TIME Family

Boys of Divorced Parents Twice as Likely to Be Obese

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Mike Kemp—Brand X/Getty Images

Girls' weight is affected too, but not as much.

Researchers in Norway have discovered a possible link between divorce and childhood obesity, especially among boys. The researchers looked at health data from school nurses on more than 1,000 third grade kids (about 8 years old) at 127 different schools in the Scandinavian country. About a fifth of the kids were overweight or obese as defined by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Almost a 10th were abdominally or centrally obese, which means they had a waist circumference that is at least half their height. (A large girth has been connected to several adverse health outcomes, including heart disease and diabetes.) That’s worrying enough. But the boys and girls whose parents were divorced were 50% more likely to obese and almost 90% more likely to be abdominally obese than those whose parents were married. They were even more likely to be obese than kids whose parents had never married. Even when other factors were taken into account, including how educated the mother was—usually the highest predictor of childhood obesity—the findings held true. And for boys, the likelihood of unhealthy weight was even higher. They were 63% more likely to be generally overweight than boys with married parents. And they were 104% more likely to have too much weight on their waist. “We wanted to understand how ongoing changes in society and in children’s daily lives can be related to the development of overweight and obesity,” says Dr. Anna Biehl, an epidemiologist at Norwegian Institute of Public Health and one of the authors of the paper. “Since 1975, the number of divorces has increased and a greater proportion of children today are living for much of their childhood with divorced parents. Knowledge about this is important for preventive work.” It’s not completely clear that the parental divorce was the cause of the obesity, although other studies have found similar effects. There is ongoing discussion among sociologists as to whether divorce leads to poverty or if it’s more true that poverty leads to divorce. Poverty, at least in developed countries, is linked with childhood obesity. So poverty could be the cause of both the divorce and the obesity. Or, as the study notes, there could be other variables: “Health, socioeconomic resources, psychological characteristics, values and preferences affect the chance of marrying and remaining married,” it says, “and has previously been found to account for some of the differences between children of divorced and married parents.” One way to adjust for that in future studies would be to compare the kids’ measurements before and after the marriage dissolved, but this study was not able to do that. Biehl is very reluctant to speculate on why kids of divorce have weight issues. But other research has indicated that women usually take a bigger financial hit when divorced, they usually get custody of minor children and they usually do the bulk of the cooking in most households. All of those things will be harder to do as a single parent which could have health repercussions. There may simply be less household income to spend on food, less time spent on cooking, less mental bandwidth to spend on watching over kids’ health and exercise regime. But there could also be an emotional component. It’s rare that a divorce doesn’t lead to disruption in a child’s life, either through conflict or merely the selling or moving out of a family home, all of which can cause stress. “Such emotional stress may impact on eating behavior and physical activity level,” says the study. Previous studies have hinted that parents might become less strict about healthy lifestyles—allowing children more screen time or to eat when they weren’t hungry, for example—as a way to curry favor with the kids or out of guilt. As to why it hits boys harder? Again, it’s largely speculation, but they tend to have fewer mechanisms for expressing their feelings and often lose a male role model and are therefore more vulnerable when families dissolve.

TIME Religion

Elizabeth Wurtzel: The Pope Is Right—Kids Are the Point of Life

Pope Francis Child
Pope Francis blesses a child upon his arrival to lead a mass at Amman International Stadium in Amman, Jordan, May 24, 2014. Amel Pain—EPA

Whether you're Catholic—or religious at all—doesn't matter. As a human being, it's your scientific duty and destiny to procreate.

As a Jew, I am not much concerned with the Pope. It seems to me that he has a difficult job as the head of a corrupt organization run by men who do not have sex and claim to know God personally. But Pope Francis has charm galore. It is quite something. He wants everybody, including people he does not like, to like him, and he has kind words for gay people and murderers—not that they are comparable.

So it is surprising when the Pope comes out with statements suggesting that Catholics ought to, for Christ’s sake, be Catholic: reprimands are so unlike the Francis we have come to know. They’re somehow too Pope-ish. Just the other day Pope Francis said that people who think having a cat or two and a dog is as good as having kids are missing out. All the benefits of child-free life—the vacations and villas, the barefoot dancing, the sex on the kitchen floor—all that will come to naught. “Have you seen it?” Pope Francis asked. “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

As it happens, I’m with Francis.

When I see married people who don’t have kids, I wonder what’s wrong. Really. Because something is. Of course it is. I mean, if you aren’t going to have children, why bother with the rest? Why bother with the $30,000 bash and the white crinoline dress? And you can say that about everything. What do you think we are doing here, biding our time on this planet with our misspent years, justifying our days with our ridiculous schemes of leisure? Is anyone’s life so meaningful? Really? Really, really, really? Is yours?

