Childhood and the Future

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Childhood and the Future
No. 30
30
Childhood and the Future
New realities, new challenges
Pau Marí-Klose
Marga Marí-Klose
Elizabeth Vaquera
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham
Presentación
Social Studies Collection
SOCIAL projects. The spirit of ”la Caixa”.
Social Studies Collection No. 30
Childhood and the Future
New realities, new challenges
Pau Marí-Klose
Marga Marí-Klose
Elizabeth Vaquera
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham
With the collaboration of
Alba Lanau Sánchez
Publication:
Obra Social Fundació “la Caixa”
Authors:
Pau Marí-Klose
Marga Marí-Klose
Elizabeth Vaquera
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham
Translated by:
Jed Rosenstein
Design, layout and printing:
cege
Coordination of publication:
Area for Grants, Universities and Social Studies
©Pau Marí-Klose, Marga Marí-Klose, Elizabeth Vaquera,
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham
©The ”la Caixa” Foundation, 2010
Av. Diagonal, 621 - 08028 Barcelona
Pau Marí-Klose is a professor of sociology at the University
of Barcelona and the director of social science projects at
the Institute of Childhood and the Urban World (CIIMU).
In addition he is a researcher for the Spanish National
Research Council (CSIC). He holds a PhD in Sociology from
the Autonomous University of Madrid, Master of Arts from
the University of Chicago and Master in Social Sciences from
the Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (Juan
March Institute). He has studied and done research at the
Universities of Berkeley, Harvard, Michigan, Essex, Lancaster
and Oslo. Included among his recent publications are:
Matrimonios y Parejas Jóvenes [Marriage and Young Couples]
(2009), Informes de la Inclusión Social en España [Reports
on Social Inclusion in Spain] (2008 and 2009), Temps de les
Famílies [Family Time] (2008) and Edad del Cambio: Jóvenes en
los Circuitos de la Solidaridad Intergeneracional [Changing Age:
Young people in the Circuit of Intergenerational Solidarity]
(2006). His sociological research is focused primarily on the
family, childhood, youth, education and social exclusion.
Marga Marí-Klose is an assistant professor of sociology at
the University of Barcelona. She has a PhD in Sociology from
the University of Barcelona, a Masters in Social Policy Research
from the London School of Economics and a Masters in
Gender and Development from the Complutense University
of Madrid. She has coordinated various research projects at
the Institute of Childhood and the Urban World (CIIMU) and
has studied and done research at Harvard University and the
University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). She is the author
of diverse publications on gender and family policy, sociology
of the life cycle, education, social exclusion and poverty.
EliZabeth Vaquera is an assistant professor in the Department
of Sociology of the University of South Florida. She has a PhD
in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has
participated in different projects in the areas of the sociology
of adolescence and youth, the sociology of education and
immigration studies. She is co-author of the book, Educational
Outcomes of Immigrants and Their Children in the U.S (2010), in
addition to diverse publications in books and journals.
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham is a professor in the
Department of Global Health at Emory University (Atlanta).
She earned a PhD in Demography and Sociology from the
University of Pennsylvania. In her research she has examined
the determinants of various dimensions of childhood
well-being, with special attention on the influence of
interpersonal relationships on the risks of obesity and
unhealthy habits. Her current research is being funded by
the US National Institute of Health (NIH).
CONTENTS
CONTENTS
Presentation
7
I. Introduction
1.1.Growing up in the Risk Society
1.2.Childhood and the future
9
11
14
II.Fathering and Mothering
2.1.Children in parents’ common life project
2.2. Family and fertility in the new social settings
2.3.The difficulties of having and raising children
2.4.The ethic of family care and the model
of a good childhood
17
17
19
22
I II.Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
3.1.When children arrive: new motherhood
and fatherhood
3.2.Schedules in families with young children
3.3.The quality of time provided to children
3.4.External childcare
IV.Intergenerational relationships among 5
to 10 year olds
4.1. Parental influence on childhood
4.2. Joint activities
4.3.Managing the expression of affection
and disapproval
4.4. Family learning cultures
V. Uses of free time
5.1.Structured and unstructured after school time
5.2. Parents’ involvement in their children’s free time
5.3.Time with friends
5.4.Involvement of grandparents and siblings
88
89
96
98
98
30
I.The emergence of social risks in childhood
V
6.1.A weighty problem: the road to obesity
6.2.Raising socially and emotionally competent children
6.3.The origins of school disengagement
103
106
116
125
36
Conclusion
137
38
45
52
58
Bibliography
143
Index of graphs and tables
153
Methodological Appendix
157
Survey on Inter and Intra-generational relationships
in Childhood (2010)
157
63
63
65
74
83
Presentation
Presentation
The children of today will become the adults of tomorrow. The
care children receive is, therefore, not only a determinant of
their present well-being but also a guarantee for the future and
a solution to potential problems that have their genesis in early
childhood.
Concern for children has been constant for at least the past
century; guided by this concern, tremendous effort and resources
have been invested in improving children’s living conditions.
Traditionally, effort has been focused on overcoming the most
urgent problems that put children’s lives at risk or seriously limit
their opportunities for development. These include problems of
infant mortality, childhood diseases and situations of poverty
and social exclusion. Thanks to these efforts, the infant mortality
rate has fallen considerably and the number of children living in
extreme poverty has decreased or at least not increased in the
developed countries, although there still remains much work to
be done in this area even in the most advanced societies.
Beyond these challenges others have appeared as a result of
the important transformations our society has undergone in
recent decades. These are changes related to the massive
incorporation of women into the workforce, the redefinition of
the role of men in bringing up children, the appearance of new
models of the family or the increasingly intercultural society in
which we live, brought about by migratory processes unknown
until just a few years ago.
These transformations, which directly affect adults, have
inevitable consequences for children as well. They affect decisions
about when and how many children to have, the amount of
time parents spend with children and the activities they share
with them; they also shape the importance that other social
agents have (the school, grandparents, friends, etc.) in the lives
of children. Unfortunately, despite their importance, there has
been little research focused on how these social transformations
directly affect children.
This is precisely the focus of the current study, to address the
organization of children’s lives in society today and to contribute
important data regarding who is responsible for their upbringing,
in which activities they are involved, how they relate to their
With the addition of this study to the Social Studies collection,
the ”la Caixa” Foundation seeks to stimulate debate on the needs
and challenges of childhood today. Children do not passively live
through changes in their families, in parents’ work lives, or in their
own forms of recreation, but they are fundamentally influenced
and affected by them. Deepening our understanding of these
issues enables us to plan effective programmes to help families
and contribute to the well-being of children today as well as to
provide the tools needed to build a better future.
Jaime Lanaspa Gatnau
Executive Director of
”la Caixa” Social Projects
and Chief Executive Officer of
the ”la Caixa” Foundation
Barcelona, December 2010
Presentation
peers, and to what extent they are affected by factors such as
parents’ economic situation and employment status, family
structure and immigration. In addition, this study examines the
appearance and occurrence of problems such as obesity, school
failure and the lack of socio-emotional competencies–problems
which begin in childhood and may have consequences later in
adult life.
Introduction
I. Introduction
In this book two different visions regarding childhood in Spain
coexist: one that is optimistic and hopeful and another much
more concerned and questioning. In the following chapters, the
reader will find sufficient evidence to lend credence to one or
the other perspective, or conversely, to get a taste of a complex
reality that does not permit a simple diagnosis.Through this research
we seek to take the analysis of childhood beyond conventional
approaches by including ages and measuring dimensions that
have generally received little attention in the sociological research
published in Spain up until now. The focus of our research is on
some of the primary social risks and vulnerabilities experienced
before the onset of adolescence, as well as on the factors that
cause them. The risks experienced by the young have been the
object of considerable sociological research, but by and large
most of it (beginning with the classic studies) has focused on the
later stages of childhood and the transition to adulthood. In these
stages adolescents often become a «social problem» for adult
society because of the collective implications of the behaviours
they manifest, their educational choices or the difficult transition
from school to work. Our research is an attempt to look more
closely at the reality of the youngest children (from 0 to 10 years
old), who have traditionally received much less attention from
the social science disciplines (with the exception of specialities
focused on childhood development, such as psychology or
psychiatry). Thanks to a survey designed for this study (la Encuesta
de Relaciones Inter e Intrageneracionales en la Infancia [the Survey
on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood]), we
have the opportunity to use a wide range of specific factors in
analyzing the processes we are interested in. This has not often
been the case in other studies on the social reality of childhood
that have been carried out in Spain, which usually have had to
rely on secondary data collected for other purposes.
In recent decades, throughout the developed world many
indicators of child well-being have improved. Infant mortality
has been reduced, and the occurrence of factors of physical
vulnerability in the early years of life (such as low birth weight) has
also been reduced considerably. Extreme poverty responsible for
malnutrition and health problems has been eradicated. Universal
schooling of children starting at the age of six has been achieved
(in Spain, effectively, schooling for the majority of children begins
at age three). Some of the «old risks» threatening child social
Despite these advances in education, health, the physical
protection of children and the recognition of rights, concern for
children is at its peak. There are some important reasons for this
(as well as others which are more outlandish). Alarm over the
situation of children in society has cultural roots frequently tied
to processes of recognizing, defining, and constructing social
discourses and narratives which tend to overdramatize certain
childhood experiences. Some of these narratives are based on
biased or partial readings of reality which make isolated episodes
or incidents seem to be the norm. In contemporary society moral
panic periodically arises over different issues; often threats to
child well-being such as bullying in school, addictions, and
pederasty are the targets of such alarmist discourse. Within such
discourse, children are usually presented as either victims of an
out of control ego that pushes them toward behaviours contrary
to their own interests (or that is simply unacceptable in society),
or they are presented as the passive prey of unscrupulous adults
taking advantage of their innocence. In both cases, these are
stories that can mobilize momentary interest in the vulnerability
of children, feeding protectionist impulses and initiatives to
increase adult control over children’s lives at home or in the
public sphere–in school, on the streets, in places of leisure, etc.
–, but they tend to remain indifferent to more general problems
that affect children’s lives and opportunities.
Beyond these outbreaks of fragmented attention to childhood,
the growing concern in society for the situation of children is
based on a number of objective realities with great significance
and representativeness, which are endangering the welfare of a
large number of children in the first world. In addition to some
of the «old risks» which caused apprehension among families
in industrial societies–unemployment, illness, or the main
breadwinner becoming disabled–, today there are «new risks»–
new relationships of parents to the labour market, the dissolution
and reconstitution of families, immigration–, whose effects are
particularly damaging for children. This combination of old and
new risks is creating new profiles of vulnerability which have not
yet been adequately studied. Many researchers agree that the
Introduction
welfare have been largely eliminated. A very small percentage
of children now face adverse situations linked to the death of
their parents: the mother’s death in childbirth or the subsequent
death of a parent in the early years of life. The legal system has
recognized the right of children to be protected from physical or
sexual abuse and defines childhood as a stage of life free from
any form of work, forced or voluntary. For the first time, concerns
for the well-being of children transcend all borders. There is
universal agreement on what constitutes a «good childhood», at
least on paper, thanks to the efforts of children’s rights activists,
social scientists and international organizations. The basic
principles for the protection of children are guaranteed by widereaching international agreements such as the United Nations’
International Convention on the Rights of the Child or the Charter
of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Children, who
currently do not have a voice or the vote, have benefitted from the
social progress achieved by other groups, in particular mothers,
who have enjoyed a greater capacity to place their needs and
demands on the public agenda. Feminist movements struggling
for the recognition of women’s work in the private sphere have
sensitized society, leading to social responses to situations of risk,
such as the increasing poverty in households headed by single
mothers or the existence of domestic abuse and violence.
The proposal of the present study is to advance our understanding
of this new configuration of social risks affecting the lives of
children. Our aim is to describe the nature of these risks, to analyze
how they are expressed in the daily lives of the very youngest
(0 to 10 years of age) and how they can come to affect children’s
health and welfare and even condition their trajectories during
this stage of their lives. However, recognizing the existence and
sociological relevance of these risks is not the equivalent of
assuming that their emergence necessarily involves a worsening
of children’s living conditions or their future opportunities. What
some authors (Giddens, 1991, 1999; Beck, 1992) have come to call
the risk society, is one in which individuals are exposed to new
forms of «manufactured» risks (in contrast to the «external» risks
that had concerned humanity for centuries). However, this risk
society is also reflexive and in transformation, rethinking and
reconstructing itself constantly, generating in this process new
capacities to mitigate risks and new forms of organization to
alleviate their effects. We live in a society with a growing concern
for security and well-being which provides itself with more and
better instruments to procure them. As Giddens reminds us
(1999:3), living in the risk society does not necessarily mean living
in a more insecure or dangerous society but rather in a society in
which these dangers can be anticipated and prevented, where
the decisions of individuals and families, as well as the very
collective management of risks, influence the way in which risks
are expressed. We live in a reality which we try to unravel and
control in order to build a better future. We often fail, and in many
cases, outcomes are unevenly distributed. In the risk society, not
all risks receive equal attention, nor do all vulnerable groups
receive the same level of priority.
1.1. Growing up in the Risk Society
An element that is increasingly present in the discussions about
childhood is the process of ageing in developed societies. In
recent years, social scientists have become more aware of the
social and political implications of increasing longevity with the
consequential increase in the demographic weight of the elderly
in society. In a pioneering article, the demographer Samuel
Preston warned in 1984 that the demographic advantage of the
elderly in the United States was enabling them to dominate in
the competition for public resources. Thanks to this, their economic
situation had improved substantially, giving them a comparative
advantage over other social groups, above all, children. In the
same article, Preston noted the gradual deterioration in the living
conditions of children.
The deterioration of the situation of minors has been described in
other countries immersed in the demographic process of ageing
(Dang, 2001; OECD, 2008). Social spending on programmes
primarily oriented toward the elderly (pensions, health care)
absorb a growing portion of public resources, thereby reducing
the chances of developing other social programmes. In this
Introduction
well-being of children is suffering from the effects of the social
change taking place in developed societies. Children are affected
by the social dynamics in spheres in which they do not directly
participate (such as in the labour market), by decisions made
by parents for their own personal benefit and self-fulfilment (such
as getting divorced or finding a new partner), or by policy decisions
that give political priority to issues that concern other groups.
It is often argued that the increased levels of participation of
women in the workforce are the primary form of protection
against child poverty. Having two sources of income in the
household decreases the risk of economic vulnerability, but
only when families find ways to balance women’s employment
and childcare without incurring excessive costs. This is not
always possible. The high costs of formal childcare in day-care
centres or of after-school activities can considerably reduce the
benefits of a second income and even dissuade many mothers
from participating in the workforce. Additionally, when there are
large differences in men’s and women’s salaries, the incentives
for mothers to continue working (instead of staying home and
taking care of the children) decrease considerably.
In this scenario, child poverty–characteristic feature of
underdevelopment–is experiencing an unexpected increase.
