How are American parents different?

The biggest difference between American parents and their counterparts in Europe might be that they are far more relaxed about enrichment than we are, according to a study released this week by Sara Harkness and Charles M. Super at the School of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.

Not only are Americans far more likely to focus on their children’s intelligence and cognitive skills, they are also far less likely to describe them as “happy” or “easy” children to parent.

“The U.S.’s almost obsession with cognitive development in the early years overlooks so much else,” Harkness told Slate .

For part of their research, the authors focused just on parents in the United States and the Netherlands. The differences are stark: American parents emphasized setting aside “special time” with each of their children, while Dutch parents spent a few hours each day together with their kids as an entire family.

…American parents were the only ones to consistently mention their children’s advanced intellect, while other countries focused on qualities like “happiness,” being “easy” to manage, or the even more zen-like “well-balanced,” in Italy. (Italians also used the word simpatico, a group of characteristics suggesting social and emotional competence).

The article, by Olga Khazan, is interesting throughout and for the pointer I thank an excellent and loyal MR reader.


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