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Parenting Headlines that are Simply Wrong - Want Better Children?

By Yvette Vignando - 16th November 2011

It was only last night that I was talking to a trusted friend about the inaccuracy and sensationalism in online and offline publications - especially their headlines. As a publisher myself I confess I do find the whole headline 'thing' a challenge. I can laugh at the silly and sensational and even salacious sometimes, even though I hope I will never 'go there' myself. But using headlines that misinform people about research simply for the eye-catching impact - please stop it.

Take this one from today as an example:

 "Revealed - Marriage Breeds Better Children"

Today the Australian Institute of Family Studies released information about research conducted as part of its longitudinal study into children growing up in Australia. If you read some mainstream media headlines you might think that the Federal government-funded organisation has now found hard evidence that marriage itself will "breed" or somehow by osmosis, will raise a "better" child. You might wonder "Better than what or whom?" and "How?" and "Okay then, if we are allowing gay adults to raise children then we had better support marriage equality so their children end up 'better' too" (disclosure - I support marriage equality)

I have chosen this headline because it's today's news - not because it's the worst offender. But I do think it's important for parents to hear about research, and for quality research to be funded - so these kinds of headlines really upset me. I can only imagine what the unmarried "breeding" parents are thinking ...

Research is not always helpful, nor is it always applicable to challenges we face raising our kids - and yes, sometimes it can even be divisive. But often it does help us think about, and have conversations and debates about how to raise happy and emotionally well children or how it might help us enjoy our family lives more.

So, for the record, the research summary released today by the Institute does not  indicate marriage breeds a better child (insert eye rolling here). The researchers explicitly said that although the results indicated that children of married parents have "higher levels of learning and social and emotional development than children of de-facto parents or single mothers" -  this result is linked with the "family's financial circumstances, mother's educational level and parenting approaches"

That makes sense to me. Raising a family is often less stressful when there are fewer financial worries. The educational level of a mother is likely to influence and be linked (even genetically) to the learning outcomes of her children. And yes, parenting approaches with children like using "warmth and affection", and enjoying "listening to them and participating in activities with them," will help in supporting our kids' social and emotional development. Likewise, parents who "use reasoning with their children, explaining why they were being corrected" are often going to have a more positive impact on their children than parents who don't.

So please - headline writers and sub-editors of the world - give parents a break - and mind your headlines.

Oh, and here's a link to the press release so you can make your own judgement.

image freedigitalphotos.net

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