International data published in recent years reveal that in a large
number of countries in the developed world, the risks of child
poverty have increased since the end of the 1980. In almost all
of them, child poverty rates are higher than the poverty rates
for the overall population (UNICEF Innocenti, 2007; OECD,
2008). Spain is no exception: in recent years, the percentage of
children under 16 years of age living in poverty is between two
and five percentage points above that of the overall population.
Child poverty in developed countries continues to be in many
cases the result of old risks dragging families into situations of
vulnerability, such as the loss of a job or the low salary of the main
breadwinner in the family; but increasingly it is a consequence of
the new work and family trajectories of parents, which are diverse,
unstable and irregular and can expose children to economic and
social adversity at different stages of the family cycle.
Parents’ changing patterns of participation in the labour market
(particularly mothers) directly affect other dimensions of child wellbeing. The increase in the number of hours that children spend
away from one of their parents (especially the mother) has triggered
anxiety and concern in some sectors, who feel that the foundations
for the responsible socialization of children will be shaken if it is
transferred to non-family agents (childcare professionals) or if the
amount of time children spend under an adult’s supervision is
reduced. This concern has crystallized in genuine popular myths,
such as the so-called latchkey kids, who spend hours alone waiting
for their parents to get home from work, while they are exposed to
risks of all sorts: domestic accidents, harmful television programmes,
the excessive and pernicious use of new technologies, the growing
role of the peer group as a substitute form of socialization, etc.
Social research has cleared up most of the doubts and questions
related to the desirability of mothers working. The vast majority
Introduction
context, demands for aid for families have received little support
for a quite some time. The justification for concentrating resources
on providing economic aid to the elderly population, who have
contributed resources to the public system through their social
security payments and taxes throughout their lives, has been much
more powerful and persuasive than ethical appeals to support
children. The contributory nature of many welfare state benefits
establishes the right of the elderly to be the major beneficiaries
of public services. In recent decades, welfare states have turned
into what John Myles has called «welfare states for the elderly,» in
which guaranteeing the welfare of children is considered a private
responsibility, the costs of which must be borne by the families
who choose to have children.
This does not mean that we should disregard the influence of
new labour scenarios on children’s welfare. A growing number
of children live in households in which labour market flexibility
has become a source of distress. Along with the economic risks
threatening households during unfavourable economic times
due to the greater likelihood of job loss, there is also the
problem of parents finding the time to carry out their parental
duties. In some sectors of the labour market there are a
growing number of jobs requiring commitments that are not
compatible with the times that children need or expect
parental care: shift work, weekend work, overtime, etc. Flexible
working hours become a factor of uncertainty for children
and adults, forcing families to find makeshift solutions that
can generate confusion and frustration in children and feelings
of guilt and anxiety in parents (primarily in mothers) (Roppelt,
2003; Klammer, 2006).
Along with these transformations, structural changes in households,
which can affect child welfare, should also be noted. In recent
decades the size of families has been decreasing; as a result, parents
have been able to dedicate more attention to their children, as
the time they have available is distributed among fewer children.
The decrease in fertility (and especially of second and third births)
means that a greater number of children will grow up without
siblings, which on the one hand may strengthen the connection
with parents, but on the other hand, can deprive children of the
enriching experience of sociability in childhood. There has been
little social research done to measure the effects of this trend. It
must also not be forgotten that the decrease in family size has also
been a result of the gradual disappearance of other adults residing
in the home (generally relatives) and therefore, of the presence
of other agents of socialization capable of providing support to
parents in the exercise of their childrearing duties.
But without a doubt the primary structural change that is
happening today in many households is the weakening of family
bonds through separation or divorce. A growing number of
children go through the experience of parents separating at
some point and therefore the disruption of life with one parent.
The process of divorce or separation often places children in a
situation of economic risk. Due to the persistence of important
differences in the dedication of men and women to paid work,
the salary gaps between men and women and the often
inadequate financial support mothers who get custody receive
from ex-partners, households headed by single mothers usually
have lower incomes than two parent households. The exposure
of these households to the risk of poverty is therefore much
higher. Aside from economic problems, the breakup of the
Introduction
of empirical research strongly concludes that women working
has no negative effects on the well-being of children, except
when it is in the first year of the child’s life (Waldfogel et al.,
2002). The reality is more complex and suggests that parents
usually make up for the deficits in their own supervision and
time with their children through supervision by other adults in
formal and informal contexts (early childhood education centres,
grandparents, babysitters, etc). In addition, in many households
the mothers’ absence from the home has led to fathers taking on
childcare responsibilities which were traditionally assumed by
mothers. On balance, there is no reason to think that the massive
incorporation of women into the workforce has a direct negative
effect on child well-being. In fact, there are indications that the
opposite is the case.
1.2.Childhood and the future
In a society prone to reflect on itself, to reconsider and
reconstitute itself, the tendencies pointing toward a worsening
of children’s living conditions are the object of growing public
concern, although this does not always crystallize in specific
initiatives to correct such conditions. In recent years, a new set
of arguments has been articulated supporting proactive public
investment in childhood. These new discourses understand that
«investing» in children is investing in the future of our society.
The orientation of such aims is fundamentally futuristic. From
this perspective, social policy should contribute to generating
economic dynamism, preparing individuals to take advantage of
available job opportunities throughout their lives and improving
their productivity. In this new paradigm of social policy (insistently
emphasized by international organizations and governments),
public spending on children does not represent a social cost;
rather, it is the main axis of socially productive investment oriented
toward the future. The goal is to take preventive measures against
all situations of risk that could jeopardize the life prospects of
children; in other words, their possibilities of becoming prepared
and flexible adults capable of effectively adapting to the changing
demands of the market. Backed by an enormous amount of social
research, this new paradigm calls for intensified efforts to combat
child poverty, to support families with difficulties balancing work
and family responsibilities and to encourage participation in preschool education for families with low cultural and educational
resources. The fruits of these initiatives should not only improve
the competitiveness of economies by providing them with flexible
and prepared workforce but also contribute to the sustainability
of the old architecture of the welfare state. Children will become
the guarantors for the provision of public services in the future
if we are able to convert them into productive adults, who are
capable of making significant financial contributions to the funds
that sustain the system of public welfare provision. This will only
be possible if they have the opportunities today to grow up in
adequate conditions and if risks threatening their educational
and personal development can be overcome.
Thanks to this new paradigm, childcare now occupies a privileged
place in the range of social policies employed in a growing
number of countries. In these countries, society has become
aware of the living conditions of children in precarious economic
situations and the difficulties of families in balancing work and
family responsibilities. The discourses and prescriptions that are
Introduction
couple’s relationship involves situations that can result in
distressful experiences for children. Divorce or separation of the
parents disrupts the daily access of the child to one of the parents
(usually the father), which in many cases ends up weakening the
bond with that parent. The appearance of new adult figures in
the home–if the mother initiates a new sentimental relationship–
opens new scenarios for the child, which are not always satisfactory
(Fustenberg and Cherlin, 1991; Cherlin, 2010). In recent years,
society has been equipping itself with new instruments to adapt
to these changing realities. There has been a trend in many
countries to revise the laws administering family breakups with
the objective of better serving the interests of the child. One
example of this has been the debate over shared custody or
measures directed toward encouraging the involvement of
parents who do not live with the child in his or her education.
In some countries such as ours, the discourses described in
the previous section have barely begun to take root. This is
not because the situation of children is so promising. Despite
the fact that some international indicators of child well-being
place Spain in a rather privileged position compared to other
developed countries–for example, in indicators related to
emotional and relational well-being–, in dimensions which are
key to well-being today and for the future, Spanish children suffer
significant deficits. In a well-known UNICEF report published in
2007, two disturbing facts were noted (Innocenti, 2007). The
first is that the economic and material situation in which many
Spanish children are living may be denying them essential
opportunities for social participation, thereby conditioning
their life prospects. For example, in 2007 Spanish children were
located in 17th place out of 21 countries surveyed in terms of
child poverty rates. Another area of concern is formal education.
The early dropout rates from school are very high, and the
level of knowledge and capacities of students as measured by
international standardized tests–PIRLS or PISA–is quite low.
These results suggest that many Spanish children are entering
into adulthood in conditions of educational vulnerability hardly
conducive for the adequate management of the economic and
social scenarios that lie ahead in the future.
The hallmarks of identity of the Spanish family, traditionally
referred to as «familism», are disappearing and with them some of
the conditions on which the welfare and security of children
in the context of the traditional family have been based - primarily,
the mother’s exclusive dedication to domestic responsibilities and
childcare. However, this new scenario does not necessarily
increase childhood vulnerability because its appearance has
coincided with the emergence of new mechanisms and strategies
for children’s well-being as efficient (or even more) than the
previous ones. In recent years, we have seen the appearance of
new family structures and new ways of organizing daily life and
domestic culture, which are laying the groundwork for new models
of family well-being. This book aspires to provide a clear picture of
the reality of these new families in order to contribute to identifying
the strengths and weaknesses in the emerging profiles of family
sociability for child welfare. In chapter 2, we will analyze what it
means for mothers and fathers to have children; what challenges
are involved today in parenthood and what tensions for children
are caused by the attempt to balance work and family. In chapters
3 and 4 we will analyze intergenerational relationships between
parents and children, focusing on the 0-4 years of age and 5-10
years of age groups respectively. The ways and strategies of
parents in relating to children will be discussed: how much time
they dedicate to caring for their children, how this time is
distributed and what they do during this time, how reward and
punishment is used to guide children’s behaviour, how parents
involve themselves in their children’s formal education. A secondary
objective of these chapters is to trace emerging forms of inequality,
stemming from socialization practices in the home. Chapter 5
looks at children’s «free time» in and outside the home,
differentiating structured (after school) from non-structured (with
Introduction
being applied are varied and in some cases subject to very strong
criticism (see for example, Lister, 2006). However, it is undeniable
that the new paradigm of social investment stands as a necessary
counterweight to the gerontocratic tendencies of the old welfare
states, perhaps the only moderately effective one in the context
of the growing demographic, economic and political weight of
the oldest generations.
Our work is based on different sources of both primary and secondary
information. We have utilized data from international databases
(OECD or Eurostat) and from available surveys (the Survey of Income
and Living Conditions of Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE),
different studies of the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research
(CIS), the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey).
However, it is important to point out that a large part of the data
in chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 comes from a telephone survey carried out
in February 2010 in which 2,200 mothers and fathers with children
between the ages of 0 and 10 were interviewed. The questionnaires
contain specific modules for families with children of different ages
(methodological details are provided in the appendix). The fact that
this survey was designed to address our specific concerns has given
us considerable scope to come closer to realities that have barely
been analyzed in previous studies in this country.
Introduction
friends, siblings, relatives) activities. Chapter 6 provides an analysis
of the implications of some of the dynamics studied in the
appearance of different situations of childhood distress. We focus
specifically on three dimensions of childhood that play an
important role in the well-being and personal development of
children: problems related to overweight, and obesity emotional
difficulties, and those related to adaptation to the demands of
school in the early years of compulsory education.
Few institutions have changed as dramatically as the family in
recent decades. With the exception of certain circumstances, family
demographic parameters evolve slowly. But in Spain this has not
been the case. In recent times, there has been a notable increase in
the cohabitation of unmarried couples, separation, divorce, singleparent families and international adoption. Homosexual marriage
has been recognized and legalized and as a result, so have families
with homosexual parents. All of this has been accompanied by
a continuing increase in the number of women in the workforce
(especially those who are mothers), the transformation of
intimate relationships between couples, the emergence of new
practices regarding the distribution of domestic responsibilities
and childcare, a decrease in fertility, the postponement of the
emancipation of young people from the parental home, and
the growing personal and residential autonomy of the elderly.
In this context of change, important legislative reform has been
passed affecting family and kinship relationships. In recent decades
the principles regulating divorce, consensual union, transmission
of surnames, assisted reproduction, adoptions, or most recently,
shared custody have been revised and brought up to date, in some
cases more than once, in order to adapt to a reality that no longer
fits the existing legal framework. This reality has pushed Spanish
people to change, and these changes have not come without
tensions and contradictions.
2.1. Children in parents’ common life project
We live in a society in which the patriarchal family is being
transformed. The massive incorporation of women into public
life, in both the educational sphere and the workforce has created
a new scenario that is bringing about a redefinition of the role of
women in the family. Women are no longer the cornerstone of a
family model in which the responsibilities for disabled and
dependent members falls disproportionately on them. The
number of women who think that being a housewife can be as
rewarding as having a profession is shrinking every day, while the
number of women who believe that domestic responsibilities are
a barrier to their career advancement is growing (Rivero Recuento
et al., 2005; Iglesias de Ussel et al., 2009). Since the 1980s,
sociological studies based on surveys carried out by Spain’s
Centre for Sociological Research have traced the evolution of the
Fathering and Mothering
II. Fathering and Mothering
In this context, the primary bond supporting the family structure
–the emotional relationship and commitment uniting the
couple–has also changed. In contrast to the past, when the bond
between the couple was primarily a means to achieve economic
(self-sufficiency in the family) and institutional (the survival of
lineage and transmission of heritage) ends without the need for a
romantic bond between the two partners, intimate relationships
in more recent times have become more and more based on
personal expectations and aspirations. In what North American
sociologist Andrew Cherlin (2010) has called «individualized
marriage,» the value of being in a couple is rated above all
according to the daily satisfaction it brings. The individual right to
happiness is the driving motor of everything: it is the mechanism
that sets in motion a life in partnership and that terminates it the
moment that the relationship no longer satisfies the aspirations
of its members. The promise of happiness lies in the quality of
the intimate relationships one is able to build. When that promise
loses credibility, there are few obstacles to prevent the dissolution
of the relationship.
Coinciding with the consolidation of this model of relationship,
which gives unprecedented centrality to living with a partner, the
value placed on children has also changed. For many couples,
having children is no longer one of the most important aspects
of happiness. Other dimensions such as respect and mutual
affection, faithfulness, mutual understanding, a satisfactory sexual
relationship, sharing in household chores, having a sufficient
income and a nice home have gained in importance. Being able
to maintain the quality of the relationship requires increasing
effort and attention. The challenge is for each partner to offer the
other the best version of him or herself, to find intimate spaces
for a mutually rewarding exchange and to constantly try to inject
something restorative into the relationship (a gift, an intimate
dinner, a surprise trip, etc).
The centrality given to the partnership experience tends to
relegate to second place the bond that usually weaves together
the fabric of the family: the union between parents and children.
This does not mean that its importance is not recognized under
the new circumstances. Bringing up and educating children is one
of the main functions of the family for all Spanish society (Meil,
2006) Raising children can in fact be perfectly compatible with the
aspirations of «individualized couples» if such an experience
opens up intimate spaces in which the couple can satisfy its desire
for «special» emotional experiences that strengthen the couple’s
interpersonal bond. However, there is no doubt that some of
the traditional aspects of childrearing may be in conflict with the
priorities of this type of couples. Qualities such as stability, altruism
or self-sacrifice for the benefit of the child become less valued.
For a sizeable number of young couples, the couple comes first,
and children must not get in the way of their happiness and plans.
