July 1, 2008
Aussie children: Angels to parents, devils to teachers?
Research shows today's parents feel kids are better behaved than in 1980s; teachers disagree
LITTLE MONSTERS?: A child playing with a life-sized dinosaur puppet at the Melbourne Museum. Recent research has found that most parents think their kids are less fearful and better behaved, compared with parents surveyed in the 1980s. However, today's teachers are reporting more behavioural problems than their counterparts did in the past.
SYDNEY - CHILDREN in Australia may be two-faced, possibly becoming more so over the past 20 years.
Their parents say they are just as well-adjusted as their counterparts of 20 years ago and, if anything, better behaved and less anxious. But teachers appear to have a different view, just as they did 20 years ago.
This was revealed in research published yesterday by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which compared two studies of children two decades apart, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The study found that in both the 1980s and the first decade of this century, the 'great majority' of young children were happily adjusted.
Despite fears that modern life was producing a generation of badly behaved or anxious children, parents today were even more relaxed and less worried about their children's progress than were their counterparts in the past.
'Very few toddlers and children were reported as showing clear signs of behaviour problems,' said the study's authors, Ms Diana Smart and Ms Ann Sanson.
They said that today's parents may be more tolerant and understanding of, or less bothered by, challenging behaviour than parents in the 1980s.
The studies, in 1988 and in 2005, each involved thousands of six- and seven-year-old children. Researchers asked parents and teachers parallel questions about the children's behaviour and temperaments. Parents of children aged two to three were also asked similar questions in both studies.
Taken together, the studies provided a rare opportunity to test the common assumption that children in the 21st century are faring worse than yesteryear's children, the authors were quoted as saying.
Today's parents rated their toddlers as more sociable, persistent in completing tasks and less prone to acting out frustrations, than did parents of the 1980s. The toddlers were seen as less destructive, less likely to hurt other children, and even as having less difficulty falling asleep.
Although serious problems were uncommon in both eras, today's parents were significantly less likely to report conduct problems such as fighting or disobedience, or that their children were anxious, worried or fearful.
In 2005, 2 per cent of the six- to seven-year-olds were considered disobedient by their parents, compared with almost 8 per cent in the 1980s; and 3 per cent of today's children were said to have 'many worries', compared with 12 per cent in the 1980s.
But today's teachers were more likely than those of the 1980s - and more likely than today's parents - to report that six-to seven-year-olds had conduct problems, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
About 8 per cent of today's children were hyperactive, teachers reported, compared with about 6 per cent in the 1980s; about 3 per cent were disobedient, compared with 1.6 per cent in the 1980s; and 3.5 per cent fought with other children, compared with 2.9 per cent in the 1980s.
The report, Do Australian Children Have More Problems Today Than 20 Years Ago?, said teachers today may be more aware of these problems than teachers of the 1980s and more willing to report them. But the authors also said changed behaviour, perhaps due to less regulated classrooms, may also be a factor.
They also said it was unusual in this type of research for teachers to report more problems than did the parents.
Labels: behaviour, parenting, students, teaching