TIME Parenting

Maybe Orphanages Aren’t So Bad After All, Study Says

ranplett—Getty Images/Vetta

Author of biggest study to date says the institutions have been unfairly stigmatized

Orphanages, as we all know from Charles Dickens, studies of kids from former Eastern Bloc countries and the musical Annie, are bad for children. Except, as a few studies are now beginning to find, when they’re not. The latest study looked at children from five not-so-wealthy countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa over the course of three years and found that being in an institution did not necessarily make them much worse off.

Whether or not orphanages are a viable solution for children with no homes is no small issue. According to the most recent figures from UNICEF, there were more than 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005. That’s a scary number — more than the entire population of Britain and Italy combined — and figuring out the best way to look after that many vulnerable beings is a problem of significant complexity.

Even the definition of “orphan” is complicated. Not all of those 132 million-plus kids had lost both parents; closer to 13 million are what UNICEF calls “double orphans.” And 95% of all orphans, single or double, were over the age of five. So while the mental image of an orphan is of an abandoned baby in a basket, the reality is quite different.

There’s a reasonably heated debate over the best way to look after kids with no homes to go to. Studies out of Romania and Russia have found that kids raised in orphanages were vastly worse off than kids raised by foster families. A slew of studies suggest that children who were institutionalized as babies are much worse off than those who were not and that these effects remain through to adulthood.

But the new study, led by Kathryn Whetten, a Duke professor of public policy and director of the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR), and published by PLOSone, is the largest and most geographically and culturally diverse study of its kind. It followed 1,300 kids, aged six to 15 who were in institutions and 1,400 kids who were in family care in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania. Researchers kept watch on such measures as the kids’ physical health, emotional difficulties, growth, learning ability and memory.

And it concluded that closing down all the orphanages — now sometimes known in more fancy circles as residential educational facilities — and finding other options for the 2 million kids currently living in such institutions would be a significant setback in addressing the issue.

“Our findings put less significance on the residential setting as a means to account for either positive or negative child well-being over time,” Whetten said. Much more important is the kind of country, neighborhood or community the child lives in, and, even more crucially, the kind of kid he or she is. Age, gender, existing emotional and nutritional status, and what kind of life each child has had so far have a lot more impact on that child’s fate than whether or not she or he was raised in a group setting.

Whetten, who first released similar findings from a different cross-sectional study in 2009, believes orphanages have been unfairly stigmatized by studies that have focused in on the dire institutions in Romania and Russia. Many of them rely on data from the Bucharest Early Intervention project, which tracks kids from the notoriously bad Romanian orphanages of the Ceausescu era. “This is reminiscent of what happened to mental health facilities in the U.S. in the 1980s,” she says. “We have taken findings from some of the most emotionally and socially deprived orphanages and are assuming that those outcomes would hold true for all group homes. An analogy that a colleague used yesterday was that it is like if we were evaluating whether to send our daughter to a summer camp and, to make our decision, we examined data from a girls prison camp.”

Indeed while Whetten’s study focused in on less wealthy countries, she believes there are implications for America, especially with the foster care system in such crisis. “In the U.S. there is a movement to see long-term residential care as detrimental to all children and that only when no other options are available do we place children in residential care and with the condition that they stay for as little time as possible,” she says. “Yet many of the residential centers here in the U.S. provide family-like care with long-term caregivers/parents who are continuously trained and supported in how to raise children who have experienced significant chaos and trauma in their lives. The children have family meals and can consider the children in the unit to be like siblings.”

While the study does not go so far as to recommend a whole-scale return to the practice of sending orphaned kids off to institutions, Whetten does think they should be one of a menu of solutions, and chosen when it suits the kid. “We need to evaluate each child individually to see where they will best thrive given the available options,” she says. “For example, if a child has four siblings and they would be broken apart if placed in families, but can stay together in a good group home, the group home may be best for all of them. All children deserve a loving family, and the family can look different depending on the situation.”