Thus, according to the results of a recent study of the Fundación
SM [SM Foundation] in which two of the writers of this book
Fathering and Mothering
preferences and orientations of Spanish men and women
regarding the distribution of roles in the family. A growing number
of men and women are in favour of an egalitarian model in which
both share household chores and childcare. Especially notable is
the evolution in the attitudes of men. Those in favour of a
traditional model, with a strict definition of roles, are a declining
minority that is being rapidly replaced by new cohorts of men
who express a preference for an egalitarian model.
Experiencing the relationship with a partner as a project that
must be constantly renewed and reaffirmed, a sort of «daily
plebiscite,» creates situations of uncertainty in which it becomes difficult to decide to have children. There are many situations that discourage women from having children: those
that live with a partner but are unmarried wait to decide until
they are sure that the relationship is permanent; married women who have doubts about the future of their relationship
are reluctant to have children for fear of the consequences of a
possible break-up; women who have uncertain job prospects postpone the decision to have children as they wait for better
times; women with a high level of education and who are career oriented have reasons to be concerned about the implications that having children might have on their professional
future. The decline in fertility in Spain in recent decades largely
reflects decisions to postpone pregnancy as a result of giving
greater importance to personal aspects such as educational,
professional or emotional factors than to fertility projects. But
beyond these decisions, we find a voluntary infertility among
women who, already mothers, are choosing to interrupt their
fertility plans as preferences related to ideal family size change.
Some mothers with only one child decide to have no additional
children, perhaps contrary to their initial desires, discouraged
by the difficulties encountered in raising the first. The sociological research reveals agreement in presenting a panorama
with some bright spots and quite a few dark ones. The immense majority of women are satisfied with having had children,
but a significant percentage express fear and anxiety regarding
how much of an obstacle children represent for their professional lives, the limitations they place on the quality of life for
the couple and about not having enough time to take care of
them. In addition, there is the concern felt by many mothers
and fathers, especially with older children and adolescents,
about whether or not they will be able to exercise the kind of
authority needed to keep their children away from harmful influences (Iglesias de Ussel et al., 2009; Meil, 2006).
2.2. Family and fertility in the new social settings
The family has invariably been the most highly valued
dimension of personal life since survey information on Spanish
attitudes and values began to be gathered. The family receives
a very positive valuation among those who have children, and
particularly, among parents of small children. According to the
data from Study 2.578 (2004) of the CIS, 86 percent of those who
have a child under six years of age consider their family to be
«very important to them,» an attitude shared by 68 percent of
those who do not have children at that age. Spain has often been
characterized as a family-oriented country in which private life
is primarily thought of as family life and family obligations are
placed before personal ambitions. Within this sphere, bringing
up children is often seen as one of the main functions of the
family. For the vast majority of couples having children continues
Fathering and Mothering
participated, 52 percent of young couples (under 40 years of age)
agree that «having children limits the parents’ freedom too
much.» Contrary to widespread belief in the past, having children
should not be an obstacle to separation or divorce. Only 11
percent of those interviewed thought that «when there are
children, parents shouldn’t separate even if they don’t get along»
(Iglesias de Ussel et al., 2009: 89).
Beyond the deep-seated sense of duty felt by many, the main
reasons people give for having children are emotional. Having
children produces intangible rewards that compensate for the
sacrifice. According to the previously cited Fundación SM study,
66 percent of young adults under the age of 40 who live with
their partner state that they strongly agree that «watching
children grow up is one of the greatest pleasures in life,» and an
additional 21 percent «agree» with that statement (Iglesias de
Ussel et al., 2009:89). That «pleasure» is essentially emotional in
nature. As can be seen in table 2.1, when asked about the two
main reasons for having a child or children, the main reason given
is emotional in nature (CIS, Study 2,639). Other considerations
such as the preservation of lineage («to see the family continue in
the future») or facing old age with security («children make it less
likely that one will be alone in old age») have lost the importance
they may have had in the past. It is also interesting to note that
only a minority mention that «having children strengthens the
relationship with one’ spouse/partner.»
However, measuring the value of children in Spanish society
requires greater attention to nuances. The assumption that the
Spanish give centrality to children in the plans of the couple is
debatable if certain attitudes are examined in light of comparative
evidence. A significant proportion of the Spanish currently believe
that it is legitimate and possibly even satisfactory for those who do
so, to choose not to have children. For example, according to data
from the World Values Survey (1990 and 1999) and the European
Values Survey (2008), the proportion of Spanish who responded
affirmatively to the question «Do you think that a woman has to
have children in order to be fulfilled?» is significantly lower than
found in other countries in the south of Europe, such as Greece,
Portugal or Italy, and even lower than that found in the countries
of central and northern Europe, such as Germany, France or
Denmark. In the last decade, this proportion has come closer to
that of countries that are less parentally oriented. On the other
hand, the differences among cohorts is substantial–greater than
in the majority of other countries–even though in recent years
the generation gap has decreased as a result of the incorporation
on the margins of old age of groups that one or two decades
ago were already less parentally oriented. Thus, while in 1999,
62 percent of those interviewed over 50 years of age were in
agreement with the statement, «a woman needs to have children
to feel fulfilled» and only 32 percent of those under 30 years of
age agreed, in 2008, the difference had declined significantly (to
52 percent and 34 percent respectively).
Fathering and Mothering
to be an essential part of their plans as a couple. Mothers and
fathers are called on to make every effort to make this plan
come to pass. Related to this, a high proportion of the Spanish
(around 80 percent according to different waves of the World
Values Survey) think that parents should make sacrifices for the
welfare of their children, even if it is at their own expense. This is
a widespread opinion among all social groups with only minor
differences related to education and religion.
who do not have children but want to have them and for women
who already have children but would like to have more
In percentages
most important reason for having a child
primary
reason
secondary
reason
Having children is very rewarding
feeling
39
25
It is good to see children grow up and develop
21
23
Children increase one’s sense of
responsibility
16
13
It is satisfying to see the family continue
14
25
Children make being alone in old age
less likely
Having children strengthens the
relationship w/ partner
4.9
4.7
4.1
9.1
Total
100
Number of cases
(2,760)
Source: Calculations based on data from Study 2,639 of CIS, 2006.
The attitude of the majority of Spanish young people has
moved away from their parents’ conception which considered
childlessness nothing less than a curse. Far removed are the times
in which the majority of the population thought that a marriage
without children was not really a marriage.1 Today, only a small
1 In a survey from the magazine Cambio 16 (October 1978, no. 560), only 27% of those surveyed thought
that a married couple that had decided not to have children constituted a family (cited by Campo and Navarro, 1985: 121).
percentage of Spaniards express negative judgments with
respect to life projects that exclude having children. For example,
in the survey of the Fundación SM, only 23 percent of the persons
interviewed agreed or totally agreed with the statement that
«people who do not have children lead empty lives» (Iglesias de
Ussel et al., 2009:89).
Parallel to these changes in attitude related to childlessness, the
number of children couples want to have has also declined sharply.
The evolution in the figures is telling. In the 1966 FOESSA Report,
the ideal number of children for Spaniards was 3.3 (average value).
A 1968 DATA study yielded a similar figure (3.4), while the 1970
FOESSA Report showed a value of 3.1. These figures were even
lower than the actual number of children women were having.
This pattern has reversed in recent decades. The 1975 FOESSA report had already detected figures below the threshold of 3:
2.83 for women; 2.66 for men (del Campo and Navarro, 1985:118).
In the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, these figures would
decline slightly more than half a point more, reaching at the lowest
point, 2.15, in 2000. In recent years there has been a rebound
placing the ideal number of children at around 2.3. This figure
is well above the actual fertility rate of women in advanced ages
in the reproductive life span: in 2006, the average number of live
births to women between 40 and 44 years of age was 1.79 (data
from the Encuesta de Fecundidad, Familia y Valores [Fertility,
Family and Values Survey] of the Centre for Sociological Research
by Margarita Delgado, 2007:108). Even though at the end of the
reproductive cycle, women who have apparently fulfilled their
aspirations to have children are dominant, a significant group of
women have not done so. One out of three women between 40
and 44 years of age without children would like to have a child
Fathering and Mothering
TABLE 2.1: Most important reasons for having a child among women
Overall, evidence suggests that the attitudes of Spaniards with
respect to fertility have changed rapidly. Those who have children and who want to have them continue to dominate. But
the alternative of not having children is perfectly acceptable.
The pressure to have children has diminished and the preference for large families is increasingly a minority position. It is
difficult to explain what has brought about these changes. One
factor that has probably had an influence in this process is the
adaptation of attitudes and preferences to a reality in which
options are constrained. Some Spaniards would take the position of the fox in Aesop’s fable who, unable to reach the grapes,
walks away claiming he did not want them anyway because
they were not ripe.
2.3. The difficulties of having and raising children
Although the changes in ideas regarding childlessness and
the number of children can be attributed to diverse factors
and processes, it is not unimportant to point out the fact that
these changes coincide with a recognition of the problems
posed by the arrival of children for their parents. If we examine
the attitudes of women from 25 to 39 years of age who do
not have children and would not like to, it is striking to note
the high number who brandish the difficulties involved in
having children and raising them. Reasons such as «personal
uncertainty,» the «lack of confidence in the future» and the
problems and worry that come with having children weigh
heavily on their attitudes toward fertility and childrearing. The
immense majority of these young women put forward adverse
reasons of this type.
Among mothers between 25 and 39 years of age who have
children and do not wish to have any more, the percentage
of those who talk about «personal uncertainty» and «lack of
confidence in the future» is much lower. Obviously, this is a group
of women who, despite being in the same age group as those
who do not have children, have already crossed the threshold of
motherhood and have overcome the uncertainties and doubts
regarding the future, which are always there at the beginning of
a family project. Even so, a significant proportion state –whether
as the first or second reason given– that raising children involves
a lot of worry, is expensive and takes time away from doing other
important things in life.
Fathering and Mothering
(33 percent). The percentage of those who already have a child
but would like to have more is lower (15 percent). Women between 25 and 39 years of age without children and who do not want to have them
In percentages
MOST IMPORTANT REASONS FOR NOT HAVING A CHILD
PRIMARY PRIMARY AND REASON SECONDARY REASONS
Raising children involves a lot of worry and problems
24
33
Personal uncertainty
18
27
Lack of confidence in the future
14
22
Children make it more difficult for the woman to work
11
18
Children are expensive,
especially when they’re growing up
10
14
Children take time away from
other important things in life
10
20
Age
7.0
10
Health reasons
3.9
5.2
Pregnancies, birth are hard on the woman
0.9
6.7
I have as many as I want
0.8
1.1
My house isn’t big enough
0.0
0.5
Total
100
Number of cases
(123)
Source: Based on data from Study 2,639, CIS 2006.
The difficulties of having and raising children become even more
important in the context of the restructuring of the roles of
women. In what Esping-Andersen (2009) has called an «incomplete
revolution,» the life course of women has been masculinised,
driven by the massive incorporation of women into the labour
market and the tendency to remain in it after marriage and giving
birth. This growing orientation toward productive work is part of
economic as well as cultural processes. From the economic
standpoint, the increase in the participation of women in the
workforce coincides with the expansion of educational systems
–where a growing proportion of women are found at the highest
educational levels– and with the transformation of the economic
structures in post-industrial societies, which has created new
spaces of production that no longer require are based on a sexual
division of labour. In these new scenarios leaving work to dedicate
oneself to raising a family and domestic life is no longer the most
profitable option for the family economy, especially in the case of
women with high levels of qualifications and salary.
Fathering and Mothering
TABLE 2.2: Most important reasons for not having children.
Women between 25 and 39 years of age who have children but do not want to have more
In percentages
MOST IMPORTANT REASONS FOR NOT HAVING A CHILD
PRIMARY REASON
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY REASONS
I have as many as I want
39
50
Children are expensive, especially
when they’re growing up
14
25
Raising children involves a lot of
worry and problems
14
29
Health reasons
5.1
8.4
Lack of confidence in the future
4.7
11
Children make it more difficult for
the woman to work
4.6
10
Pregancies, birth are hard on the woman
4.5
8.8
Age
4.4
11
Children take time away from doing
other important things in life
3.5
8.0
Personal uncertainty
3.1
9.2
My house isn’t big enough
2.6
5.4
Total
100
Number of cases
(644)
Source: Based on data from Study 2,639, CIS 2006.
From a cultural standpoint, women’s employment activity takes on
new meaning in the context of the processes of individualization
that are taking place in Western societies. In the new culture of
individualism, work stands as a central element in the life project:
providing the necessary economic resources to carry out that project
(and avoid situations of dependency), opening avenues for social
participation in areas acquiring growing importance in the shaping
of individual identity (most notably in the world of consumption),
and enabling the affirmation of individual achievement in the
framework of the autonomous construction of the individual’s own
life (Beck-Gernsheim, 2003; Lipovetsky, 2003). In the case of women,
the rise in individualism has brought with it a strengthening of the
orientation toward education, having a job, and being free to focus
on oneself throughout one’s life, defying traditional conceptions
that demand women’s dedication to collective obligations –primarily
caring for others. The old order based on the «ideology of sacrifice,»
which celebrated the values of self-denial and altruism for women,
has entered into direct confrontation with the development of the
consumer society, which has spread throughout the world the values
of well-being and individual pleasure and the right to pursue them
openly. We find ourselves before a social earthquake which is
transforming women’s desires and ambitions as well as the power
relations in the couple and the family.
This dynamic of change does not flow, however, without obstacles
that often put the care of children at the epicentre of contradictions,
frustrations and conflicts. On the one hand, the destruction of the
system of traditional values is not complete. There are still men and
women attached to traditional values who seek to reconcile their
beliefs with social dynamics which are gradually making traditional
life economically and socially unsustainable. Thus, in these new
Fathering and Mothering
TABLE 2.3: Most important reasons for not having children.
On the other hand, the adaptation of actors, institutions and social
structures to the new realities is also not complete. Women who have
joined the labour market face, first of all, a lack of commitment by
many men unwilling or unable to adjust their levels of involvement in
housework and childcare in response to their partners’ employment.
Although working outside the home (and the income it provides for
household) gives women negotiating power in relation to their
partners, the level of effective co-responsibility in households where
both partners work is limited. A high proportion of men do household
chores that are typically male (such as paying the bills, doing repairs)
and a growing number participate in tasks that are less specialized
(weekly shopping or cleaning), but the number of men who assume
equal responsibility for all household tasks continues to be low (Iglesias
de Ussel et al., 2009). According to some analyses, as a result of the
incorporation of women into the workforce, the gap between
the total number of hours that women and men work –whether
in the home or on the job– far from decreasing has actually increased
(England, 2006). This situation is especially evident after the birth of
children. The limited development in our country of public services
for early childhood care and for aid to families represents a factor of
tension of first order between productive and reproductive work.
Despite young women’s strong committment to work for many
of them the birth of a child still involves abandoning the labour
market or a reduction in the number of hours worked and has a
significant impact on their professional advancement (Iglesias de
Ussel et al., 2009: 103). The economic impact of these changes can
be considerable. Esping-Andersen (2009:85-86) has estimated,
for example, that interruptions in work for Spanish women with
two children have an economic cost equivalent to 20 percent
of their total income earned over the course of their lives. This
Fathering and Mothering
contexts, women’s employment has not only become a central
element of the new female identity but it is also a conditio sine qua
non to begin an economically sustainable family with a partner,
which assumes access to basic goods –starting with their own
place to live– and protection against economic adversity. Today
the formation of new families normally requires two incomes.
