- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Plinking e-mail alerts and ringing phones serve to bolster American family relations rather than detract from them.

Far from alienated, family members are more in touch than ever, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Americans are chatty, close and — yes — actually pleased with traditional home life, said the survey, which was released yesterday.

“This increase in regular daily contact is one of the many findings that highlight the strength and resilience of family bonds in the face of sweeping changes over the past several decades in family structures and living arrangement,” the survey stated.

It revealed, in fact, some fairly happy people — particularly husbands and wives.

“Marriage is a key to family satisfaction,” the survey noted. It revealed that 82 percent of married people said they were “very satisfied” with family life, compared with 61 percent of single folks.

Overall, the survey found that 72 percent of us say we are pleased with family life, with 63 percent happy with their housing situations and 51 percent satisfied with their free time. Budgets may be a little tight, however. The survey found that only 32 percent were satisfied with their household income.

Despite popular perception that far-flung families are all over the map, the findings show otherwise: 65 percent of the respondents are within an hour’s drive of their parents and 72 percent are within an hour of an adult child.

Families have been drawn together by “the communications revolution,” with 73 percent talking to a family member outside their household daily. About 42 percent contact or see one or both parents every day — up from 21 percent in 1989. More than three quarters — 76 percent — attended a big family gathering last year, up from 70 percent in the 1989 survey.

“Among women, the phone occupies a special place in the family communications arsenal,” the survey stated, with 42 percent talking to a parent daily. The figure was 23 percent among men. About 47 percent of the moms call an adult child every day, compared with 24 percent of dads.

Family is the “port in the storm,” though. In times of trouble, 45 percent contacted a family member compared with 22 percent who relied on friends or neighbors, 11 percent who read Scripture or prayed and 9 percent who called a therapist or pastor. Twelve percent, however, had no one to call.

There is still some fussing and feuding going on, though. A quarter of all adults said they had disagreed with another family member in the past year. The numbers vary by age group, however; 42 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old set reported an argument, compared with 27 percent of those up to age 49 and 18 percent of the 50- to 64-year-olds. By 65, the figure drops to a relatively peaceful 9 percent.

The poll of 3,014 adults was taken Oct. 5 through Nov. 6; the report can be seen in full online (pewresearch.org).

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