TIME celebrity

Chris Pratt Visits Children’s Hospital in Guardians of the Galaxy Costume

Confirms suspicions that he's perfect

We already knew Chris Pratt could rap, French braid, be hot, be hilarious, and be adorable with pugs.

Oh, what’s that? That’s not enough for you to have a mega-huge crush on him? Well, here’s something he did that is even more amazing.

In a recent interview with Panzer TV, the actor explained that he took home the costume he wore to play Peter “Star-Lord” Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy so he could go visit children’s hospitals and attempt to brighten the patients’ days. This week, he made good on that promise by stopping by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Here he is, letting a patient try on his coat:

Pratt also spent some extra time with a patient named Dylan Prunty, who is a huge Lego fan and knew Pratt from his role in The Lego Movie, E! reports. They hung out and recited scenes from the film:

Chris Pratt visits the Lego Kid at LA Children's Hospital

Alright, Pratt. We can’t possibly imagine what perfect thing you’ll do next to top this, but we have faith that you’ll figure something out.

 

MONEY Saving

Why Parents Should Procrastinate on Back-to-School Shopping

School supplies arranged in clock face formation
iStock

If you've been a slacker thus far in rounding up your kid's back-to-school supplies, there's good reason to keep on procrastinating.

The simple reason why this is so is that very soon, almost every store will be putting kids’ scissors, notebooks, glue, pencils, and other back-to-school merchandise on clearance. For that matter, clothing marketed for the back-to-school season will be deeply discounted starting around Labor Day as well if not sooner, in order to make space for the next big seasons for retailers—Halloween and Christmas.

Don’t tell your kids about this, especially not at the start of the school year when homework and exams are about to become painful realities, but the truth is that sometimes it pays to sit back and do nothing. Many consumers are utilizing this “strategy” this summer, though it’s unclear whether they’re doing so consciously—or, more likely, lazily and obliviously. The Integer Group estimated that more than half of shoppers wait until one to three weeks before school starts to buy school supplies, and that 36% of consumers won’t do any back-to-school shopping at all, up from 31% who skipped back-to-school purchases last year.

The most prudent, responsible, cost-conscious approach for back-to-school shopping is for a parent to dutifully browse for bargains throughout the summer and scoop them up when they’re optimal. Back-to-school promotions started even before the previous school year ended, and Staples, Walmart, dollar stores, and other retailers have periodically rolled out 1¢ folders, 25¢ rulers and protractors, and other loss-leader sales in order to rev up business. For that matter, truly savvy shoppers understand that kids tend to need more or less the same supplies every fall, so they strategically snatch up pencils, notebooks, and whatnot whenever they’re at rock-bottom prices throughout the year.

The ship has sailed on the chance to do the prudent thing and buy items whenever the optimal price appears. That approach is too time-consuming and requires too much attention for the average parent anyway. This late in the game, there are two options left: 1) Turn into a whirling dervish and hit one store to buy everything your student needs in the few days before school starts; or 2) make do with what you have for the first day of school, then complete your kids’ list sometime around Labor Day.

The first option is the more responsible one, of course, and ensures that your child will have all of the required supplies on time. Yet the Integer study found that price is the most important element in back-to-school purchases for roughly three-quarters of consumers, and with this first approach, shoppers will wind up paying more than is necessary for many school staples.

That leaves us with the second (slacker) option, which is attractive not only because you can do nothing for a little while longer, but also because of a bonus in the form of saving a bundle of money. By the time Labor Day arrives, the majority of what you need to buy will likely be marked down for clearance sales. You’ll get the cheaper prices on glue, notebooks, and such without having to shop around, monitor Sunday circulars, or hit multiple stores. All in all, you’ll save time, effort, and money, with the main tradeoff being that your kid might get dirty looks from the teacher if he shows up on the first day of school with an empty backpack—or perhaps no backpack.