The existential nightmare of the everyday is way more than even those of us with enormous egos who love what we do can possibly cope with. We are on this earth to keep on keeping on. We are here to reproduce. We are here to leave something behind that is more meaningful than a tech startup or a masterpiece of literature. Everybody knows this. The biggest idiot in the world who thinks he knows better—even he deep down knows this.

And I say this not as religious person but as someone who believes in science. I took human behavioral biology with the amazing Irv Devore my freshman year of college, and early on he taught us that human beings serve our genes—we are here only as temporary vessels to pass along their permanence. This made immediate sense to me because it explains everything: the desire to reproduce is so extreme, so innate, that even people who cannot (and some who really should not) have children at all cannot be stopped from doing so. Look at the abracadabra we do to create fertility when it fails. It seems crazy only if you don’t accept that it is a biological imperative in the absolute. Or as University of Washington psychologist and zoologist David P. Barash writes in the journal BioScience, “Living things are survival vehicles for their potentially immortal genes. Biologically speaking, this is what they are, and it is all they are.” He adds, “For most biologists, the promulgation of genes is neither good nor bad. It just is.”

I am 46 and I don’t have children, which is a bit of a problem, because I believe everything I am saying. I also was not married, but I recently got engaged, so I will be soon—and I hope to have a child. If I don’t, I will figure that out. I am very good at figuring things out. And science is even better at it. (Maybe the Pope should reconsider the Catholic Church’s stance on IVF, though.)

And I am not saying I want to have a kid because of something I learned in a college course when I was 18 years old. I am saying that we are all stuck with our humanity, and it is lovely. I don’t feel some awesome urge to have children and I don’t look at babies longingly at all, but I know if I missed out on that part of life, I would be missing a huge part of what makes us alive. It is just silly to argue otherwise, and I have lived it—happily—so I don’t need to hear it.

This is one of the many instances when science and religion dovetail in a conclusion about human behavior for different reasons. Surely the two reinforce each other so often because the urge to be spiritual and to love is also part of our cells and our chemistry. And when both agree, I don’t argue.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of Prozac Nation, Bitch and More, Now, Again. She is a lawyer who works for David Boies in New York City. She lives with her dog, her cat and her fiancé.

MONEY deals

Cheap Flicks: Air-Conditioned Movie Theaters and Kid-Friendly Films for $1

kids at movie theaters
You can't beat a $1 movie ticket, even if the film isn't a brand new release. Fuse—Getty Images

Two big movie theater companies are showing kid-friendly films, and tickets (for kids and adults) are just $1 each, sometimes cheaper.

The average movie ticket runs about $8 nowadays. For that same amount, you could pay for eight admissions at hundreds of movie theaters around the country this summer.

Granted, the movies that you’ll see aren’t this summer’s newest, hottest blockbusters. But hey, what would you expect for tickets that sell for a fraction of the price of a small popcorn?

Cinemark, which runs movie theater brands including Rave, Tinseltown, and, of course, Cinemark, is hosting a Summer Movie Clubhouse series. At hundreds of participating theaters around the country—64 in Texas alone—admission is $1 per person (kids and adults) for 10 G- and PG-rated films that aren’t new releases, but are child-pleasers nonetheless. Among the movies in the new program are “Walking with Dinosaurs,” “Epic,” and “The Lego Movie.”

The special shows and special pricing are typically available during the middle of the week, early in the day. For example, the $1 shows at Cinemark in Colorado Springs, Colo., are for 10 a.m. showings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from June 3 through August 6. If even the $1 ticket is too expensive for your blood, Cinemark is offering more bang for the buck via a ten-pack of tickets for $5, or just 50 cents per show.

Meanwhile, the Regal Entertainment Group is hosting a similar midweek $1 family-friendly movie program, the 2014 Summer Movie Express. For nine weeks this summer, participating theaters are screening movies such as “Rio 2,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Madagascar 3,” “The Croods,” “The Lego Movie,” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m., with a flat admission of $1 per person. A portion of the proceeds goes to that mainstay of movie-theater fundraising, the Will Rogers Institute.