Families with only one breadwinner are at a very high risk of poverty,
which is accentuated during economic downturns (Marí-Klose et
al., 2008a). In addition, those who follow traditional models face,
on the one hand, an increasingly hostile institutional environment
that neglects their needs and demands, and on the other hand,
hegemonic discourses that rebuke their practices as anachronisms
of the past that should be gradually left behind. In this regard,
public policies in many countries are clearly immersed in a shift
that seeks to offer protection and aid to families that have moved
away from traditional models of status and gender roles. Economic
aid for families is increasingly directed toward those in which both
parents work (through, for example, subsidies for working mothers)
and the expansion of services is aimed at the «defamiliarization» of
caregiving activities which have traditionally been carried out by
women. This process coincides with a gradual devaluation of the
role of the housewife. Exclusive dedication to homemaking and
childcare has lost much of the social status it once enjoyed; little by
little it is becoming a social anomaly defying widely held social
expectations and which does not fit with the new schemes for
social protection. From an individual standpoint, the lack of a
meaningful career path condemns the woman whose relationship
ends or whose spouse dies to greater risk of social exclusion. From
the perspective of society, the persistence of a group that does not
directly contribute to the public system of social provision is seen
as a threat to its financial sustainability.
The arrival of children also intensifies the separation of roles in the
home along traditional lines. Among couples with young children,
the difference in hours dedicated to housework between women and
men has increased and the distribution of domestic responsibilities
has become more unequal. Obviously, this pattern is related to the
decrease in the time mothers spend working outside the home. But
it is also related to the increase in the proportion of men who increase
the time they dedicate to work. Today for many young couples the
arrival of a child brings with it adjustments in the levels of work for
both the woman and the man (generally in the opposite direction)
TABLE 2.4: Distribution of domestic responsibilities in homes in which the women work, by couples with and without children(a)
In percentages
DOMESTIC RESPONSIBILITIES
SHE DOES IT ALWAYS / USUALLy
COUPLE SHARES TASK EQUALLY
NO CHILDREN
has CHILDREN
NO CHILDREN
HAS CHILDREN
Doing the laundry
56
76
39
19
Preparing meals/cooking
53
67
32
24
Making beds
45
59
47
34
Deciding what to eat the following day
40
66
51
30
Doing the cleaning
34
50
62
42
Washing the dishes
28
48
61
43
Paying the bills
23
31
60
53
Doing the shopping
22
35
69
55
Doing minor repairs in the home
9.9
9.0
19
12
Taking the car to be repaired
9.8
7.6
22
19
Note: a) The data correspond to women’s answers: Number of cases: 1,532; women who live with partner and are under 40 years of age.
Source: Iglesias de Ussel et al. (2009) p. 106.
Fathering and Mothering
cost is four times greater than that suffered by Danish women,
who have greater opportunities for balancing motherhood and
a professional career thanks to the existence of public services
to support families. There is widespread awareness of these
costs. Fifty-eight percent of Spaniards understand that «having
children is an obstacle for the woman’s career»; this increases to
69 percent among persons with children under three years of age
(CIS, Study 2,578, 2004). The proportion of women who are aware
of these obstacles is somewhat higher than that of men, although
a majority of men do perceive that these obstacles exist.
In these conditions, women with children face high opportunity
costs. These costs are higher the greater the monetary value of
their productive work and the more highly they regard their career.
Some authors have pointed out that women become fully aware
of the magnitude of these costs the moment they decide to have
a second child. Their inclination to have more children after the
birth of the first increases if they believe that they can count on a
partner who is going to be co-responsible in raising the second or
subsequent children and that they will, therefore, be able to reduce
the opportunity costs associated with motherhood. The experience
in raising the first child is, as a result, the deciding factor (Cooke,
2003; Mills et al., 2008). The birth of a child no longer only implies
«bringing joy and hope», crowing and stabilizing the family project,
as in the past. As we point out in a recent study, organizing childcare
usually involves considerable difficulties that crystallize in stressful
situations (Iglesias de Ussel et al., 2009). Couples with small children
tend to express greater disagreement regarding the division of
housework as well as higher levels of dissatisfaction with the
opportunities available to enjoy interpersonal relations with their
partner. Possibly women and men experience this situation in
different ways. For example, in the study just mentioned, we found
that women with children have a greater probability of feeling less
in love at the time of the interview in comparison to when they
began to live with their partner, than women who do not have
children (holding time cohabiting constant). This is not the case for
men: there is no statistical difference in terms of the «risk of falling
out of love» between men with children and those without.
Combining work and family life when there are children is
a complicated issue in which women’s new orientations,
professional ambitions and autonomy enter into conflict with
the daily dynamics of their relationships with their partners.
In the process of adaptation to these imbalances situations of
tension may arise that cannot always be adequately dealt with.
A significant percentage of parents interviewed in the Survey on
Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, carried
out for this study, indicate that in their homes situations of
tension arise related to the issue of balancing work and family
life. Thus, 63 percent of households mention episodes of tension
connected to the lack of personal time to relax and disconnect
(13 percent indicated that these episodes happened often);
49 percent recognized situations of tension caused by the
distribution of housework (9 percent said that this took place
often), and 28 percent referred to tension over childcare (2.8
percent said that this happened often). Only 16 percent stated
that in their household there were never situations of tension
associated with any of these factors.
Situations of tension are more frequent in homes where the
mother works and has ambitious career aspirations (women with
high educational credentials). They are also more common if the
children are under three years of age (particularly if the tension
is related to caring for the children) and when the involvement
of the father in the care of the children is low (table 2.5). The
influence of this factor is significant. However, as can be seen,
the employment status of the father or his education level has
little affect on the atmosphere in the home.
Fathering and Mothering
in order to face the demands for attention and care which young
children require, while at the same time maintaining the family unit’s
purchasing power (Iglesias de Ussel et al., 2009: 103).
TABLE 2.5: Persons who say that there is tension in the home for different reasons, by socio-demographic characteristics
In percentages. Homes with children from 0 to 10 years of age
THERE IS TENSION CAUSED BY
Sociodemographic characteristics
DIVISION OF DOMESTIC
RESPONSIBILITIES
CARING FOR THE CHILD
ESTRÉS EN EL TRABAJO
NO DISPONER DE TIEMPO PARA RELAJARSE
Yes
Often
Yes
Often
Yes
Often
Yes
Often
Primary
39
8.1
25
3.1
48
6.4
53
12
Secondary
51
11
26
1.9
53
6.8
64
11
University
54
7.8
33
3.7
60
7.2
69
11
Works full-time
55
9.6
28
2.8
61
7.3
68
11
Works part-time
55
11
29
2.2
56
8.6
68
13
Doesn’t work
40
7.3
27
3.2
47
5.5
56
10
Very involved
49
8.7
29
2.7
54
6.8
64
10
Moderately involved
50
10
27
3.2
56
7.1
63
13
Little or not involved
–(a)
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Primary
47
10
28
3.3
53
6.4
58
12
Secondary
49
8.6
27
1.5
54
7.2
65
11
University
53
8.2
31
3.9
58
6.6
67
11
Mother’s characteristics
Education level
Employment status
Mother’s level of involvement
with child
Father’s characteristics
Education level
Fathering and Mothering
of parents and by child’s age
(Continue)
Works full-time
50
8.6
29
2.6
55
6.9
64
11
Works part-time
43
7.8
26
2.0
54
6.9
66
11
Doesn’t work
53
12
28
2.7
54
5.4
61
11
Very involved
46
6.8
25
1.9
53
5.4
61
8.5
Moderately involved
52
10
30
2.6
56
7.2
65
13
Little or not involved
58
17
39
8.7
61
15
66
19
0-3 years of age
51
9.0
35
3.1
54
6.9
68
13
4-7 years of age
46
9.6
25
3.1
53
7.6
61
11
8-10 years of age
50
8.0
23
1.9
57
5.7
60
9.2
Father’s level of involvement
with child
Child’s characteristics
Age
Note: a) Fewer than 20 cases per category.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Graph 2.1 shows the probability that situations of tension
connected to the division of housework, care of the children and
lack of time to relax will be produced in three different household
settings. The first is the traditional setting, where the mother does
not work, has a basic education, and the involvement of the father
in childcare is low. The second setting is one of transition: the
mother works, has a higher education and the involvement of
the father is low (an incomplete revolution).The third is similar
to the second setting but with a high degree of paternal
involvement (a complete revolution). These are ideal types which,
independent of their degree of representativeness in the
population, permit us to develop an idea of what occurs given a
specific constellation of situations.
Fathering and Mothering
Employment status
homes with children from 0 to 10 years of age for different reasons
by different models for the division of responsibilities by gender
2.4. The ethic of family care and the model of a good childhood
PROBABILITY
1.0
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
BECAUSE OF DIVISION OF
DOMESTIC RESPONSIBILITIES
BECAUSE OF
CHILDCARE
BECAUSE OF LACK
OF TIME TO RELAX
REASONS FOR TENSION
Traditional setting
works and has career aspirations but cannot count on the support of
her partner for childcare, tends to produce more situations of tension.
Transitional setting
Egalitarian setting
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) There is tension in the home for different reasons; 0) There isn’t tension in the home. The following
variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, mother’s occupational status,
mother’s education level, if the child has siblings, father’s level of involvement.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The results of multivariable analysis suggest that the traditional
setting and the egalitarian are clearly more desirable than the
transition model. The traditional model displays the lowest probability
of tension in the home related to the division of housework and
lack of time for relaxation, while the egalitarian model is especially
advantageous for preventing situations of tension associated with
the care of children. In all cases, the second setting in which the mother
Social demand for policies to reconcile work and family life is very
widespread. This reflects the desire of many parents to spend more
time with their children, especially when they have not yet begun
school. Spain is usually included by researchers in that group of
countries that is seen as tied to the traditional cultural model in
which family care, supported by an ethic of responsibility and
moral obligation is considered superior to care provided by paid
caregivers –whether it be through the state or by for profit services–
as they do not guarantee the same degree of commitment (PfauEffinger, 2006). In this model a «good childhood» is one which
takes place in the home, under the supervision of a family member
(generally the mother). These criteria should prevail especially
when children are at pre-school ages. Data obtained during the
decade of the 1990s and the first years of the present decade
support this view. Spain is a country in which, comparatively, a high
proportion of the population revealed negative attitudes toward
mothers working when their children were at pre-school age. Such
an attitude was especially widespread among older age groups.
Thus, according to data from the 1990 World Values Survey, 71
percent of Spaniards over the age of 50 agreed or totally agreed
with the statement «a pre-school child is likely to suffer if his/her
mother works.» The fact that only 41 percent of those between
the ages of 15 and 29 years of age shared that opinion can now be
seen as heralding imminent change.
Fathering and Mothering
Graph 2.1: Probability that there will be situations of tension in
be a high percentage who view part-time work while the children
are very young positively (table 2.6). A CIS survey in 2003 allows
us disaggregate this data by age cohorts.
TABLE 2.6: Opinions on whether women should work full-time, part-time or not work in different situations, by age group
In percentages
Age
FROM 18 TO 34
FROM 35 TO 49
FROM 50 TO 64
65 AND OVER
Work full-time
82
83
74
64
Work part-time
15
12
18
19
Not work
2.3
5.0
8.2
17
After marriage and before having children
Total
100
When there is a child under school age
Work full-time
25
22
15
9.9
Work part-time
51
50
40
32
Not work
24
29
46
58
Total
100
After the youngest child (or the only child) has started school
Work full-time
46
43
30
23
Work part-time
47
47
49
44
Not work
7.4
10
21
34
100
(836)
(236)
(500)
(512)
Total
Number of cases
Source: Based on data from Study 2,529, CIS, 2003.
Fathering and Mothering
And that change has been dramatic. A growing percentage of the
Spanish population, primarily those belonging to the younger
generations, understand that the care of children cannot continue
to depend on mothers leaving work, although there continues to
The youngest Spanish adults no longer show any reluctance
at leaving their children under the care of others in preschool
centres. The overwhelming majority consider it necessary for
children between the ages of three and six to attend school or
a day-care centre, and a significant percentage (71 percent) see
it as necessary that one and two year old children should be in
day-care, although the majority consider this necessary only
«in some cases.» One out of every three even believe that it is
acceptable in certain cases for infants under one to be in day-care,
something that not only clashes with the maternalist discourse
of the traditional family but is also discouraged by many child
psychologists (Belsky et al., 1988).
TABLE 2.7: Opinions on whether it is necessary for children to attend school
or day care, by different age groups of children
In percentages. Persons under 50 years of age
In all
cases
In some
cases
NEVER
Total
From 3 to 6 years of age
81
17
2.2
100
From 1 to 2 years of age
17
54
29
Under one year old
5.3
31
64
Age of child
Source: Based on data from Study 2,788, CIS, 2009.
Behind these considerations one can clearly see the impact of time
pressures stemming from balancing work and family life. Sixtyfive percent of those interviewed who think that a child of one or
two years old should be in day-care cite as the main reason that
in this way «parents will be able to resolve the problem of taking
care of the child.» Eighty-two percent of those who consider it
necessary for a child under one to be in day-care give the same
reason. If we limit the analysis to parents whose child is or has
been in day-care before the age of three, the majority indicate
once again that it was for reasons related to reconciling work
and family life in homes where both parents work. The interests
of the child appear to be secondary. Eighteen percent of those
interviewed indicated that the main reason for putting the child
in day-care is or was «so the child can be with other children.»
Thirteen percent put forward «so that he or she can learn and
develop» as the reason for placing their child in day-care.
Fathering and Mothering
Another clear indicator of the evolution in attitudes is the
growing perception of legitimacy among Spaniards of the use of
social services in support of families with children under three as
an alternative to the care of the child in the home. In this regard,
CIS Study 2.788 (2009) provides a rare opportunity to examine
different attitudes toward the role of day-care centres in the care
of children. Asked if it is better for children to be at home or to
attend nursery school, 54 percent of those interviewed opted
for the latter. There are marked differences among cohorts. Of
those under 35 years of age, 66 percent preferred the second
option, compared to only 42 percent of those over 65.
In percentages: Persons under 50 years of age
Because my spouse and I work
63
So child can be with others
18
So child can learn and develop
13
Because I don’t have family to take care of the child
2.8
Other
3.2
Total
100
Number of cases
(467)
Source: Based on data from Study 2,788, CIS, 2009.
However, this does not mean that they do not believe that preschool education has some pedagogical and social benefits for the
child. A high percentage of respondents think that school before
the age of three can play an important role in the development
of the child. They believe that day-care is more effective at teaching
children under three years of age «to relate and communicate
with others» than the family; in addition, it is better for developing
capacities of observation and exploration and for learning rules
and routines. These attitudes appear in all social groups with only
slight variations by education.
