If you’re a parent, you probably don’t need an article to tell you that as rewarding as it can be, it’s also one of the most challenging jobs out there.
What you might not know, however, is that emerging research at the intersection of parenting and the economy suggests that being a parent today is considerably more demanding than it was for even our own mothers and fathers, thanks in large part to the widespread acceptance of “intensive parenting.”
The concept of “intensive parenting,” aggressive though it may sound, should be familiar to most. As New York Times correspondent Claire Cain Miller explains in her recent article “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting,” it’s the idea that mom and dad are monitoring and teaching children closely throughout their developmental years -- think enrolling them in music lessons or sports at an early age or just in general being more connected to what’s happening in their lives, from being able to keep an eye on your kid via baby monitor when he or she is an infant to tracking their exact location through modern cell phone GPS technology.
The idea behind it developed as children became viewed as more vulnerable than they had in previous generations, and as more research emerged about the importance that experiences in early childhood play in development, parents started to take a more hands-on approach to raising their kids.
The problem with intensive parenting as the de facto method for raising kids, as Miller indicates in her article, is how this concept can manifest itself among different racial and socio-economic groups. “The new trappings of intensive parenting,” she writes, “are largely fixtures of white, upper-middle-class American culture, but researchers say the expectations have permeated all corners of society, whether or not parents can achieve them.”
The result is parents who want to be involved in their kids’ lives and contribute to their chances of success but who may lack access to the resources or knowledge that other parents may have due to where they live or to which socioeconomic class they belong.
What are the pros and cons of “intensive parenting” as a method for raising kids? And do kids who are the product of it actually fare better than their parents? What are some of the cultural and economic drivers behind the practice?
Claire Cain Miller, correspondent for the New York Times, where she writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot, a Times site for the analysis of policy and economics; her recent piece is “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting;” she tweets @clairecm
Annette Lareau, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies social class difference in family life
Dawn Dow, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and author of the forthcoming book is “Mothering While Black: Boundaries and Burdens of Middle-Class Parenthood” (UC Press, March 2019)
Matthias Doepke, professor of economics at Northwestern University and co-author of the forthcoming book “Love, Money & Parenting: How Economics Explains The Way We Raise Our Kids” (Princeton University Press, February 2019)