TIME Parenting

How News Coverage of the Boston Marathon Manhunt Affected Local Kids

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon
Women and children are evacuated from the scene on Boylston Street after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Bill Greene—Boston Globe/Getty Images

You may not be surprised to learn that children who attended the 2013 Boston Marathon were six times more likely than non-attendees to suffer from PTSD. Given the carnage and panic wrought by the bombs, which caused 3 deaths and 264 injuries, you’d expect more trauma symptoms from those on the scene. But a new study reports that kids who had up-close views of the ensuing manhunt were just as likely to suffer PTSD as those with near exposure to the bombing. And kids who may not have had first-hand experience of either—well, the more news coverage they watched, the more mental health disturbances they suffered.

The study, published online June 2 in Pediatrics, surveyed 460 parents of children who lived within 25 miles of the marathon or of Watertown, where the manhunt took place. They were asked about their children’s experiences during the week of the attack and about their psychological and social functioning in the following six months. The investigators, led by psychologist Jonathan Comer, formerly of Boston University and now at Florida International University, were interested in the impact both of the bombing and of its ripple effects afterward. They also wanted to measure both PTSD and less severe mental health issues such as conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity and inattention. Interestingly, they found an even stronger link between broad mental health problems among the kids with dramatic exposure to the manhunt (hearing shots, having their house searched, for example) than among kids with similar sensory experience of the bombing itself.

The investigators also measured both the time the children spent glued to the set and whether parents had tried to limit their news viewing. Overall, the kids watched an average of 1.5 hours of attack coverage and more than 20% watched for over three hours. “Two thirds of the parents did not attempt to restrict their children’s viewing at all,” Comer says. “Yet we saw after Oklahoma City and 911 that TV exposure can have negative mental health effects on children, both near and far.”

Experts on children and media tend to agree that restricting children’s media exposure to violent events is critical. Casey Jordan, a criminologist and justice professor at Western Connecticut State University, says that adults can put in context the sensationalism of media coverage designed to create a sense of danger. But children generally cannot. “The best rule,” he says, “is TURN IT OFF unless you really have a suspect on the lam in your neighborhood.” Just get the basic facts, he suggests, and do so by Internet if possible.

Parents can help their children through these scary times by speaking to them honestly but calmly about what is happening and letting them express their reactions and fears. “It’s important to reassure them that they are safe,” says psychologist Daniel J. Flannery, who directs the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. “Explain,” he says, “that the event was very unusual, and sometimes bad people do bad things but not everybody is like that. Their sense of normalcy has been taken away from them, and they need to get that back. “

Calm matters, agrees Jordan. “Do not go off on a tangent about ‘those people’ or a rant about who is to blame,” he says. “Children are sponges, they will learn from parents’ own reaction to crime and chaos, and absorb all the fall-out from what they hear and see.”

This new study suggests that parents be alert to changes in their kids even months after—and miles away from—a violent incident. Are they eating or sleeping less—or more? Are they more withdrawn or anxious, acting out at school or with friends? The children may not have been personally involved in the traumatic event, suggests this research, but they may still be suffering trauma. “The reach of terror and associated fear,” write the authors, “is not confined to the boundaries of an attack itself.”

MONEY Shopping

SPF? UVB? PhD! The Complex Science of Sunscreen Shopping

Woman in swimsuit applying suntan lotion or sun block
Tom Merton—Ocean/Corbis

If you're not worried about choosing the wrong sunscreen, you haven't been paying attention.

Everybody knows that they should wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns and skin cancer. But apparently, you can’t just slather on any old product. These days, the risks of using the wrong sunscreen are said to include hormonal imbalances, nanoparticle inhalation, and the outside chance of setting oneself on fire.

Hey, we were just getting the hang of the traditional acronyms associated with sunscreens—SPF (sun protection factor), UVA, UVB (the two varieties of ultraviolet rays). Now we also have to think about oxybenzone, avobenzone, and titanium dioxide, just to name a few. Because many of these scary-sounding chemicals are, indeed, tied to legitimate health concerns, the question is not Should I wear sunscreen? but, to paraphrase a Slate writer, Which sunscreen won’t kill my kid?

In light of all the complications, the common-sense approach might just be to go with a well-known brand like Coppertone. In a post for the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Abby Yancey, an associate professor at the school, explained that’s what she did, sending a double pack of Coppertone spray with her child to daycare.

Then Yancey got an e-mail from the daycare service stating that children should not bring sunscreens containing oxybenzone. Sure enough, there was oxybenzone in the Coppertone. And when Yancey went back to Target, there was oxybenzone in pretty much every sunscreen in the store. What’s so bad about oxybenzone? Yancey didn’t know, so she Googled it—yes, even pharmacy college professors have to Google this stuff—and found out that it’s absorbed into the skin, and some people “believe oxybenzone can cause hormonal imbalance” in users.

