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Remember the whole "Tiger Mom" thing? Or maybe you remember recently finding out that French parents (despite their godless postmodern worldview and brie addictions) are far superior to American ones. But have we received independent, internal confirmation of just how far American parenting has fallen? Yes. Yes we have.
Ten years ago, anthropologist Elinor Ochs and her UCLA team set out to study the American middle class family. Thirty-two Southern Californian families were recruited; each family owned their own homes and had two or three children, at least one of whom was between seven and twelve years old. About a third of the families had at least one nonwhite member, and two were headed by same-sex couples. Each family was filmed by two cameras and watched all day by three observers for one week.
The findings are somewhat damning. Dr. Ochs noted that while parents intend to develop their children's independence, they raise them to be relatively dependent. No America-shaming study would be complete without showing how other cultures kick our ass, and so the UCLA researchers provided helpful video footage of a child in Samoa "climbing a tall tree to harvest papaya, and helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire." The video then ends with a Samoan girl staring levelly into the camera while intoning "I must break you."
By contrast, American children in twenty-two of thirty families frequently ignored or resisted appeals to help, and Dr. Ochs noted that the children frequently asked their parents to do tasks.
"For instance, one exchange caught on video shows an eight-year-old named Ben sprawled out on a couch near the front door, lifting his white, high-top sneak to his father, the shoe laced. 'Dad, untie my shoe,' he pleads. His father says Ben needs to say 'please.'
'Please until my shoe,' says the child in an identical tone as before. After his father hands the shoe back to him, Ben says, 'Please put my shoe on and tie it,' and his father obliges."
Researchers noted that though children were often able to perform the tasks asked of them by their parents, they seemed not to think that they had a responsibility to assist, or in some cases, even acknowledge their parents — in eighty-six percent of homes, when the fathers came home, at least one child failed to pay attention to him.
"The kids are oblivious to their parents' perspectives," Dr. Ochs said, theorizing that this has to do with the U.S. phenomenon of adapting to and focusing on children, rather than having children focus on others.
Ochs then noted that several of the children, perplexingly, appear to have jackal's blood, and that ominous Gregorian chanting was overheard in multiple homes during filming.