The results of this analysis suggest that in recent years an
adaptation to new realities is taking place, especially among
those age groups which are experiencing in their own lives the
problems and worries of raising young children. As a consequence
of this change in attitudes, social pressure on women who decide
to continue working fulltime and/or take advantage of social
services to balance work and family life has decreased. A growing
number of Spanish men and women believe that a young child
can have «a good childhood» spending lots of hours away from
the mother and in the care of childcare professionals. This quiet
transition to a new model has gathered supporters with few
dissenting voices challenging the course followed either from an
ideological standpoint or on the basis of their expertise.
Fathering and Mothering
TABLA 2.8: Why child is or was in day care before three years of age
In percentages. Persons under 50 years of age
WHERE DOES A CHILD LEARN THE FOLLOWING ABILITIES BETTER?
EDUCATION LEVEL
Primary
Secondary
University
Family
57
59
61
School
24
26
25
Both equally
18
15
15
Knowing how to express basic health and well-being needs
Total
100
Being able to feed him/herself and take care of personal hygiene
Family
52
49
51
School
28
37
33
Both equally
20
15
16
Total
100
Controlling his/her own body (maintaining balance, not falling down, standing up)
Family
62
56
52
School
20
24
26
Both equally
19
20
22
Total
100
Relating to and communicating with others
Family
19
13
15
School
64
72
70
Both equally
18
15
15
Total
100
Fathering and Mothering
TABLE 2.9: Opinions on whether children under three develop certain abilities better in school or in the family, by education level
(Continue)
Family
28
24
24
School
43
49
46
Both equally
29
29
30
Total
100
Learning routines and rules (schedules, obedience)
Family
30
26
30
School
50
50
48
Both equally
20
24
22
Total
Source: Based on data from Study 2,788. CIS 2009.
100
Fathering and Mothering
Observing and exploring his/her world (being curious, asking questions)
Love is spelled T-I-M-E particularly when it comes to relationships
between parents and children. It is in the time shared with parents
that small children learn life skills, internalize expectations of
achievement, develop feelings of confidence and security and find
love and stability. This time is a form of social investment which,
despite its absence from the traditional indicators of productivity
or national accounts, has evident socioeconomic implications for
children and for society in general. The quantity and especially the
quality of this time is one of the main determinants of children’s
well-being and development and, therefore, of their opportunities
and productive capacity across the lifespan (Büchel y Duncan,
1998; Cooksey y Fondell, 1996). Sociologists coined the term social
capital to refer to the benefits obtained from social connections
(Bourdieu, 1983; Coleman, 1988). Intergenerational relationships
between parents and children constitute one of the modalities of
social capital that generate the highest individual and social returns.
However, now more than ever families cannot amass as much
social capital due to the difficulties encountered in dedicating
the amount of time they would like to their children. On the
one hand, the increase in couples breaking up has placed limits
on the possibility of interaction with the non-custodial parent. On
the other, an image has spread in which parents, and especially
mothers, carry out an impossible balancing act to reconcile
their dual family and work roles, getting trapped in what some
authors have referred to as the «second shift» or «endless work
day» (Durán, 1986; Hochschild, 1989). On the flipside, there are
children getting out of school becoming «orphans at 5 o’clock,»
«latchkey children,» or being rushed from one after-school activity
to another. In such conditions it seems that intergenerational
relationships are being affected by an increasingly overbooked
day, and growing concerns appear to be justified.
In contrast to these images, there is solid international evidence
–based on analysis from rigorous surveys that have carefully
recorded time use in families– that suggests exactly the opposite
(Sandberg y Hofferth, 2001; Gauthier et al., 2004). Many mothers
and fathers spend more time today with their children than their
parents did with them. Their parenting practices, are informed by
new childcare ethics and models of what it means to be a «good
mother» or a «good father,» which encourage them to extend
parental responsibility beyond the spaces and activities where
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
III. Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
This value is, in the first place, emotional. As we indicated in the
previous chapter, young couples of the «individualistic type» see
their sentimental relationships as a way to achieve happiness. The
emotional aspects of family life have come to have unprecedented
importance. There is firm belief that the expression of love and
tenderness towards children can help create an environment
and support the kinds of experiences needed to achieve the goal
of self-actualization. This conviction has even been embraced by
many men, who traditionally renounced direct contact with their
children. It is possible that men’s desire to participate in caring for
their children is in part a response to having to move away from a
traditional model of fatherhood that could arouse the distrust of
their partner and prevent them from maintaining the atmosphere
of trust and affection which is today the basis of relationships (now
much more fragile than in the past). Or perhaps, men’s greater
involvement in childcare comes from a genuine desire to experience
fatherhood in a different way, consistent with new conceptions of
masculinity that allow men to openly express their feelings, show
weakness and value the personal rewards of intimacy, physical
contact and caring for others (Alberdi and Escario, 2007).
Secondly, in recent decades fears have intensified regarding risks
threatening the physical safety of children. Urbanization, the
growth of cities and the increase in social diversity combined with
the erosion of community ties have generated concerns that did
not exist in the past, when children played alone in the streets
and plazas without parents worrying about their safety. Today it
is understood that the home is the only safe haven against the
new dangers awaiting them. Nowadays parents accompany their
children to many of the activities that in the past they would have
gone to alone: to school, to meet with their friends, or to afterschool activities. If they do not accompany them, they run the
risk of being labelled irresponsible or negligent. The household,
increasingly outfitted with all kinds of gadgets and technologies
to entertain –technologically sophisticated toys, televisions in the
bedroom, internet connection, etc.– have turned into true «gilded
cages» where children spend many hours near their parents.
A third element that has influenced fathers to spend more time
with their children is the recognition of the pedagogical value
of their involvement in the education of their children. The
decline in the birth rate has reduced the number of children per
home, and as a result, it has increased the capacity of parents
to concentrate resources (primarily time and money) on their
children, investing in their quality (Becker and Lewis, 1973). The
anxiety of many parents in the face of the uncertain future of
their children in an unpredictable world, where it is increasingly
more difficult to assure that children maintain the same social
status of the family, has encouraged many parents to become
intensely involved early on in their children’s upbringing.
Behaving as a «good father» or «good mother» means enrolling
one’s children in the best early childhood education centres,
offering them opportunities to express and develop their talents
from the earliest age in organized activities, but also dedicating
quality time to them to stimulate their cognitive aptitudes and
support their learning.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
it had traditionally been exercised in the past. Caring for a child
no longer means just «being present» or «responding diligently»
to the child’s needs. Sharing quality time with children through
involvement in interactive activities that require attention has
now acquired a value that was unrecognized in the past.
3.1. When children arrive: new motherhood and fatherhood
There is evidence in Spain suggesting that men spend more time
taking care of their children (Larrañaga et al., 2004). However,
there is still clear evidence of an imbalance in the division of this
responsibility. In many homes with small children, taking care of
the children is now a joint activity, but in the majority of cases, it
TABLE 3.1: Working day of couples between 25 and 49 years of age by age of child
In percentages
ALL COUPLES COUPLES WITHOUT CHILDREN
COUPLES WITH AT LEAST ONE CHILD UNDER 6 COUPLES WITH CHILDREN OVER 6
woman working full-time
44
63
38
42
woman working part-time
14
8.4
17
14
woman not working
30
16
35
33
woman working full-time
0.7
1.0
0.7
0.6
woman working part-time
0.5
0.7
0.5
0.4
woman not working
0.5
0.5
0.4
0.5
Woman working full-time
4.1
5.6
3.2
4.4
woman working part-time
1.5
1.1
1.5
1.5
woman not working
4.3
3.7
4.3
4.5
COUPLE FORMED BY
Man working full-time and
Man working part-time and
Man not working and
Total
100
Source: Economically Active Population Survey, INE [National Statistics Institute], 2008.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
The engine behind these ideological changes has been the deep
sociodemographic transformations that began in the latter part
of the 20th century. In this chapter and the following one, we will
examine new ways of experiencing motherhood and fatherhood
and, therefore, intergenerational relationships. We will also analyze the participation of other persons and specialized services in
the care of children. In this chapter we will focus on caregiving for
children from 0 to 4 years of age.
Women have massively entered into the labour market and
contribute financially to the family. In barely three decades, the
employment rate for women between 25 and 49 years of age
has almost doubled, increasing from 36 percent in 1990 to 63
percent in 2010, according to the Spanish Labour Force Survey
(EPA) data. However, employment statistics reveal significant
differences in women’s commitment to work depending on
their family situation. As can be seen in the following table,
in three out of five couples with children under six, the women
work outside the home. This is a high proportion if we compare
it to the situation found just two decades ago. But it is significantly
lower than the number of women working who live with their
partner and do not have children (80 percent). Another
important difference lies in the percentage of women working
part-time (19 percent of women with children under six and 10
percent of those without children).
(a) Resignation and renunciation
For many women the arrival of children has important
implications for their life course and career; this may be because
they leave their jobs, temporarily or permanently, relinquish
positions of responsibility or reduce their working hours, etc.
Scaling back is one of is one of the strategies often adopted by
couples with two incomes as a way to manage the care of the
children. But rather than a strategy, in the majority of families it
becomes a necessity. According to data from our Survey on Inter
and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 23 percent of
women compared to only 4.8 percent of men with children
under five years of age recognize, since the birth of their child,
having had to leave a job, studies or some other form of training
because they had problems in finding a centre or a person to
take care of their child. The cost of this withdrawal from work or
study –assessed according to different factors, such as
contribution to family income, potential to develop a successful
career, etc– influenced the decision. The educational level of
the women is the principal factor determining this cost. Graph
3.1 shows the proportion of women that have had to abandon
an activity after the birth of their child is substantially lower
among women with university degrees.
Along with education, it is important to consider employment
conditions before and after the birth of a child. Leaving the
workforce is more likely when working conditions are precarious.
In these situations many women feel pushed to quit jobs due to
time limitations which make it difficult to balance work and new
family responsibilities, or because of employer discrimination
(Azmat et al., 2003). Among those who decide to continue
working after the birth of children, it is not unusual to find
situations of downward mobility in terms of quality of work,
income or responsibility (Gutierrez-Doménech, 2002). Women
who are not employed (whether because they have lost their
jobs or because they are inactive) usually remain in this situation.
Even though they may want to work, finding a job that adjusts
to their needs to balance work and family becomes a very
difficult task.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
is still not carried out equally. In contrast to what happened in the
past, when the father’s commitment to childcare was much less,
the exercise of motherhood for the majority of women today is
part-time.
after the birth of their child by educational level
Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
PERCENTAGE
inactive at the time of the birth of their child: the vast majority of
these women still do not work (80 percent inactive and 8 percent
unemployed). The labour market is an inhospitable territory for
mothers who are not in it at the time of giving birth.
TABLE 3.2: Mother’s current employment status by status
35
at the time of the birth of child
30
25
In percentages. Mothers of children between 0 and 4 years of age
20
EMPLOYMENT STATUS AT TIME OF BIRTH
15
10
5
0
PRIMARY OR NO EDUCATION
SECONDARY
UNIVERSITY
WOMAN’S LEVEL OF EDUCATION
CURRENT EMPLOYMENT STATUS
IS IS IS WORKING UNEMPLOYED INACTIVE
Was working
78
13
8.7
Was unemployed
28
42
30
Was inactive
12
8.0
80
Total
100
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
In table 3.2 we show the current employment status of mothers with
children between 0 and 4 years of age with respect to their status at
the moment of the birth of the child. At that time, 70 percent of the
current mothers were working. Of these, almost four out of five are
still working. A fairly high percentage of these women (13 percent)
are now unemployed and 8.7 percent have become inactive. At
the time of the birth of their child, 18 percent of the women were
unemployed. At present, approximately three out of every four of
these women continue to be out of work (42 percent unemployed;
30 percent inactive). For these women there is a shortage of jobs
that are compatible with their family needs. Finally 12 percent were
Motherhood usually jeopardizes one’s position in the labour
market. The percentage of mothers with children between 0
and 4 years of age who were working when their child was born
but were unemployed at the time of the survey (13 percent) far
exceeds the percentage of their partners who are unemployed
but had work at the time of the birth of their child (6.5 percent).
The mothers most at risk of losing their job are those who have
lower educational qualifications. Twenty-two percent of mothers
with just a basic education and who were working at the time
of the birth of their child are currently unemployed (11 percent
of the men with this educational level have gone from being
employed to unemployed after the birth of their child). The same
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
GRAPH 3.1: Women that have had to abandon an activity
In short, there is little evidence that women who abandon the
labour market do so deliberately with the intention of dedicating
themselves fulltime to parenting. The profile of the woman
who gives up her career driven by strong convictions about
motherhood (what has become an actual movement in the U.S.
called Mothers opting out) represents, in any case, a small minority.
The majority of mothers who find themselves in this situation
have been forced into it (or at least pushed) by circumstances.
Leaving the workforce is probably not permanent. Many will
reincorporate into the labour market when the opportunity for
a job that meets their needs becomes available or when the
employment situation in the country improves.
A slightly lower percentage of new mothers move from working to
inactivity. In some cases, this probably follows an intermediate period
of unemployment. Often, inactivity is the result of a decision not to
look for employment in situations in which it is difficult to find work
that is compatible with caring for a young child (rather than the
mother’s desire to dedicate herself exclusively to parenting). The costs
of work opportunities can be especially high for mothers likely to
earn low pay. As a result, mothers with lower educational qualifications
are also the ones who are most likely to move from work to inactivity.
Fifteen and a half percent of mothers who have only a basic educational
level and were working at the time of their child’s birth are currently
in a situation of inactivity. This is the same for 12.1 percent of mothers
with secondary school diplomas. Among women with university
degrees this shift is less common, affecting only 4.1 percent. It is likely
that many of these women leave their jobs because of a genuine
desire to dedicate themselves to the upbringing of their children.
The reshaping of policy on parental leave conforms to new ways
of understanding motherhood and fatherhood, incorporating
into these experiences a new range of choices and dilemmas
that require negotiated and thoughtful solutions. These leaves
constitute one of the main chapters in the so-called traditional
reconciliation policies designed to make it possible for women
to balance work with maternity and care when the children
are in most need of it. But for some years these policies have
pursued more than this. The introduction of paternity leave (or
the possibility that the mother transfers part of this right to the
father) represents a new formula to encourage fathers to be
involved in the care of their children from birth.
(b) Maternity and paternity leave
Leave policies in developed countries have been a powerful support
tool for women who want to continue working after giving birth
(making their return to work under the same conditions as when
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
is true for 17 percent of those mothers who completed secondary
school (in comparison to 8.2 percent of the men with this level of
education). Even those mothers with higher educational levels face
a significantly higher risk of unemployment than their partners
(7.4 percent and 0.9 percent respectively). Thus, the vulnerability
of mothers reflects, «the market value» of their degrees but also
business strategies of getting rid of female workers when they
decide to have children. Many businesses are probably influenced
by the belief that these mothers are going to be less productive
when they have to assume the main responsibility for parenting
after the birth of the child. Data support the idea often expressed
by feminist theorists and researchers that gender inequalities in
the home are the main obstacle to women in the pursuit of full
equality in the labour market (see, for example, England, 2000).