“Like most seasonal items, the longer you wait to buy back-to-school items, the better your chances are of scoring a significant discount,” said Lindsay Sakraida, features director at the deal-tracking site dealnews.com. Normally, clearance aisles are a hodgepodge of random, undesirable leftovers, but this isn’t the case for basics like pens, notebooks, and calculators, which are more or less immune to trends and seasonality, said Sakraida. “While sorting through the clearance section can sometimes yield limited options, it’s less of an issue with school supplies, making this an even more appealing option for cash-strapped back-to-schoolers.”

She suggested starting to look for big back-to-school markdowns a few days before Labor Day weekend. Around that time a year ago, Staples and Office Max cut prices dramatically on many items, sometimes with discounts of more than 75%. Other retailers will surely be posting printable coupons good for 20% or 25% your entire purchase over the holiday weekend, said Sakraida.

And prices will only drop from there as retailers try to clear shelf space to prep for the next season’s goods. In terms of fall clothing and school supplies alike, “look for the deals to get pretty aggressive by mid-September,” NPD retail analyst Marshal Cohen told the Wall Street Journal.

Even if your kids are fully outfitted for this school year by then, it might be wise to hit the clearance section and round up some supplies for next fall. You know prices will be cheap. And perhaps by planning ahead you’ll show your children that even the laziest procrastinators can change their ways and become more responsible.

More Back-to-School advice:
Would You Spend $60 for Your Kid’s Lunchbox?
Parents Worry More About Back-to-School Shopping Than Bullying
4 Best Credit Cards for College Students

TIME Research

What Kids’ Drawings Say About Their Intelligence

Here are examples of children's drawings. Scores are from left to right: Top: 6,10,6; Bottom: 6,10,7. Twins Early Development Study, King's College London

The number of features a child draws into their sketch of a person may say a little something about their intelligence

A large and long-term new study shows the way a 4-year-old draws a person not only says something about their level of intelligence as a toddler but is also predictive of their intelligence 10 years down the line.

A team of researchers at King’s College London had 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical 4-year-old twins draw a picture of a child. Every sketch was rated on a scale from 0 to 12 based on the presence of features, like legs, arms, and facial features. The kids also underwent verbal and nonverbal intelligence measurement tests.

When the kids turned 14, the researchers once again tested their intelligence. They found that a higher score on their drawing was moderately associated with the child’s intelligence both at age four and at age 14. The researchers expected to see a connection at age 4, but for the results to have consistency a decade later was surprising.

The researchers also found that the drawings of identical twins were more similar than the drawings of non-identical twins, suggesting that a genetic link was involved in drawing, though its exact mechanism was unknown. For instance the kids could be predisposed (or trained) to pay attention to detail well or hold their pencil in a specific way, the researchers say.

“The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly,” said study author Dr. Rosalind Arden, the lead author of the paper in a statement. “Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Psychological Science.

MONEY Google

‘Google for Kids’ Is Coming

Child using Google on iPad2
Alex Segre—Alamy

Reports indicate Google is planning to roll out a suite of services specifically targeting young users.

Google is working on versions of its services, such as YouTube and Gmail, that are specifically outfitted for children.

Currently, Google services are technically only meant for persons over the age of 13 years. Users attempting to create a new Google account are asked to enter their birthday, in addition to other information like username and password. Those under the age limit are directed to a page explaining Google’s policy and linking to the Federal Trade Commission’s web page on child privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s new child-approved services will allow parents to control how their children interact with Google’s products and what information the search giant collects from their child’s activity. The Information previously reported that a version of YouTube featuring beefed up parental controls was in development.

Google currently limits its services to an older age group because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires parental consent before a child’s data can be collected, and restricts how that data can be used and stored. While web sites are not liable if underage users lie about their age, a person familiar with Google’s plans told the Journal that demand from parents who want to create accounts for their children and a desire to remain in compliance with COPPA spurred the company to act.

