Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Most mothers, regardless of whether they work or stay at home, are dedicated to their children but fear popular culture is undermining their efforts to raise children with “positive values,” according to a new study of more than 2,000 mothers.

Among mothers’ top goals: reduce family violence, promote healthy marriages and find ways to help mothers spend more time with their families.

Mothers’ voices need to be heard, said Martha Farrell Erickson, lead researcher of the study, which was released yesterday by the Institute for American Values (IAV) in New York.

“Lots of people have been talking about mothers, but very few have been listening to mothers — especially mothers from many walks of life,” said Mrs. Erickson, a scholar at the Children, Youth and Family Consortium at the University of Minnesota.

Mothers are passionate about their children and their roles as mothers, but they also agree that childhood “is not a protected time,” said Enola G. Aird, director of the IAV’s Motherhood Project.

Ninety-five percent of mothers say they wish “American culture made it easier to instill positive values in children,” she noted.

The IAV study was conducted earlier this year and included a telephone survey of 2,009 mothers plus interviews with groups of mothers. The mothers, all of whom had minor children, represented a broad range of economic, and educational levels and family types. Researchers with the University of Connecticut participated in the survey.

Despite the mothers’ diversity, they often agreed on core values: More than 90 percent said their love for their children was “unlike any other love” they’ve experienced, and 81 percent said being a mother is “the most important thing I do.” Another 83 percent strongly agreed that their care of their children is so unique that “no one else can replace it.”

The study also found that most mothers felt besieged by financial worries and “negative influences” in the American culture.

Most of the mothers worked — 41 percent full time and 21 percent part time. But the strongest preferences either were to work part time or from home. Only 16 percent of mothers said full-time work was “ideal.”

The study found “no significant evidence” to support what the popular media sometimes refer to as the “mommy wars,” in which mothers in the work force are at odds with mothers who stay home. But it found a strong indication that most mothers worry about materialism — 88 percent agreed that “money has too much control over our lives.”

American popular culture — particularly entertainment and advertising — also concerned mothers. More than 80 percent agreed that society as a whole should do more to protect children from “adult” aspects of the world.

Other solutions included elevating more mothers to positions of power and working with fathers to tackle social problems.

Separately, another survey of more than 1,000 mothers came to similar conclusions.

American mothers are satisfied with their lives, content with the choices they make and think they are doing a good job as mothers, said the “Voice of Mom” report card, issued yesterday by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

“That said, moms need and want help,” the firm said. Mothers “do not believe the nation as a whole gives them the support they need” and are “fairly critical” of the direction of the country, both economically and morally.

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