster care, take longer to be reunified with their parents, and are more likely to have the legal ties to their families permanently severed.
- Alan Detloff (University of Illinois-Chicago) shows that even after controlling for poverty, family structure, and other risk factors, race remains an independent predictor of the over-representation of African-American children in the child welfare system.