In Spain, 91 percent of the women who work outside the home
take maternity leave after giving birth. The data we examined in
our survey suggest that the use of this right is widespread, even
among the most vulnerable groups. Even so, there are small but
significant differences in the proportion of women who do not
take maternity leave based on different socioeconomic factors.
The variable that best indicates the possibility of enjoying
this right, as well as how much leave time is used, is household
income. Although the vast majority of working women from more
disadvantaged sectors take advantage of their right to maternity
leave, a considerable percentage of these women have not been
able to do so: 16.5 percent (see table 3.3). These figures point to
a more likely precarious participation in the labour market. It is
possible that many women who give up their right to maternity
leave do so in order not to lose a job that is precarious or they are
forced to return early to some type of self-employment.
TABLA 3.3: Women who took maternity leave by age,
education level and household income
In percentages. Households with children between 0 and 4 years of age
MOTHER’S CHARACTERISTICS
PERCENTAGE
Age
18 to 35
92
36 to 40
92
Over 40
86
Education level
Primary
86
Secondary
90
University
93
Household income erase level per person
Less than €320
83
Between €321 and €500
89
Between €501 and €800
92
Over €800
94
Total
91
Number of cases
(675)
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
they took leave possible) and for protecting newborns. A large body
of evidence suggests that babies who do not receive direct care
from their parents during the first twelve months of life are likely to
experience adverse situations in their development (Waldfogel et al.,
2002). The majority of European countries grant parental leave which
ranges from four to six months, although income replacement rates
vary. The inadequate implementation of these initiatives can have
unexpected consequences. Too short a maternity leave cuts off the
benefits intended for mothers and infants prematurely. Faced with
these restrictions, many women prefer to completely abandon the
labour market in order to better care for their children. For example,
in the Netherlands where maternity leave extends four months, 25
percent of women leave the workforce (Gustafsson and Kenjoh,
2004). In Spain, where maternity leave is of a similar duration, women
abandoning the labour market is also high. However, when maternity
leave is too long the human capital of mothers (their knowledge,
competencies and skills) erodes and makes reincorporation into the
labour market difficult (OECD, 2007).
The reforms that encourage fathers to take paternity leave have
been relatively recent in Spain. In our country, working women
(who meet certain minimum established requirements for
eligibility) are eligible for 16 weeks of maternity leave, which can
be transferred in part to the father (up to a maximum of 10 weeks),
with the exception of the first six weeks after birth, which are
available only for the woman. Until three years ago, no paternity
leave existed similar to maternity leave. Men could get two days
off from work for the birth of a child, while women with work
contracts had the right to a leave from work for 16 weeks, as long
as they fulfilled the contributory requirements. Women could
(and still can) give up a part of this leave time (up to ten weeks)
and transfer it to the father. With the recent Law of Equality (March,
2007) a new paternity leave was introduced, fifteen days of leave
from work independent of the mother’s employment status and
that is personal and non transferable to the woman. Thus, a
significant number of the fathers who responded to this survey
were among the first to take advantage of this new measure.
The data analyzed in the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational
Relationships in Childhood reveal that, on average, men take two and
a half weeks of leave and women take 16 and a half weeks, which
is basically the amount of time stipulated by the law. The approval
of this law has brought about a substantial increase in paternity
leave. According to our survey, the proportion of fathers that took
advantage of paternity leave almost quadrupled (increasing from 15
percent to 58 percent). Table 3.4 provides some interesting points
for of reflection to clarify whether the men who take paternity leave
correspond to a specific profile and if this has changed since the law
came into effect. Fathers more often take this new paternity leave,
and in the vast majority of cases shared with their wives, when their
partners work. The beginning of life with a child is an opportunity
for delight that many men do no want to give up, especially with
the firstborn. Data indicate that younger fathers take paternity
leave more often. This tendency consolidates patterns of behaviour
already observed before the law came into effect. Apparently, new
generations of fathers are incorporating innovative behaviours. The
extension of paternity leave represents social support–certainly still
not sufficient–for new masculine aspirations, which distance fathers
from a model which kept them away from witnessing and enjoying
the first days of life with their newborn child.
It is worth noting that the relationship between the variable level of
education and paternity leave has changed since the approval
of the law. Before its approval, the proportion of fathers who took
leave time was much higher among those with university studies.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
Paternity leave has a much shorter history. It is a response to a new
understanding of parenting, which aims to promote a more effective
and balanced participation of fathers in the home environment.
There is growing evidence that suggests that paternity leave
encourages the involvement of fathers in the care of their children
and a more equitable distribution of domestic responsibilities, or at
least it prevents the traditionalization of roles (the accentuation
of differences based on gender) which usually occur after the birth of
children. For example, Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel (2007), using
a sample of longitudinal data of North American families, found that
the probability of the father actively participating in the different
activities related to childcare at the end of the first nine months is
much greater if he has taken two weeks or more of leave time at the
time of birth. Regardless of the strength of the long-term effects,
paternity leave has laid the foundation for a new form of fathering.
opened a door that had been kept closed for one group of fathers
who are now willing to assume new forms of fatherhood.
TABLE 3.4: Fathers who took paternity leave before and after the Law of Equality entered into effect
In percentages. Households with children between 0 and 4 years of age
PATERNITY LEAVE AFTER LAW OF EQUALITY(a)
PATERNITY LEAVE BEFORE LAW OF EQUALITY
Father’s socio-demographic characteristics
Age at fatherhood
19 to 34 years old
61
17
35 to 40
57
15
Over 40
54
8.0
Primary or no education
55
12
Secondary
61
12
University
56
21
Education level
Type of work contract
Employee with permanent contract
64
–(b)
Employee with temporary contract
58
–
Employer or professional with employees
42
–
Self-employed or profession without employees
40
–
17 to 31 years old
65
14
32 to 37
57
15
Mother’s socio-demographic characteristics
Age at motherhood
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
After the law’s approval, other fathers seem to be participating
almost equally in this right. In this sense, the law seems to have
Over 37
52
12
Primary or no education
53
9.6
Secondary
59
15
University
58
17
Working
62
–
Not working
42
–
Child has siblings
53
11
Firstborn child
64
21
Total
58
15
(307)
(67)
Education level
Employment status at time of birth
Household characteristics
Number of cases
Note: a) The Organic Law 3/2007 of 22 March for the effective equality of women and men established a two week paternity leave. b) Less than 20 cases per category.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The results also illustrate that, in spite of the step forward that the
new law meant, economic and employment barriers persist for
many fathers. Fathers who are employed with permanent contracts take advantage of paternity leave to a greater extent than
any other occupational group. They are closely followed by those
with temporary contracts, suggesting that the institutionalization
of the right is not in conflict with business practices that might be
interested in restricting it (covertly or overtly wielding the possibility of not renewing a temporary contract). Businessmen or the
self-employed (with or without employees) are those least likely
to take paternity leave. Doing so for them would entail much higher costs than for other groups.
3.2. Schedules in families with young children
Taking care of children takes time. The time that fathers and
mothers are able to invest in the care of their children depends
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
(Continue)
On the other hand, the dimension of time which orders
events as a succession of activities, each of which occupies a
quantifiable amount of time, does not allow access to certain
social qualities of the phenomenon of caregiving. Some
authors have pointed out that taking care of someone is not
only an activity bounded by time, but it is above all a mental
state (Folbre and Bittman, 2004): implying responsibilities,
organization, continuous availability, and time to be
«attentive to someone.» The tools to gather information on
how time is employed in certain activities also do not reflect
all of the organizing conflicts derived from the necessities of
providing care. There are difficulties in adequately recording
simultaneous tasks or those that are carried out in combination
with other tasks, those in which care is sometimes recorded as
a secondary activity or is not accurately recorded because of
its being considered a normal and undervalued activity.
The Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in
Childhood is not a survey specifically about time use, although
parents were asked about how many hours they spent with their
children the previous day.1 We realize that by only recording the
number of hours parents and children spend together many
of the nuances making up the time parents share with their
children are lost. We did not obtain information on the intensity
of contact or on the specific attention the children receive from
each parent. We could not record the range of gestures that
accompany a shared activity, nor the expression of affection and
feelings to which it gives rise to. But parents’ answers provide us
with a clear picture of the time framework supporting the bond
between parents and children. It is a necessarily incomplete
picture, but one that makes it possible to trace basic patterns
in the management of the care of children and the inequalities in
carrying it out. It has also offered us the opportunity to analyze
subjective perceptions of time in the light of objective dedication.
Our initial objective has been to examine the quantity of time
in hours that mothers and fathers spend with their children differentiating work days and weekends - and the valuation that
they merit. In the analyses we take into account four factors,
commonly cited in the specialized literature, that can condition
shared time: the characteristics of the child (age and sex);
individual characteristics of the parents (sex, education level);
1 Time Use Surveys–which quantify the amount of time members of a household dedicate to different activities
through diaries in which individuals record what they do throughout the day–are without a doubt the best
instrument that the social sciences have to analyze reproductive work. However, despite the methodological
sophistication of these surveys, their usefulness is limited. It is an extremely expensive instrument. Due to the
cost, researchers are not able to adminster them at sufficient intervals to track the changes that take place in the
daily organization of activities and time distribution in households. The last (and only) survey on time use that we
have for Spain was carried out in 2002-2003, which makes it an inadequate instrument to analyze social processes
that are changing continuously and rapidly.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
on objective constraints such as their work schedules or the
availability of services for early childhood care. But equally or more
influential in the time parents dedicate to caring for their children
are their convictions and personal preferences, their attitudes
with respect to gender role distribution and their convictions
related to what a «good childhood» consists of and what role
other social agents (formal and informal) play in achieving this.
Time distribution in attending to and caring for children is a
complicated task which every family carries out as well as it can
and knows how to, primarily (but not exclusively) in the domestic
sphere. Reproductive work takes place within a private context,
which confers an «invisibility» that other sociological phenomena
occurring in the public sphere do not have. This has traditionally
entailed difficulties for its study.
The time that mothers and fathers spend with their children
depends to a great extent on the children’s age. Younger children
need more attention given that can do virtually nothing by
themselves. The majority of younger children spend many hours
under the direct supervision of their parents, whose dedication
to providing care during these years is very intense. Graph
3.2 shows the average amount of time mothers and fathers
are with their children on work days and weekends based on
the age of the child. The first thing that can be seen is that the
patterns of time shared with the child are very different on work
days and weekends. After the first years of life, the time fathers
and mothers dedicate to the child during the week steadily
decreases, coinciding with the majority of children at three or
four years of age entering the school system. In contrast, during
the weekends, the time spent together is high, independent of the
age of the child.
GRAPH 3.2: Average time fathers and mothers spend with children
by child’s age. Week days and weekends
Hours per day. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
NUMBER OF HOURS
14
Week days
Weekends
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
1
2
3
4
0
1
2
3
4
CHILD’S AGE
Father
Mother
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
14
12
10
8
Both during weekdays and weekends, children spend more time
with their mothers than with their fathers. On average, mothers
spend 8.4 hours with their children and fathers 5.7 hours.
Intergenerational time is primarily feminine time during the work
week. The weekend is family time. Therefore, the average difference
in hours that mothers and fathers spend with their children during
the week is almost three hours, while on weekends the difference
Madre
is 1.4 hours. The imbalance between genders is greater in the first
Padre
two or three years of the child’s life, when providing
care continues
to be primarily the mother’s responsibility.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
employment profiles of the couple; and the contribution of
outside caregivers (grandparents, relatives, babysitters).
The employment profiles of the couple are without a doubt the
factor that has the most effect on availability and organization
of time in family life. Thus, on work days, as expected, parents
who work outside the home spend less time with their children
than those who do not. However, on weekends, they seem to
want to compensate for their absence as they invest as much
or more time in their children as parents who do not work
outside the home.
GRAPH 3.3: Average time fathers and mothers spend
The incorporation of women into the paid workforce has not
corrected the gender imbalance in time dedicated to childcare
that is found when only the father works. In families in which both
parents work, mothers continue to spend more time taking care
of the children than does the father, especially on work days: on
average, spending 2.3 hours more per day with the child during
the week than the father. This difference is 4.7 hours more when the
mother does not work. For the mother, having a job means on
average spending almost four hours less in childcare than a
mother who does not work, hours the child is normally with
someone from outside the home. The amount of time fathers
spend with children in homes where the mother works does not
compensate for the hours that the mother is not available. In fact,
there are no differences in the amount of time that fathers spend
with their children in families where the mothers work outside
the home and in those where they do not.
with children by parent’s educational level. Week days and weekends
Hours per day. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
NUMBER OF HOURS
14
Week days
Weekends
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
PRIMARY
SECONDARY
UNIVERSITY
PRIMARY
SECONDARY
UNIVERSITY
PARENT’S EDUCATION LEVEL
Average no. hours father
spends with child
Average no. hours mother
spends with child
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Childhood and Inter and Intragenerational Relationships, 2010.
During weekends, the time that mothers and fathers spend with
their children increases considerably, although independent
of the employment status of the couple, it continues being the
mother who on average dedicates a little more time to being
with the child.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
Besides gender, there is also a series of sociodemographic
characteristics which condition the time parents spend with
their children. Thus, for example, the higher the educational level
of the parent, especially of the mother, the less time spent with
the child. The opportunity cost of spending time with children
is higher for parents with higher levels of education. However,
on weekends practically no differences are seen related to the
educational level of the parents.
GRAPH 3.4: Average time fathers and mothers spend
with children by couple’s employment status. Week days and weekends
Hours per day: Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
NUMBER OF HOURS
14
Week days
Weekends
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
BOTH MEMBERS
OF COUPLE WORK
ONLY FATHER
WORKS
Average time spent
by father
BOTH MEMBERS
OF COUPLE WORK
ONLY FATHER
WORKS
Average time spent
by mother
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Perception of a lack of time together
The vast majority of mothers and fathers value positively the
opportunity to spend time with their children, and they consider
it necessary for the adequate growth and development of their
children. Some authors have pointed out that the cultural standards
that establish the amount of time that is «necessary» for parents to
spend with their children are more demanding today than in the
past, which in context of growing difficulties in reconciling work
and family life can cause frustration and anxiety (Bianchi, 2000; Daly,
2001). Numerous studies have analyzed the time that mothers and
fathers spend with their children and how they organize this time,
but less is known about how they perceive the time they spend
with their children and what factors influence these perceptions.