So there you are: Even pharmacists are flummoxed. Which would be reassuring if it weren’t also frightening.

There are plenty of other sunscreen-related concerns to freak out about not mentioned by Yancey. Like, oh, the possibility that using spray sunscreen could mean you’ll burst into flames, or at least get a bad burn—not a sunburn, a regular fire-type burn—if you’re near an open flame, such as a barbecue grill. That’s according to the FDA, which warns that because many of these products contain alcohol, which is flammable, “if you apply certain sunscreen sprays and then come close to a source of flame, you may risk the sunscreen catching fire and giving you a serious burn.”

As for some other basics, such as the proper distance for applying spray sunscreen—again, far away from any open flames!—the experts aren’t always on the same page. Yancey’s post recommends that users “be sure to hold the container 4 to 6 inches from the skin.” In the June issue of Health, meanwhile, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “Hold the nozzle 1 to 2 inches away from the skin.” At least everyone agrees that you should rub in the sunscreen after applying. (Ideally, not while you’re also flipping burgers on the grill.)

Experts also tend to agree on something that seems rather disconcerting to the consumer who doesn’t want to spend more than three seconds picking out a sunscreen: A lot of what’s on store shelves should be avoided.

In the latest tests of 20 sunscreens by Consumer Reports, only two of the products provided the SPF protection claimed on their packages after the wearer was immersed in water. One of the sunscreens tested offered only half the claimed SPF after being in water.

After running its own tests, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a guide promising that “Sun Safety Gets Easier,” while offering a dire warning about the majority of products on the market:

Two-thirds of the sunscreens in our analysis don’t work well enough or contain ingredients that may be toxic. American stores are still stocked with inferior products.

The EWG “Easier” guide features page after page of alarming info, including the idea that many high SPF claims are misleading (SPF100 isn’t twice as effective as SPF50), that Vitamin A, found in 20% of sunscreens, “may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions,” and that mineral sunscreens, which are generally zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based, and which actually get a favorable rating from the EWG and most experts, are of concern because they contain nanoparticles, which are dangerous if inhaled. (Side note: The FDA has also issued warnings about the dangers of inhaling spray sunscreens. And Consumer Reports notes that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide “have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animals.”)

Even so, deep within the EWG guide, you’ll find the seemingly straightforward recommendation: “Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice for sun protection.” Overwhelmingly, however, the EWG hammers home the point that every effort should be made to limit sun exposure and sunburn. “Don’t depend on sunscreen,” the study states. “People who rely on sunscreens tend to burn, and burns are linked to cancer.”

Likewise, there’s this shocking finding from CR:

Research shows that people who rely on sunscreens alone tend to burn more than those who stay in the shade and wear long sleeves.

Wow. Who would have guessed?

Seriously, for those who feel compelled to escape the shade occasionally, and who want to buy a sunscreen without having to get a PhD in chemistry, do the bare minimum and be sure the product has an SPF of at least 15, and that the FDA-approved phrase “broad spectrum” is on the label. That should help protect you from the most harmful rays. And take CR’s helpful, common-sense reminder to heart: “Using any sunscreen is better than using none.”

MONEY Tourism

How Theme Parks Are Killing Spontaneous Fun

A child shows excitement at the entrance to Disneyland Paris, France. Image shot 07/2009. Exact date unknown.
Howard Sayer—Alamy

Nowadays, going to a theme park on a whim means you'll pay through the nose and spend more time on line than the folks who booked in advance.

Carefree, spontaneous family fun? It’s been a long time since a visit to a popular theme park fit that description. Nowadays, showing up out of the blue, with no prebooked reservations or admission tickets, to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld, or pretty much any other major theme park is unwise, to put it mildly.

The savvy mouse-ear-hat-wearing enthusiast would laugh at the idea of arriving at a big theme park on a whim. At wdwinfo.com, one of dozens of unofficial Disney park web guides, the #1 rookie mistake (among a dizzying 20 possible mistakes listed) is the failure to plan ahead. To give you an idea of how seriously folks take this, another Disney-focused site calls itself wdwprepschool, where parents can study up and do reams and reams of homework on how to have a relaxed, leisurely vacation.

What’s so bad about just crashing the gates of the Magic Kingdom? For starters, it will cost you. Earlier in 2014, Walt Disney World in Orlando raised its walk-up single-day price $99 ($105 after taxes), up from $89 a year earlier. Universal Studios followed up immediately with a price hike of its own. More recently, Disneyland in California raised its prices, hitting the $150 mark for a one-day Parkhopper pass good for entrance to Disney’s two area parks.