Another reason for kid-centric services could be a desire by Google to break into the lucrative education market. The company’s Chromebooks are low-cost laptops that might be attractive to schools, but the products are entirely based around Google services. A child-suite of Google apps might make Chromebooks a viable alternative to the iPad among educators interested in introducing technology into the classroom.

Some privacy advocates are not particularly thrilled by the prospect of more children making Google accounts. Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Journal the new services could threaten the privacy of millions of children, and that his organization had already shared its concerns with the Federal Trade Commission.

MONEY Education

How Sending Your Child to Private School Can Save You $53,000

GOSSIP GIRL, Chase Crawford (left)
Giovanni Rufino—CW Network courtesy Everett Collection

Public school can end up being much more expensive than private school depending on where you choose to live.

UPDATED—8:15 A.M.

For most Americans, private school seems like an unaffordable luxury, or an unnecessary extravagance, depending on your point of view. One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that private school is expensive—especially compared with the competition. After all, public education doesn’t cost anything, and you can’t compete with free, right?

The problem with that logic is that public school actually isn’t free. In what might be one of America’s most regressive policies, the government divides the country into school districts, each supported by a local tax base. That means school funding and quality varies drastically depending on where you live, and homes in top school districts tend to be eye-poppingly expensive.

According to a recent Trulia report, houses in districts where even rich families send their children to public school—suggesting the quality of education is especially high—can cost more than twice the national average per square foot. That means in certain cases, private school can actually be a bargain.

To answer the question of how much going to private school could potentially save, we need the help of two fictional families: the Publicos and the Privados. The Publicos want to give their child the best public education they can, so they move to a neighborhood with one of the nation’s top public schools. The Privados prefer private education, so they move to a neighborhood with average schools (and median home prices) and send their child to prep school.

To figure out how much the Publicos will spend, we’ll use Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy calculator* to see how much living in an average-size house in a top school district for 13 years (kindergarten through 12th grade) would cost. A median-priced house in Auburndale, Massachusetts—which Trulia lists as having some of the best public schools—will end up costing the Publicos about $2,120 a month.

In comparison, we’ll say the Privados live in an average school district and buy a home that will cost the national median of roughly $998 a month over the same time period. On top of that, the Privados pay for their child’s private school. According to data from the Nation Center for Education Statistics, the average price of a year of private elementary school is $7,770, and the average annual cost of private high school is $13,030.

By multiplying the cost of elementary school by nine (grades K-8) and adding it to the cost of a four-year high school, we get an average total cost of educating a child privately of $122,050, or $782 a month. Add that to the Privados’ housing bills, and they’re up to $1,780 a month—still a few hundred dollars less than the Publicos’ monthly costs.

Over time, these savings add up. By the time the Publicos’ child graduates high school, they will have paid $52,982 more than the Privados for education and housing. Meanwhile, if the Privados stashed away those savings in a 529 college account, they’ll have a lot of extra money to help pay for their son’s or daughter’s university.

SchoolSpendingChart

Does this mean private school is always a better option for parents? Not at all. The above calculations compare one of the most expensive public school districts in the nation with the average cost of private school. The most elite prep schools can cost upwards of $40,000 a year, while some areas with great public schools are far more affordable than Auburndale.

There are also a number of factors to consider that this calculation doesn’t take into account. While private schools cost $9,388 a year in general, religious schools are a little cheaper, and secular schools are much more expensive. There’s also regional considerations, like commute times, employment opportunities, crime rate, and other neighborhood perks that we don’t have time to explore in detail.

One final thing to consider is how many children you plan on sending to school. If both the Publicos and Privados send two children to school instead of one, the Publicos actually save almost $70,000. Although, if the Privados send two kids to public elementary school and then transfer both children to a private high school, they’re back in the black, saving almost $71,000.

So with that in mind, what’s the takeaway from all this? Instead of automatically selecting public or private school for your child, make sure to give both options serious consideration. Sometimes—likely most of the time—public school will be cheaper. In other cases, a good private education may actually cost less. Either way, taking the time to get the decision right can save you thousands of dollars.

