What are they thinking?


A new report sure to foment the poison pen "mommy wars" comes to a conclusion so off the charts it must emanate from another universe entirely. Rutgers University's National Marriage Project reports that demographic trends have diminished the "child-centeredness of our nation."

"In 1990, the most common household type was married couples with children," reports USA Today. "Now, single, childless households are the most prevalent. Although [author Barbara Dafoe] Whitehead says Americans aren't 'antichild,' she suggests that a society indifferent to parenting will further aggravate current attitudes and account for what Whitehead calls 'the cultural devaluation of child-rearing.' "

If there is a more child-centered nation than the United States, I'd love to learn where. A handful of other western nations may be equally child-centered, but more so? Come on!!! Long gone are the days when children were to be seen and not heard. America, as a culture, is so child-focused that adults appear as mere shadows behind gossamer curtains. Here's a bit of proof:

American medicine affords lists of pediatric subspecialties too long to be reproduced in full here. But they include: pediatric allergy and immunology, pediatric cardiology, pediatric endocrinology, even pediatric sports medicine (you get the picture).

I once interviewed Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California about a bill she sponsored to measure environmental toxins by how much they impact a child's body, versus an adult's. Children are hurt more by toxins than adults are, so that makes sense. But in researching Boxer's bill, I discovered that her Senate office website has a whole page devoted to kids and the environment that links to a similar Environmental Protection Agency page.

Internet and television indecency are regulated to protect children. Politicians campaign on family values and what's best for children, to the exclusion of issues affecting single and child-free adults. Ivy League-educated women are abandoning promising careers, lured home by the romance of young children, in the so-called Opt-Out Revolution.

Children are hardly an afterthought in today's culture. The study reveals some interesting data. More American women in their 40s are child free. The ratio was 1 in 10 in 1976. In 2004, it was about 1 in five. But to sound an alarm that America is about to become a child-sneering nation or one that devalues child-rearing is just not true. And in order not to conversely denigrate women who choose not to have children, the authors should refer to them as "child free," not "childless" (which carries a much more derogatory connotation).