While the price hikes usually affect all manner of admissions—multi-day, season passes, etc.—the promotional structure increasingly rewards travelers who buy multi-day tickets in advance with an array of discounts and benefits. (There’s a good counterargument about the foolishness of spending a ton of money over the course of several days in order to cut one’s average per-day costs, but let’s not get into that now.)

The most recent example of theme parks pushing aggressively to make customers buy admissions ahead of time comes from SeaWorld, which raised its one-day walk-up price to $95, while also introducing a new advance-purchase discount that knocks off $15 (for weekends and holidays) or $30 (most weekdays) to guests buying online ahead of time.

One common argument in favor of raising theme park prices says that doing so benefits park visitors by providing them with more elbow room. SeaWorld, for one, says that it has deliberately lowered visitor numbers by way of higher admissions prices, in order to make the experience better for visitors who have paid top dollar to see Shamu and the rest.

Then again, price hikes can be explained in a simpler way: Theme park operators charge more because they can. Each year, prices inch up by a few bucks, and each year, the tourists keep showing up in strong numbers. Until theme park enthusiasts start staying away in droves, there’s no business justification for slowing the rise of admissions prices.

While paying extra for a spontaneous theme park visit is annoying, visitors arguably pay a much steeper cost in terms of wasted time by doing what comes naturally on vacation: just wandering around, casually looking for fun. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, SeaWorld just added a new feature to its mobile app, allowing guests to buy its QuickQueue line-skipping service, for $19, via smartphone, even when waiting in a line at SeaWorld.

The app feature is one of a long line of services and guest options that not only make it possible to plan nearly every minute of one’s theme park visit in advance, they make it seem foolish and wasteful to not plan nearly every minute of one’s theme park visit in advance.

From line-skipping passes and wristbands, to dinner reservations and character breakfasts that must be booked months ahead of time, to the walk-up admission price premium, the goal of theme park companies is clear: They want guests to visit multiple days rather than one random day at a time, and they want guests to plan and pay for their big trips long in advance.

Is this what park guests want? The theme parks don’t really care, so long as people keep showing up.

TIME

How Genealogy Became Almost as Popular as Porn

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Andrew Bret Wallis—Getty Images

Believe it or not, Americans are obsessed with ancestry, which has spawned a billion-dollar cottage industry

Alex Haley, author of the hugely popular 1976 book Roots, once said that black Americans needed their own version of Plymouth Rock, a genesis story that didn’t begin — or end — at slavery. His 900-page American family saga, which reached back to 18th century Gambia, certainly delivered on that. But it also shared with all Americans the emotional and intellectual rewards that can come with discovering the identity of your ancestors.

No one knew it at the time, but Haley’s best seller — and the blockbuster television miniseries that aired a year later — were the beginnings of a genealogy craze that would sweep the nation.

Four decades later, genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetic test kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

During and after the 2008 presidential campaign, the press had a field day researching the family histories of Barack and Michelle Obama. Indeed, the winner of that election first came to the public eye as the author of Dreams From My Father, what he called an “autobiography, memoir, family history, or something else” that was essentially the tale of a young man desperately trying to find his own identity by exploring his unknown family past.

Genealogy has always had a following in the U.S. But prior to the civil rights movement, which encouraged racial and ethnic minorities to embrace their previously marginalized identities, the study of family history was largely the province of white social climbers and racists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with millions of southern Europeans arriving on American shores, white elites often sought to maintain their social status by promoting a definition of whiteness that excluded newcomers. Genealogy became a way for them to prove their credentials and gain entry into such hereditary societies as the Daughters of the American Revolution, which was founded in 1890 and stood for, in the words of its president general, “the purity of our Caucasian blood.”

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, such bald-faced white supremacy was in retreat, the vibrant immigrant identities of the early 20th century had largely been assimilated, and the women’s movement was challenging old-fashioned gender roles. In other words: the very institutions that once defined our ancestors’ identities were very much in flux.

All this tumult is what made identity crisis and finding yourself household terms. The publication, production and popularity of Roots were part and parcel of a newfound need to locate oneself in uncertain cultural terrain.

The great irony is that many Americans — particularly those who were several generations removed from the immigrant experience — were trying to find personal meaning in their ancestry long after their heritage ceased to play a meaningful role in their lives. In 1986 psychologist Roy F. Baumeister concluded rather cynically that genealogy’s popularity stemmed from the fact that it was the only “quest for self-knowledge” that boasted a “well-defined method,” whose “techniques were clear cut, a matter of definite questions with definite answers.”