According to data from The Survey on Inter and Intra-generational
Relationships in Childhood approximately one third of parents
recognize that in general they do not spend enough time with their
children (graph 3.5). There are sharp differences between what
fathers think and what mothers think: almost twice as many fathers
as mothers think that they do not spend enough time with their
children. In fact, there is strong agreement in the figures obtained
when examining self-perceptions and the perceptions of those
interviewed about the time that their partners spend with their
children: 23 percent of the men interviewed think that their partners
do not spend enough time with their children, and 45 percent of
the women think the same of their partners. Thus, there is a shared
and widespread perception among men and their partners that
fathers are not present enough in the lives of their children. The
data about the quantity of time that men and women share with
their children appears to confirm these opinions.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
Our analysis does not show that the help of outside caregivers
(grandparents, other family members, babysitters) has a very
significant influence on the time that parents spend with their
children. On average, mothers dedicated 7.4 hours on work days
when they had outside help available and 8.2 hours when they
did not (which means approximately four hours less by the end
of the work week). Fathers dedicated 4.6 hours daily if there were
outside caretakers and 4.8 hours if there were not.
they spend with their children
Household with children from 0 to 4 years of age
PERCENTAGE
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
MORE THAN ENOUGH
ENOUGH
Father
NOT ENOUGH
Mother
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
We do not know how much time mothers and fathers have to
spend with their children for them to consider it to be «enough»,
but we know the amount of time they usually spend together.
The fathers who responded that, in general, they do not spend
enough time with their children had spent on average 4.2 hours
with them the previous day (if it was a work day). In the case
of mothers, they had spent an average of 6.7 hours with their
children. These differences suggest that there is a significant
imbalance in standards regarding time spent with children
between men and women. Mothers who thought they spent
enough time with their children spent on average 8.4 hours
with them; in other words, a full work day. In contrast, fathers
who felt they spent sufficient time with their children had spent
5.7 hours with them.
The objective amount of time (in hours) that mothers and fathers
spend with their children is not, therefore the only determinant
of perceptions about the adequacy of their dedication. The
probability of mothers thinking they spend insufficient time
with their children is related to individual estimates of what
is appropriate (which are not distributed socially in a uniform
manner) and to cultural expectations (whose influences are
also unequal). The participation of mothers in the workforce,
especially if it is full-time, has a powerful effect on their
perceptions. Women who work tend to be concerned about the
time they dedicate to their children, even though objectively
speaking they spend the same amount of time with them.2
The perception of spending less time than necessary with
children is also more common, all other things being equal,
when the educational level of the woman is lower. It is likely
that women with fewer educational resources question more
the convenience of working, given that the opportunity cost of
doing so is higher. Perhaps their families have a more traditional
idea of the role of the woman, with higher levels of expectations
regarding the amount of time that should be spent with the
children, behaviours that deviate from these expectations being
more severely criticized.
2 Probabilities have been calculated with a logistic regression model, which isolates the statistical effects of the
explanatory variables, controlling for the influence of sociodemographic factors and the number of hours dedicated to their children. The explanatory variables used are indicated in the footnote to graph 3.6.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
GRAPH 3.5: Parent’s evaluation of the amount of time
GRAPH 3.6: Probability of mother believing she does not spend
enough time with her child by different levels of partner’s co-responsibility
Mothers with children from 0 to 4 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.70
0.60
0.50
0.40
0.30
0.20
0.10
0.00
MOTHER DOESN’T WORK,
FATHER’S TIME
INSUFFICIENT
MOTHER WORKS
PART-TIME,
FATHER’S TIME
INSUFFICIENT
MOTHER WORKS
FULL-TIME,
FATHER’S TIME
INSUFFICIENT
MOTHER WORKS
PART-TIME,
FATHER’S TIME
SUFFICIENT
MOTHER WORKS
FULL-TIME,
FATHER’S TIME
SUFFICIENT
Note: The probabilities are calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has
two values: 1) feels she doesn’t spend enough time with her children and 0) feels she spends enough or more than
enough time with her children. The following independent variables have been introduced into the model: child’s
age, mother’s level of education, hours mother spends with child, if child is an only child, if child attends child care
centre, perception of the amount of time father spends with child, mother’s employment status.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
3 In statistical terms, there is an interaction between the effect attributed to the mother’s working hours and the
perception that the mother has regarding the father’s involvement.
Beyond theses aspects, it is necessary to address two other explanatory factors which, have an influence on mothers’ attitudes. On
the one hand, the most «inexperienced» mothers (with only one
child) tend to show more concern about the time they dedicate
to their child (all other things being equal). On the other hand,
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
But the most decisive factor affecting women’s perceptions
about the amount of time they spend with their children is
their perception of the amount of time their partners spend
with the children. Mothers who feel that their partners do not
spend enough time with the children are much more likely to
feel that they also do not, holding all other things constant. In
other words, the perception they have about their dedication
depends to a great extent on what their partner does (or at
least on their perception of this). They are more negative,
regardless of the hours shared with their child, if they feel
that their partner is not involved enough and therefore the
child is not receiving enough attention. The co-responsibility
of the partner also significantly attenuates mothers’ feelings of
guilt for participating in the workforce.3 Working does not
cause mothers great anxiety when there is co-responsibility
(graph 3.6). If women who work full-time have a partner who
is sufficiently involved in the children’s lives, the likelihood of
feeling that they do not dedicate enough time to their children
is similar to that of mothers in traditional situations (mothers
who do not work and have partners who are not sufficiently
involved in their children’s lives).
3.3. The quality of time provided to children
The quality of life in childhood depends to a great extent on the
quality of the interaction between parents and children. Specialized
research points out the volume of time, measured in hours, can,
in general terms, be beneficial for the well-being of the child, but
it is not an adequate indicator to measure the contribution of
the parents to the development of the child’s skills and learning
abilities. The quality of the interactions between parents and
children is a stronger determinant than the quantity of time. The
accumulated evidence is abundant. For example, children exposed
regularly to language stimuli by their mothers during the first years
of life already begin to demonstrate considerable differences in
linguistic competence from those who receive poorer stimulation
(Huttenlocher et al., 1991; Hart and Risley, 1999). Research shows
that stimulation that pursues a response from the child, the
strengthening of appropriate behaviours through expression of
approval and affection, the effort to communicate with the child
from the first months on (inviting the child to say words through
songs or reading aloud) and activities directed toward developing
skills and competencies, all contribute to adequate cognitive and
socioemotional development at this stage (Ramey and Ramey,
2000; Zuckerman and Kahn, 2000). Some studies suggest that
the active involvement of the father is particularly important. In
this vein, a recent study by Bronte-Tinkew et al. (2008), focused
on the analysis of babbling and exploration capacities, showed
that children whose fathers are more involved in their care and
supervision are less likely to suffer cognitive delays. Along with
this work focused on early child development, there is growing
evidence that relates the educational activities of parents with
their children in the first years of life with school performance in
later years (Neidell, 2000; Sylva et al., 2010).
In this section the differences in the types of activities mothers
and fathers do with their children and their intensity are analyzed
in relation to the socioeconomic profiles of the parents. Given
the importance of these activities to the present and future
development of children, this is key to understanding the
mechanisms involved in the reproduction of social inequalities.
Caregiving is a multi-sided activity. It activates diverse faculties and
emotions and can have different objectives as its aim, in isolation
or simultaneously. Caregiving activities have a primary purpose,
which is to offer support to a dependent person, but many times
in the process, other objectives of no less importance are achieved
(either deliberately or as a byproduct of the primary activity):
creating an atmosphere of affection or emotion, educating the
person being taken care of and/or oneself, building bonds of trust,
etc. There are a great variety of typologies for distinguishing and
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
mothers who place their children in early childhood education
centres or day-care do not have more negative perceptions regarding the time dedicated to their children, even when they are
very young (under two years of age). As was noted in the previous
chapter, a growing number of Spanish men and women are not
critical of the idea that a child can commence a «good childhood» spending many hours away from its mother under the care
of childcare professionals. The fact that mothers who place their
children in these centres do not express greater dissatisfactions
regarding the time they dedicate to their children is further proof
of the growing legitimacy given to this strategy.
of three parents. A little more than half the mothers and fathers
state that they take their child for a walk or to the park daily or
almost daily and a similar percentage state that they run errands
with the child. Finally, four out of ten families take their children
to visit relatives daily or almost daily, and a similar proportion do
crafts with their child with this same frequency.
In a questionnaire like ours, which addresses different issues,
the capacity to thoroughly analyze the range and frequency of
possible activities that parents could share with their children is
limited. Our intention has been to confine the analysis to the most
common spaces of intergenerational sociability at the ages we are
examining, and within them the most representative indicators.
Thus, some of the questions in the survey record activities that
require direct, explicit and individualized interaction with the child,
involving intellectual stimulation of the child’s capacities –such as
reading stories, teaching letters or numbers, singing or teaching
songs or doing crafts–, while others capture expressions of love and
affection which the parents express to the child, such as hugging,
kissing or playing. We have also included shared activities that do
not necessarily require direct and explicit interaction between
parents and child, such as visiting relatives, going for a walk or to
the park, and going out with the child to run errands.
GRAPH 3.7: How often parents did different activities with their child
in the previous week
In percentages. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
TOOK CHILD TO VISIT RELATIVES
TOOK CHILD TO THE PARK
TOOK CHILDTO RUN ERRANDS
KISSED, HUGGED, TICKLED CHILD
PLAYED WITH CHILD
DID CRAFTS WITH CHILD
TAUGHT CHILD SONGS OR MUSIC
TAUGHT CHILD LETTERS, WORDS OR NUMBERS
TOLD CHILD A STORY
0
Daily or almost daily
Of all the shared activities from which we obtained information,
two of them–«playing with the child» and «kissing or hugging»–
are daily or almost daily activities among practically all the
mothers and fathers interviewed. The analysis of differences in
frequency of interaction does not yield any significant result
(see graph 3.7). The activities of intellectual stimulation (with the
exception of crafts) are carried out daily or almost daily by two out
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
categorizing the childcare activities that parents do with their
children. Some authors differentiate activities by the purpose
of the interaction (educative, recreational, basic physical care,
etc.), the priority given to the interaction (primary or secondary);
or they distinguish between active care (that involves direct
interaction with the child) and passive care (supervision, control).
10
20
30
At least once
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Not once
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Given the importance of shared activities in the development of the
child, it is key to trace their differentiated prevalence across family
contexts. Our analysis focuses on the influence of two explanatory
Diariamente
Alguna vez Ninguna v
educational resources and who work spend, at the end of the day
(excluding weekends), fewer hours with their children than those
who do not work , which raises the question of the implications
of these patterns for the well-being and development of the child.
TABLE 3.5: How often someone living in household does cognitively stimulating activities with the child, by mother’s education level
In percentages. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
MOTHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
DAILY OR ALMOST DAILY
OCCASIONALLY NEVER
Tells or reads a story
Primary
49
42
9.6
Secondary
62
29
8.7
University
72
20
7.5
Primary
59
31
10
Secondary
67
24
9.3
University
66
24
9.2
Primary
58
34
7.9
Secondary
65
32
3.3
University
64
31
5.2
Primary
39
44
16
Secondary
43
41
16
University
46
42
12
Teaches child letters, words or numbers
Teaches child songs or music
Does crafts with child
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
factors: parents’ educational level and their employment status.
As was seen in the previous section, these are factors with a
significant impact on the number of hours that fathers and,
above all, mothers spend with their children. Parents with greater
Families with lower levels of educational resources are more
prone to create spaces of social interaction between parent and
child which are less intensive. In other words, face to face care
coupled with other activities. For example, in these families it is
more common to go out with the child to visit family or simply
to run errands. In these cases, the interaction with the child is not
the primary or exclusive purpose of the activity (Craig, 2006).
A particularly controversial debate is the possible effects of
women’s paid work on child development. It is often argued
that women who have paid work spend less time with their
children. In light of the data examined, there is no doubt that
those who make this claim are right. However, it seems doubtful
that mothers’ paid work reduces the quality of the bond they have
with their children. Table 3.6 shows that in households where
the mothers work there are the same standards of stimulation
as in those where the mothers dedicate themselves exclusively
to domestic responsibilities. Perhaps we may detect a negative
impact –although slight– in other activities such as visiting family
or time shared with children going out to run errands.
The intensive care given to children in those households where
it occurs tends to be conceived of as a shared activity that both
parents are committed to. In almost half of the households,
men take co-responsibility for these activities, either because
they share equally in them or because they are the ones who
take the initiative. Male involvement is especially important
in homes where the men have university level studies (see
table 3.7). In these households, for example, 43 percent of the
fathers share equally in the activity of reading stories to their
children, and 16 percent of them take primary responsibility.
In homes where the parent has a primary school level of
education, the degree of co-responsibility is less: 29 percent
of fathers participate equally in this activity, and only 8.9
percent take primary responsibility for this task. A more equal
sharing of such activities probably helps increase joint efforts
and therefore leads to greater benefits for the child, as the
father’s level of commitment rises to the standards of the
mother’s, rather than the opposite.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
But the results of our analysis suggest that the time they share with
their children is of a better quality. As can be observed in table
3.5, the level of education of the parents is an explanatory factor
in their involvement in intellectually stimulating activities. Thus, for
example, in two out of three households where the mothers have
university studies, one of the parents reads or tells a story every
day to the children. This does not happen in half of the households
where the mother only has a primary school level education. If we
examine other activities, the differences are smaller, but always in
the expected direction.
TABLE 3.6: How often someone living in household does cognitively stimulating activities and outside activities with the child,
In percentages. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
MOTHER’S EMPLOYMENT STATUS
DAILY or ALMOST DAILY
OCCASIONALLY NEVER
Cognitively stimulating activities
Tells or reads a story
Works
66
27
7.7
Doesn’t work
60
31
9.4
Works
64
26
9.6
Doesn’t work
66
25
9.1
Works
64
31
5.1
Doesn’t work
62
33
4.8
Works
43
44
13
Doesn’t work
44
40
15
Works
57
37
6.0
Doesn’t work
56
39
5.5
Works
41
54
5.6
Doesn’t work
45
51
4.5
Works
49
42
9.6
Doesn’t work
55
36
9.1
Teaches child letters, words or numbers
Teaches child songs or music
Does crafts with child
Activities outside the home
Take child to the park
Takes child to visit relatives
Takes child to run errands
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
by mother’s employment status
TABLE 3.7: Men who take primary responsibility for cognitively stimulating activities or take equal responsibility,
In percentages. Households with children from 0 to 4 years of age
RESPONSIBILITY FOR COGNITIVE ACTIVITIEs
FATHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
PRIMARY
SECONDARY
UNIVERSITY
8.9
13.8
16.1
Both parents equally
29.4
36.9
42.9
Total
38.3
50.7
59
4.1
5.6
6.8
Both parents equally
38.5
48.5
53.8
Total
38.5
48.6
53.9
5.4
5.0
6.3
Both parents equally
33.3
40.9
37.9
Total
33.4
41
38
6.0
7.8
7.8
Both parents equally
30.8
40.1
39
Total
30.9
40.2
39.1
Tells or reads a story
Father does it
Teaches child letters, words or numbers
Father does it
Teaches child songs or music
Father does it
Does crafts with child
Father does it
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
by their educational level
3.4. External childcare
In Spain, where families traditionally have taken on considerable
responsibility in providing well-being, care for the youngest
children has been no exception. As Constanza Tobío (2001) reminds
us, many families in which both parents work have been able to
rely on «substitute mothers» –usually a relative who lives nearby–
to balance work and family life. The transfer of responsibilities of
childcare to relatives –especially grandmothers– has often been
seen as the main resource working mothers count on to take care of
their children (see, for example, Moreno, 2002 and Tobío et al., 2010).