 

 

* Other than the “How long would you live there?” field, which we set to 13, and the region, our calculations are based on the calculator’s default settings.

TIME Family

Mom Says She Was Booted For Changing Diaper at Restaurant Table

Baby in nappy on changing mat.
Baby in nappy on changing mat. Lisa Stirling—Getty Images

A debate over parenting manners breaks out in a Texas pizzeria

A Texas mom told a local news station that her dinner out came to an abrupt end when she changed her baby’s diaper on a chair in the dining area of a restaurant.

Miranda Sowers says she was alone at Brother’s Pizza Express in Spring, Texas with her three children, ages 8, 4, and 4 months, when she realized her youngest needed a diaper change. But, Sowers says, the restroom didn’t have a changing table and she didn’t want to herd all of her kids out to the car, so she did what she had to do.

“I thought you know what I’ve got my own changing pad, she’s tiny, she fits right here on the chair.” she told KHOU, a Houston TV station. “So I laid her down quickly and quietly changed her diaper.”

While Sowers saw this is an inoffensive act of convenience, claiming that no one saw her do it, restaurant employees and patrons had a different take.

“As soon as you start opening the diaper, people start complaining about the smell of the diaper,” manager Donny Lala told KHOU. “Last thing I want is a customer throwing up.”

Comments on the story from KHOU readers were mainly against table-side diaper changing. Many self-described parents deemed Sowers inconsiderate: “Gross! I would have used the changing pad on the bathroom floor or gone to my car. Why do people feel so entitled?” wrote one reader.” Others urged the restaurant to install changing tables.

According to KHOU, the incident prompted the restaurant to bring the Sowers’ their food in t0-go containers and they were asked to leave. Sowers has since filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Brother’s Pizza Express hasn’t backed down, but it might consider installing changing tables in the bathrooms. Brother’s Pizza Express did not respond immediately to calls for comment about the incident or the reported lack of changing tables in their restroom.

TIME Family

When Couples Fight, It Affects Fathers More

Markus Haefke—Getty Images

Husbands and fathers, take note

Men, it is frequently said, are very good at compartmentalizing—usually when they’ve done something wrong. But new research suggests women can compartmentalize too, especially around family.

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology looked at the effect marital squabbling had on parents’ relationships with kids. The researchers found, not surprisingly, that when a couple fights, that spills over to the relationship each parent has with his or her offspring. But, interestingly, this effect does not last very long for moms.

By the next day, most mother-child relationships were back on an even keel, while the fathers still reported things were tense. “In fact, in that situation, moms appeared to compensate for their marital tension,” said the study’s lead author, assistant psychology professor at Southern Methodist University Chrystyna D. Kouros. “Poor marital quality actually predicted an improvement in the relationship between the mom and the child.”

Are the moms compensating for their lousy relationship with dad by looking for human bonds elsewhere? Are they making a pre-emptive strike, even subconsciously, in case there’s a custody battle? Do they not care so much about fights with their spouses? Or do they just need someone to talk to? Kouros says it’s not clear why the women are more able to isolate the relationship with their kids from the tension they feel toward their spouse, but there are several theories.

It could be that because women’s parenting role is more clearly defined, they don’t allow their marital woes to negatively affect other relationships in the family. Or it could be that the women are compensating and seeking support from their kids that they would normally get from their husband. “If the first theory is true, then the fact that moms don’t show the same “spillover” between their marital relationship and relationship with their child is a good thing, ” says Kouros. “However, if the second theory is true, then leaning on your child for support is not a good thing for the long-term.” In psychology this is called “parentification,” and has been linked to depression and other mental health problems in kids.

The data was gathered by asking more than 200 families to make daily diary entries for about two weeks, in which they rated how the marriage was going and how the relationship with their kids was going at the end of each day. It’s possible that what was causing the marital tension and the grumpiness with the kids was something that only affected the fathers. A bad day for a guy at work, for example, might be the source of stress in all his relationships. Kouros admits this third variable is possible, but says the study has some specific data that suggests that’s not always the cause.