Religion and technology helped make the search for those answers even easier. In the 1960s, the Mormon Church — which espouses the doctrine of baptism of the dead by proxy and encourages its members to research their unbaptized ancestors — opened branch genealogical libraries throughout the country. In the 1970s, these libraries began to receive more and more non-Mormon patrons.

In the 1990s, digital technology and the Internet revolutionized the way large amounts of information could be reproduced, transferred and retrieved. Moving genealogical databases online then made it possible for tens of millions more Americans to research their families in the comfort of their own homes. A hobby once dominated by persnickety elites was now fully democratized and focused on identity rather than pedigree.

A few years ago, my father spent a year researching his family roots. At the end of his journey, he presented each of his children with an ornate album containing his findings, which reach back to the early 18th century in what is today Chihuahua, Mexico.

While I admired the work he’d done and thought most of what he’d found pretty cool, none of it struck me as having the power to change the way I saw myself in the world. But that was before I looked more closely at the photocopy from the 1900 census he had placed under a laminated sheet. It was then that I discovered that my great-grandfather Federico Rodriguez, who worked as a smelter in a large copper mine in eastern Arizona, had arrived in the U.S. as early as 1893. Before, I had thought both my mother’s and father’s families came to the U.S. in the 1910s during the Mexican Revolution. We hadn’t known much about the paternal side of my dad’s family.

But suddenly, there it was: proof that my dad’s grandfather was living and working and raising a family in Arizona 19 years before it became a state of the Union.

It’s silly, I know, but every time I fly to the Grand Canyon State, I’m tempted to get off the plane wearing one of those black Pilgrim hats with buckles. Now I understand why so many millions of Americans love it. Genealogy is fun.

Gregory Rodriguez is the founder and publisher of Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Imperfect Union column. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Media

‘Sexy’ Toddlers In a New Diaper Ad Kick Up Controversy

Israeli parents protest a provactive new commercial for faux-denim diapers

A new diaper campaign in Israel is stoking criticism for putting toddlers in sexy poses.

The video ad, produced by McCann-Erickson, hocks Huggies new denim diapers, which they posit are fashion forward enough to build little outfits around. In the video, child models accessorize their underpants-jeans with sunglasses, straw hats and guitars. A girl baby adjusts a boy’s bow tie. Another sticks her chest out in one shot, and poses with legs apart and finger in her mouth in another. The 20 second spot is set to music that sounds like a rip-off of Madonna’s 1990 hit, “Vogue,” and had this been shown to me without a timestamp, I’d have guessed the ad was produced around the same time, rather than now.

These little kids seem to move more awkwardly than sexually, as small people tend to do, but that’s not how some Israeli parents feel about the ads.

One local father compared the baby models frozen on billboards to the come-hither pose of Israeli model, Bar Refaeli on a nearby advertisement, according to Vocativ. One Tweeter said the campaign belongs in the Red Light District, while another simply said “@huggies WTF?”

Maybe selling something on the backs of provocatively dressed little people is new for Israel, but not for America where, since the 90s, we have become quite skilled at it. JonBenet Ramsey begat TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, which has long had the dolled up toddler crown on lock. That fixation produced the beloved Honey Boo Boo, whose unique brand and zany family earned her a show of her own.

Not long ago, Vogue Paris was skewered for a spread that depicted little girls in kitten heels, makeup and sultry pouts. Gwyneth Paltrow drew ire over an exclusive line of ruffly kiddie bikinis designed for her lifestyle bible, Goop. Dolls from Barbie to Bratz have been deemed too sexualized for child’s play, but they’re still available for purchase.

Compared to all of the above, these poorly produced Huggies ads seem distasteful, yet tame.

TIME Family

Dads Who Wash the Dishes Raise More Aspirational Daughters

Father and daughter sitting at table in kitchen
Getty Images

New research finds that daughters of men who help out at home tend to select from a broader range of career options than the daughters of families in which chores are not equitably shared

Dads who want their daughters to aim for prestigious professions should start by doing the dishes or loading the washing machine, a new study suggests.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found that fathers who perform household chores are more likely to bring up daughters who break out of the mold of traditionally female jobs and aspire to careers in business, legal and other professions, CTV reports.

Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study, and a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, said the study suggested “girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

The study involved a survey of 326 children, between 7 and 13 years old, and at least one of their parents.

