Friday, April 01, 2005

American Family Life In Flux

Scientists at UCLA have spent the past four years observing 32 Los Angeles families in a study of how working America somehow gets
it done. Day after day.

For a week, scientists using digital video cameras recorded the Zeisses' every move. Back in the lab, the researchers analyzed their behavior - frame by frame - intent on seeing them with a dispassionate eye as if their subjects were chimps in the wild.

Psychologists required everyone but the family dog Ozzie to spit into test tubes several times a day. The vials were frozen and shipped to a Pennsylvania lab where technicians measured the rise and fall of stress hormones in saliva.

At UCLA, a team of 21 researchers has completed the $3.6 million data-collection phase. A second phase will be devoted to analysis and, researchers hope, influencing federal policy on family issues.
I like the idea of this study. Follow families 24 hours a day, collect tons of data and then analyze it to see what is going on.
Trend 1: Mothers working outside the home.

It's a poorly understood seismic shift in both the nation's economy and daily life. For some families in the study, it allows them to own a bigger house, drive better cars and take nicer vacations. For many more families, two paychecks are necessary to put food on the table.

What's falling by the wayside? Playtime. Conversation. Courtesy. Intimacy.
A second trend emerging from the UCLA data - how few people have any unstructured time.

In just one of the 32 families did the father - a freelance film animator - make a habit of taking an evening stroll with his son and daughter. Hand-in-hand, they dodged vacant lots and broken glass in Culver City while chasing bugs and making up stories.

Kim and Gary Zeiss are keeping their children busy by design. They believe it's a key to being a successful adult in a culture that rewards multi-taskers.
A third hallmark of the study: clutter.

Archaeologist Jeanne E. Arnold planned to treat each house in the study like a dig site, cataloging and mapping family belongings as artifacts. But there was too much stuff. Instead, her staff took photographs. Thousands of them.

By her rough estimate, the typical American family owns more than most Egyptian pharaohs.
That is just crazy. I knew Americans had lots of stuff, but never seen it compared to Egyptian pharaohs before.
The fourth family trend: flux.

Using computers, scientists mapped the location of each family member throughout the home every 10 minutes. Ochs says families gathered in the same room just 16 percent of the time. In five homes, the entire family was never in the same room while scientists were observing.
via CBS News


Will said...

Not every pharoah built giant tombs in their honor. Most American men don't marry their sisters, either.

Fat Knowledge said...

Will, I agree with you but I am not quite sure what your point is.

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