“The findings of our study show that it’s men who have marital tension and their wife shows symptoms of depression that are the ones that carry over that marital tension to their relationship with their child on the next day, whereas all men appear to do this on the same day,” she says. “This is consistent with some other studies showing that when men have marital stress and some other stress, like work stress, that’s when they are more likely to compromise their relationship with their child.” The wife’s depression points to the marital tension as being the source of the man’s inability to communicate effectively with his kids.

In other words, if you have to fight with your spouse, keep it quick and fair. For the children.

MONEY Kim Kardashian

How to Keep the Kids From Giving the Kardashians Your Kash

Kim Kardashian
Dominique Charriau/WireImage—Getty

Kim Kardashian is in the news again, and (surprise!) not because she did something good for society. The reality show starlet recently released an iPhone game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and now one parent is revolting after learning the app “tricked” her child into spending over $100 on in-app purchases in just two days.

tweettext

When Ayelet Waldman, the bestselling author of Bad Mother and wife of novelist Michael Chabon, checked her son’s iTunes account she found that he had spent $120 on the Kardashians’ product — even though she and her husband thought they had adjusted their account settings to prevent such purchases.

The game, which markets itself as free, incentivizes players to buy in-game currency (called “koins”) in order to advance in the story. The game allows users to spend anywhere from $4.99 to $99.99 in a single transaction depending on how many koins they want to buy, and these sales are reportedly making Kim $700,000 a day. It’s such a clear money-grab that Stephen Colbert spoofed the app on an episode of the Colbert Report.

Kim Kardashian Hollywood
Glu Games

Luckily for Waldman, Apple ended up refunding her child’s purchases (and he’s learned to hate the Kardashians, so that’s a plus), but parents can’t depend on companies coming to the rescue when young users are fooled into handing their parents’ money over to game makers. Here’s how to secure your device and avoid unexpected bills.

1. Turn off in-app purchases entirely. It’s the simplest and most effective way to stop micro-transaction hungry apps in their tracks. On Apple products, go to the settings app and tap “enable restrictions.” That will let you disable your kid’s ability to install apps, delete apps or make in-app purchases. On Kindle Fire, just go to settings for the Amazon Appstore and turn off “in-app purchasing.”

You can also get rid of in-app purchases and other online dangers by turning off the internet entirely. To do this on Apple products, go to settings and flip the airplane mode switch. On Fire, you can do the same thing in “Quick Settings” under “Wireless & Networks.” But remember, this won’t prevent your child from making purchases if you let them back online.

2. Set up a password for in-app purchases. Setting an in-app purchasing password will let your children still be able to use in-app purchases—but only with your approval. On Apple tech, it’s as easy as going back to the “enable restrictions” setting. On Kindle Fire, it’s not quite so simple. You can use the “Parental Controls” section of settings to set a password, but the FTC says that each new purchase creates a window of time (15 minutes to an hour) when anyone using the device can continue making in-app purchases.

3. Avoid “free” apps that aren’t so free. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and at least on smartphones, there’s increasingly no such thing as a truly free game either. According to a FTC survey from 2012, about 84% of the apps that let kids make in-app purchases were advertised as “free.” These games often require purchases to make the game more fun or decrease the difficulty to more manageable levels. It’s often cheaper to pay a couple bucks up front for a good game than risk paying more over time with an ostensibly free product.

Did your kid run up a huge bill on a mobile device? How did they do it? Did you get a refund? Do you have any advice for other parents?

MONEY wants to hear your story. Fill out the confidential form below. We won’t use your information unless we speak with you first.

TIME Funny

2 Tiny Knights Have Their First Fight (And It’s Adorable)

This isn't Sparta

Two knights-errant face off in the quickly fading sunlight; the crowd jeers, their bodies forming a makeshift arena. Who will live to see their next juicebox?

 

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