[CTV]

TIME Parenting

16 Experts for Every Parenting Problem

There is no fail-safe formula for good parenting, but that hasn’t stopped generations of psychologists, pediatricians, bloggers and scientists from claiming to know the secrets of raising happy, well-adjusted kids. There are, of course, the classic experts like Benjamin Spock, Penelope Leach, William Sears and Richard Ferber. But every year there are new gurus–recently, we’ve heard about the French way, the Tiger Mom way, the mindful way and the Slacker Mom way to parent.

To help you sort through the noise, we’ve put together a diverse list of voices on parenting at all stages—from infant sleep issues, to toddler food struggles, teen cliques and technology quandaries at all ages. And if they can’t help, there’s always your community, says Wendy Sue Swanson, a parenting blogger and author. “The most influential parenting voice these days is the tribe,” she says. “It’s the aggregation of parents and professionals you listen to on Facebook or Twitter.”

  • Ellyn Satter: Ending Power Struggles Over Food

    Ellyn Satter Author
    Courtesy of Ellyn Satter

    Nutritionist Satter offers strategies and advice to guide parents and children toward a diet that’s diverse and healthy. Her signature Division of Responsibility in Feeding manifesto helps parents avoid the negative power struggles that lead to stressful mealtimes, unhealthy diets and longtime picky eaters. Satter has written several books on child nutrition, including Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.

     

  • Jennifer Senior: The Challenge of Being a Modern Parent

    Ecco

    In the introduction to All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, Senior warns readers that her book is not intended to be a manual of child-rearing advice. “Tilt your head and stare long enough, and it’s possible you’ll make some out. But that is not my primary objective.” Instead, Senior’s book strives to explain why and how modern American parenting has become an all-consuming, stressful task that, too often, is no fun at all. The book is a deep and thorough study of the effects of children on parents and a reminder that often the happiest parents make the best parents, so moms and dads should take care of themselves as well as their children.

     

  • Rosalind Wiseman: Understanding the Social Angst of Teenagers

    Rosalind Wiseman
    Courtesy of Rosalind Wiseman

    Best known for writing Queen Bees and Wannabes, the book that became the movie Mean Girls, Wiseman’s contention that adolescent girls and boys have different problems—and need different strategies for finding success and happiness—has changed the way parents and educators view teenage angst and discord. After her blockbuster book on girls, Wiseman published a parallel book on boys in 2013, Masterminds & Wingmen. Wiseman bases her conclusions and advice on interviews with real live kids and her down-to-Earth guidance is as accessible as it is sensible.

     

  • Paul Tough: Building Character

    Tough is the author of Whatever it Takes, a book about Geoffrey Canada’s effort to pull kids out of poverty through the Harlem Children’s Zone, an education-focused non-profit organization in New York City. In his latest book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, Tough writes that kids who can adversity and overcome it are best prepared for success and happiness. Writing about poor and rich kids, Tough contends that making home environments more supportive but less insulating creates kids with character, the most important ingredient to success later in life.

  • Heather Armstrong: Connecting Parents, Creating Community

    NBC/Getty Images

    Armstrong is the original mommy blogger. Her blog, Dooce, got her fired from her day job in 2002 and turned into a full-time gig she’s been working every since. Chronicling the events, problems and day-to-day hilarity of managing her family—along with her postpartum depression—Armstrong has attracted millions of readers and become a flashpoint in the debate over the pitfalls and benefits of sharing personal stories online. In 2009, she launched The Dooce Community, an online forum where her readers ask questions and offer advice to each other. The forum provides an outlet for Armstrong’s loyal followers and a resource for all parents looking to connect.

     

  • Marc Weissbluth: Ending Sleep Deprivation

    Marc Weissbluth Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
    Ballantine Books/Random House

    It’s been 15 years since Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child was published, yet the book is still one of the most popular baby sleep books on the market. While Weissbluth’s book emphasizes the critical importance of sleep for babies—offering strategies and programs for achieving great nap schedules and nighttime rest—parents turn to the book for their own shut-eye needs as well. Moms and dads trapped in the fog of sleep deprivation often have trouble designing sleep plans that work. They can find relief in Weissbluth book—if they can stay awake long enough to read it.

     

  • Wendy Sue Swanson: Practical Medical Advice

    A pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Swanson started blogging in 2010 and has since gained more than 20,000 Twitter followers. Her must-read blog, SeattleMamaDoc.org, doles out advice on everything from vaccines, autism (and why the two are not related) to commentary on news events related to parenting and health. Swanson gave a TEDx talk in 2013 on how doctors can use the internet and social media to connect with patients and kids and published her first book, Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance, earlier this year.

