- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Most women enjoy being with their children less than they say they do, a new survey of women’s moods has found.

The study of 909 U.S. working women, published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, also revealed that the daily commute is the low point of women’s days, while “sexual intimacy” is the high point.

The study used a new method for assessing quality of life, which researchers say is more accurate than the conventional approach of asking people to generally report how much they like various activities.

Norbert Schwarz, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and an investigator in the study, said that under the conventional assessment system, women typically insist that being with their children is their greatest joy.

But using the new Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), described in the Science report, Mr. Schwarz said, “Women indicated spending time with their children is a mixed bag — that they represent some of their best moments and also some of their worst moments.”

Mr. Schwarz explained that DRM involves breaking the day into a sequence of episodes and rating each moment or activity as a kind of snapshot. He said the women were told to think of their day “as a continuous series of scenes or episodes in a film” and to give each event a name to help them remember it.

The women then rated their activities for positive and negative associations. A positive score of six was the strongest and zero was the weakest.

Participants gave intimate relations the highest score, at 5.10. That was followed by socializing, at 4.59, and relaxing, at 4.42.

They ranked taking care of their children at 3.86 — below exercising, watching television and preparing food.

The ranking for child care was not far ahead of activities at the low end of the scale, such as housework (3.73); employment (3.62); and commuting (3.45).

The researchers also analyzed those with whom working women most want to interact and found that it is their friends (4.36), followed by their relatives and spouses. Being with their children was their fourth choice, with a score of 4.04. However, the women said they would prefer interfacing with their offspring rather than with their boss (3.52) or being alone (3.41).

“In truth, spending time with your children is not always as good as you remember it,” Mr. Schwarz said.

By forcing women to recall specific time frames in a day’s experiences, they may have to face situations “where they were trying to do something and found their children distracting,” he added.

“Saying that you generally don’t enjoy spending time with your kids is terrible, but admitting they were a pain last night is quite acceptable,” he said.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and also involved researchers from Princeton University, the University of Californiaat San Diego, and Stony Brook University in New York.

“We conclude that positive effect and enjoyment are strongly influenced by aspects of temperament and character, such as depression and sleep quality, and by features of the current situation,” the report said.

“In contrast,” it said, issues such as income and education “have surprisingly little influence on … reports of life satisfaction” and the enjoyment of a regular day.

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