Skewed Data

A study from a major university early last year made the pronouncement that children whose mothers work full-time suffer no detrimental effects. Now, that's what the news media wanted us to hear. CBS Evening News couldn't wait to broadcast it. The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Atlanta Journal & Constitution all trumpeted the story. There was just one problem. The study showed no such thing. It's an example of how the "science" of sociology is being used to serve an ideological agenda. It was later discovered that the researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Harvey of the University of Connecticut, had skewed some of the data. The stay-at-home mothers in her study were mostly young, poor, and uneducated. They were twice as likely to be single mothers as the national norm, and their income was less than half the national average. In his book, There's No Place Like Work, Brian Robertson observes, "Clearly, [Harvey's] findings could not be applied to American society as a whole -- yet this is precisely what was claimed in the news stories." The misinterpretation of her data didn't faze Harvey a bit -- in fact, just the opposite. She said she hoped her study would alleviate the guilt mothers feel when they leave their children each day. Robertson says the lesson we ought to take away from this is that sociological research "can be -- and often is -- used selectively in the debate over what type of culture we shall have." Journalists grabbed onto Harvey's study because they have a philosophical commitment to the idea that no woman should be asked to interrupt her career in order to care for her children full-time. If you don't believe that, imagine how the media would react if a researcher announced that full-time daycare caused great harm to kids. As writer Danielle Crittenden asks, would such a study "be heralded... as a vindication for mothers who stay at home?" Would the network anchors tell these moms they need not feel 'guilty' about not contributing to their household expenses? Don't hold your breath. Over the last three decades, huge numbers of Americans have shifted time and attention from home to the workplace. Despite assurances by the experts that children are not being harmed by this, Robertson notes, "There remains a strong sense among the public that something is deeply wrong with the parent-child relationship." And a Wall Street Journal poll reveals that an incredible 83 percent of all Americans believe that "parents not paying enough attention" to their children has become "a very serious problem." Democrats apparently want to solve the problem with government-funded daycare. Republicans want to reform labor laws to give working parents more flexibility. But Robertson says both of these are quick-fix approaches that will not work. They ignore the reasons behind the social and economic pressures that have led to the "flight from domesticity." The reasons behind this flight are the subject of this special BreakPoint series based on Robertson's book, There's No Place Like Work. You'll learn the truth about how deliberate, government policies are harming America's families -- and what you can do about it.


Chuck Colson


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