     

  • Harvey Karp: Soothing Fussy Babies

    Karp published his seminal book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, back in 2002, but his advice on how to calm fussy babies is still guiding millions of new parents across America. Ever wonder why seemingly every baby registry includes a sound machine and a swaddling blanket? Thank Karp. His five-part prescription for soothing colicky babies and getting infants to sleep has grown into an empire. Karp published a follow-up book geared specifically to parents of toddlers and frequently travels to lecture parents and health professionals on how to care for babies and small children.

     

  • Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: Family Communication

    How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    Scribner

    Faber and Mazlish have been giving parenting advice for more than three decades and are still revered as some of the most accessible and sensible experts on how to communicate with children. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was first published in the 1980s and has since been reissued and translated into some 20 languages. Educators and counselors often recommend Faber and Mazlish’s book for its lessons on how to handle conflict, connect with kids and respect their feelings while building strong family relationships. Faber and Mazlish’s also wrote another well-known tome, Siblings Without Rivalry.

     

  • Wendy Mogel: Raising Resilient and Self-Reliant Kids

    Although her book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee, links lessons in parenting to Judaism, parents of all faiths will find useful wisdom in Mogel’s highly regarded volume. Mogel is a clinical psychologist and teaches strategies for raising resilient children. Blessings offers a counter balance to the trend of parents scheduling too many activities for kids and jumping in to save them from every minor pain or moment of adversity. Sometimes it’s fine to just back off and let kids figure things out on their own, advises Mogel. Amen.

     

  • Madeline Levine: Quelling the Urge to Over-Parent

    HarperCollins Publishers

    Because the over-parenting movement has become so pervasive, it seems necessary to highlight a second expert trying to reverse the tide. Levine’s Teach Your Children Well tells parents that raising happy kids is just as important—and maybe even more important—than raising kids that are high achievers. In fact, she argues that focusing on achievement over all else may produce more unhappiness than pride in accomplishment, while also setting kids up for devastating disappointment if they stumble along the way. Levine is a psychologist and offers advice on how to avoid these pitfalls and encourage children to find success and contentment that’s deep and sustaining.

     

  • Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: Parenting With Science

    Po Bronson Ashley Merryman Nurtureshock
    Ahsley Merryman and Po Bronson attend the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

    Bronson and Merryman’s Nutureshock upended much of the conventional wisdom that has guided parents for generations, beginning with their revelation that praising kids often does more harm than good. From neuroscience to studies on relationships between parents, children and siblings, the book uses research to explain some of the most vexing problems parents face in the modern age. Bronson and Merryman aren’t parenting gurus in the traditional sense; their collaboration also produced a book on the science of winning and losing. But their journalistic approach to parenting occupies an important space in the cannon of child-rearing manuals.

     

  • Deborah Roffman: How to Talk About Sex With Kids

    Talk To me First by Deborah Roffman
    Da Capo Lifelong Books

    Of all the challenging and seemingly critical moments in parenting, having the sex talk may be the most awkward. Roffman is here to hold parents’ hands as they navigate this terrain. She’s written two books on communicating with kids about sex—Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex and Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense about Sex. Roffman is a consultant for educators and teaches sex ed at a school in Baltimore.

     

  • Daniel Siegel: Brain Development

    Written with co-author Tina Payne Bryson, Siegel’s The Whole Brain Child explains how various steps in a kid’s brain development lead to specific feelings and behavior. The authors combine this explanation with strategies for cultivating emotional intelligence in children. Siegel, also an expert in mindfulness, has written or co-written several other books on parenting including Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, published in January, and No-Drama Discipline, set to be published later this year.

  • Catherine Steiner-Adair: Navigating the Screen-Time Wars

    Many parenting struggles remain stubbornly the same generation after generation, but digital technology and smart phones have created a truly new paradigm and loads of confusion about how to manage everything from social media to screen time. Clinical psychologist Steiner-Adair is in the less texting, more talking camp, evidenced by her book on the subject, titled The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. In the book, Steiner-Adair, who lectures and consults on the topic of digital technology and kids, warns that this new world is damaging interpersonal family relationships and offers advice about how to manage the phones, computers and tablets that are here to stay.

  • Bruce Feiler: Managing Family Dynamics With Business Strategies

    Bruce Feiler
    Courtesy of Bruce Feiler

    In his book, The Secrets of Happy Families, Feiler recounts what he learned from experts in industries unrelated to parenting. Borrowing techniques and strategies used in business, the military and other organizations, Feiler offers advice on how to have productive family meetings, argue well and cultivate creativity and resilience in kids. A best-selling author of books on Christian topics and other matters, Feiler’s advice is clear and simple.

     

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