Our survey has corroborated what has so often been proclaimed:
the provision of childcare by available relatives plays an
important role in families’ strategies to combine work and
family life. But we believe that it would now be an exaggeration
to claim, perhaps contrary to what may have happened in the
past, that this is the main conciliation strategy for families.
The data that have emerged from our analysis suggest that
family help is primarily thought of as complementary or for
emergencies, something to address momentary problems that
arise, but it is not available for the majority of families regularly
and systematically. According to the data examined, 55 percent
of the families with children from 0 to 2 years of age have relied
on the help of someone who does not live in the home to take
care of the child within the previous month (table 3.8). Of these,
76 percent were able to count on grandparents, and 17 percent
received help from other relatives. A slightly lower percentage
(9.2 percent) relied on the help of neighbours or friends, and 7.3
percent hired a babysitter. Overvall only 42 percent of families
with children in this age group received help in the previous
month from a grandparent to take care of small children. As
expected, this help is more common when the mother works
and has more intense ties to the labour market.
The data in our survey show that in the majority of cases help is
occasional. Of those families who receive help, 39 percent say
that this help is daily or almost daily, which means 21 percent
of all of the families. In other words, the percentage of families
who regularly have at their disposition «substitute mothers»
is limited. The majority of households must rely on alternative
strategies.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
The results suggest that families where the parents work more intensely compensate for the possible lack of time they can spend
with their children by increasing quality activities with them. Children in the greatest situation of vulnerability are those who live
in homes in which this compensation does not occur. This can happen if the parents’ level of dedication to their jobs is high and/
or they lack the ability to provide this compensatory stimulation.
The majority of experts in early childhood education believe that
in these situations early schooling is highly recommendable, as it
can contribute to reducing cognitive disadvantages before compulsory education begins (Sylva et al., 2010). For this to occur, it is
necessary to provide easy and affordable access to schooling to
those families who most need it and offer enough quality services to guarantee exposure to such cognitive stimulation to children who may not receive it at home.
assistance in the previous month from someone who does not live in the home, by mother’s characteristics
In percentages. Households with children from 0 to 2 years of age
MOTHER’S SOCIODEMOGRAPHIC
CHARACTERISTICS
RECEIVED HELP
RECEIVED HELP FROM GRANDPARENTS
18 to 35 years old
57
46
36 to 40
56
39
Over 40
54
35
Primary or no education
46
36
Secondary
54
40
University
60
47
Mother’s age
Education level
Employment status
In recent years, formal childcare services have become more
important in the provision of early childhood care. According to
data from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (2010), there
were 6,947 early childhood education centres registered in Spain in
the academic year 2009-2010. Between the academic years 20002001 and 2009-2010, the number of children between 0 and 3 years
of age enrolled in centres authorized by the Ministry of Education
multiplied by 3.8, reaching 384,000 children. Enrolment rates have
increased dramatically in recent years, as can be observed in table
3.9, although there continue to be important variations by region:
thus, for example, while more than half of the children in the Basque
Country are enrolled in early childhood education centres, only 2.4
percent are in Castilla-La Mancha (Tobío, 2010). However, experts
in the area believe that the real percentages are higher than those
revealed by official statistics (Balaguer et al., 2004, 2008).
TABLE 3.9: Evolution of enrolment rates in early childhood education
Percentage of children in age group enrolled in school
Works
62
47
AGE
Unemployed
45
35
Under 1
1,1
2,5
4,9
5,6
Inactive
42
33
1 year old
5,4
10,1
17,3
19,8
2 years old
13,4
22,1
32,6
35
3 years old
72,5
94,7
96,8
97,5
Working day
Full-time
61
48
Part-time
65
47
Total of those who received help
55
42
(338)
(258)
Number of cases
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
1997-1998 2002-2003 2006-2007 2007-2008
Source: Datos y Cifras 2009-2010, Ministry of Education.
The data from the survey offers us a description of the patterns of
participation of children from 0-2 years of age in early childhood
education centres based on the testimony of their parents. The results
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
TABLE 3.8: Households that have received some kind of child care
If we disaggregate the figures by age group, we can see that among
families with children between the ages of 0 and 2, 10.3 percent of
children under one year old, 46.1 percent of one year olds and 70
percent of two year olds currently attend day-care or pre-school. The
survey also asked parents of 5 to 10 year olds if their children had
been in day-care or pre-school when they were 0-2 years of age
(based on a larger sub-sample of 1,148 cases). Eleven point nine
percent of these parents stated that their child was in day-care or preschool when he or she was between 0 and 6 months old, 22.8 percent
when the child was 7 months old to one year old, 57.6 percent when
the child was one year old and 61 percent when the child was two
years old. Even though these figures must be read with caution, as
they are based on remembering events from several years before,
the differences with official figures are glaring, and they point in the
same direction as the results analyzing the current data for children
from 0 to 2 years of age. In both cases, the central role of these services
in the provision of childcare in early childhood is confirmed. The
majority of the parents who place their children in an early childhood
education centre or day-care centre count on these services for the
4 The interviewer specified that «regular attendance» means a minimum of once a week during the past month.
care of their children for a significant number of hours. 51 percent
have their children in these centres for more than five hours a day,
and 23 percent for eight hours or more.
The probability of children from 0 to 2 years of age attending a preschool is greater in households where the mother works full-time.
These centres are a crucial instrument for balancing work and family
life in families where both parents have paid employment. But
beyond this, other conditions influence the decision to use these
centres. The main factor is economic (see graph 3.8). Families in
disadvantaged economic sectors are less likely to take their children
to day-care or pre-school, all other things being equal. In other words,
our analysis (based on logistic regression models that control for the
influence of other explanatory factors) indicates that regardless of
the degree of availability of the mother to provide childcare, families
in more precarious economic situations tend to rely less on formal
childcare for children between 0 and 2 years of age.
This may be because some of them count on outside help (from
relatives, neighbours or friends), which makes it unnecessary to
turn to formal childcare services, or it may be because of cultural
resistance to leaving the child in the care of strangers. However,
the analysis (controlling for possible intervening variables) does
not allow us to draw either conclusions. Therefore, the most
plausible explanation is that early childhood education services are
economically inaccessible for many families with lower incomes,
depriving them of a resource which can contribute to resolving their
need to balance work and family life and –as indicated in the previous
section– benefit the cognitive development of their children. This
explanation is consistent with aggregate data published recently
in an OECD report on these issues, which indicates that the cost of
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
of the analysis support the idea that under-reporting of attendance
is a major problem. According to the data from out survey, based on
a subsample of 615 parents of children from 0-2 interviewed during
February 2010, 43.6 percent stated that their children were currently
regularly attending a day-care centre or school for early childhood
education.4 These percentages suggest that a good proportion
of the use of these services is submerged, possibly because of the
existence of unauthorized private centres or because of the use of
«play centres» as spaces which also offer childcare.
GRAPH 3.8: Probability of parents placing children in a nursery
school, pre-school or day are centre, by household income
Households with children from 0 to 2 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.70
0.60
An additional issue with implications for the welfare of children
is the quality of services offered. There are diverse indicators to
measure the quality of day-care centres and pre-schools. The
most frequently used indicator is the ratio between the number
of childcare professionals and children, which offers a simple
indication of the potential level of contact between children
and those responsible for their care. The majority of European
countries have established regulations which centres must
comply with, ranging from five to seven children per childcare
professional. In Spain the ratios are usually higher and are
established by each autonomous community. The data from the
Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood,
based on the responses from parents whose children are in
day-care, indicates that the ratio of seven children per childcare
professional is complied with in only about half of the centres. In
17 percent of day-care centres, the ratio is more than 10 children
per childcare professional.
0.50
0.40
0.30
0.20
0.10
0.00
UP TO €320
PER PERSON
BETWEEN €321
AND €500
BETWEEN €501
AND €800
OVER €800
PER PERSON
MONTHLY INCOME PER PERSON IN HOUSEHOLD
Note: The probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) child currently attends early childhood edication centre and 0) does not attend. The following variables
have been introduced simultaneously into the model: child’s age, mother’s working day, mother’s education
level, level of income per person in the home.
Calcat
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
textos picats
If we use this ratio as an indicator of quality in pre-schools our
analysis does not reveal that children from more disadvantaged
families who are able to take advantage of these services are in
the centres with the worst ratios. The ratio is primarily associated
with the age of the child (as provided for by the corresponding
legislation in each autonomous community). Controlling for this
effect, we find that children whose families have lower income
levels are in schools with a slightly more unfavourable ratio, but
the difference is not statistically significant.
Responses to the survey suggest that in general parents are satisfied
with the pre-schools that they send their children to, without
significant differences related to social background. About nine out
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
services could be prohibitively expensive for less affluent families in
Spain (OECD, 2007: 151-152). According to the data in this report,
in Spain the average monthly cost of childcare for a child 0-2 years
of age in an authorized pre-school is equivalent to 30.3 percent of
the average salary of a worker. For the complete group of OECD countries studied, the figure is 16.3 percent. In the Nordic countries
(Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway), the cost of childcare is
equivalent to 10 percent of average salary.
The data examined demonstrate that the system of provision of
childcare to the youngest children is changing rapidly. In recent
years formal childcare has played a very important role from very
early ages (1 and 2 years of age). We are possibly witnessing the
eclipse of a model in which traditional family mechanisms of
micro solidarity (having «substitute mothers») were effective. The
availability of possible candidates to act as substitute mothers
(primarily grandmothers) has been reduced, in part because of
the growing participation of women in the workforce, and as a
result, their availability to help out has decreased. On the other
hand, it is possible that the increase in the prices of housing in
recent years has pushed many couples to move away from the
areas where their parents and in-laws live, making it difficult
to help out with childcare. To all of this must also be added
the increasing value broad sectors of the population place on the
activities offered to children in pre-school. In this new scenario
formal childcare is slowly becoming the primary resource for
many families to deal with problems balancing work and family.
However, the fact that the solution works for many does not mean
that it is for everyone, nor even the great majority. Our analysis
shows that families with fewer economic resources have more
difficulty in accessing these services. The difficulty of accessibility
5 This information is from the subsample of parents with children from 5 to 10 years of age who had their children in pre-school when they were pre-school age.
has dual implications. On the one hand, it means that the problems
of reconciliation are concentrated in these families, placing them
in nearly impossible situations if they need two incomes (and
therefore, to have both parents working) or because the mothers
do not want to give up their jobs to take care of their children. On
the other hand, it means that pre-school education cannot help
alleviate possible deficits of cognitive stimulation in those families
where, according to the indications of all of the international
studies, such deficits are more common. Not having access to this
schooling means not being able to reduce the gaps in capacities
and skills presented at a very early age by these children and that
will later on affect their academic performance. The children who,
could benefit the most from pre-school education are those with
the lowest levels of participation.
Providing care to children from 0 to 4 years of age
of ten parents interviewed who placed their children in a pre-school
in recent years stated that they were satisfied with the number of
teachers per classroom, their preparation and with the timetable
of the centre.5
As was seen in the previous chapter, the time that parents spend
with their young children is an asset distributed in an unequal
manner. Numerous studies have concluded that the quantity of
time parents spend with their children at an early age, and even
more so the nature of the interaction, positively affect the wellbeing of the child at later stages of his or her life and can be crucial
for the development of personal skills that will facilitate his or her
later insertion into the educational system. During the first years of
life, parental childcare practices and intergenerational interaction
turn out to be crucial for the child’s development, given that the
health and well-being of the child (at the stage of consolidating
physiological and psychological profiles) and the adequate
development of his or her social, cognitive and linguistic skills
largely depend on the dedication and skill of the parents (Waldfogel
et al., 2003; Ramey and Ramey, 2000; Heckman and Lochner, 2000).
In this chapter, we shift our focus to a new stage in children’s lives:
the ages between 5 and 10. During this stage the vast majority
of children are in school, which means that many studies have
focused on what happens within the school context. This is not
the focus of the current chapter. We are convinced that the im-
portance of the intergenerational bond in early childhood does
not outweigh its importance at later stages.
4.1. Parental influence on childhood
Attention and care are crucial in early childhool, but their
benefits are not limited to just these early years. There is
abundant research to suggesting, that the disruption of life
with a parent due to divorce or the death of a parent can lead
to deficits in «the social capital of the family» (that is, reductions
in the quantity and quality of time a child interacts with a
parent), negatively impacting the child’s path of personal and
educational development, which, prior to that may have been
more balanced. In the same way, homes in which frequent and
deep disagreements arise over the education of the children
do not provide a climate conducive for their well-being. The
primary mechanism often invoked to explain these adverse
developments is the weakening of the «social control» that
parents exercise over their children. Social control theories
propose that parental monitoring and supervision of children’s
behaviour and the exercise of authority for educational purposes
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
IV. Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
esteem, self-control, less likelihood of developing behavioural
problems or participating in risky behaviours) than those who
grow up in authoritarian homes (which subject children to a
high degree of supervision and control while not looking after
or ignoring other aspects), permissive homes (with high degrees
of affection and dialogue but little control), or negligent homes
(where control and parental involvement are lacking). In other
words, parental control is beneficial for the child when it is not
overwhelming and is carried out in conjunction with dialogue
and affection between parents and their children.
However, most specialized research coincides in pointing
out that, without denying the need for social control for the
adequate psycho-social development of children, some forms
of control can have negative consequences. There is academic
consensus that the recurring use of coercion by the parents
through physical punishment or psychological manipulation
is damaging to the child and may have consequences in later
stages of development. The exercise of parental control tends
to generate anti-bodies if unconditional obedience is expected,
if it is not accompanied by efforts of persuasion and dialogue,
or if it is exercised in a family climate lacking warmth and
affection toward the child. Since the beginning of the 1970s, a
significant number of studies have consistently shown that socalled authoritative parenting styles, which combine a higher
degree of parental involvement in the life of children with
significant levels of control (although not excessively high) have
beneficial effects on the psycho-social development of children
(Baumrind, 1970; Steinberg, 2001). Children who are raised in
authoritative family atmospheres have more positive values for
a wide range of indicators (such as basic competencies, self-
Beyond parenting styles, there are other important factors in family contexts. Certain socioeconomic characteristics of the parents, such as their educational level, have an important influence
on the educational path of the children. It has been demonstrated
that the level of education of the mother is the main explanatory
variable for the academic performance of children as well as for the
likelihood of the child continuing to study after finishing compulsory education (Marí-Klose et al., 2009; Fernández Enguita, 2010).
The mechanisms for the transmission of these advantages are increasingly known. Some families have greater capacity than others
to provide resources that facilitate educational success, but not all
resources have the same value. Economic resources, for example,
have limited importance. More affluent families can make investments in their children’s education that are not possible for disadvantaged families. But this investment explains only a small part
of the variability in educational outcomes. The evidence is quite
conclusive that the most decisive resources to explain educational
achievement are related to the more intangible qualities of families, often described as their cultural capital (DiMaggio and Mohr,
1982; Esping Andersen, 2009). Cultural capital includes knowledge
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
are fundamental for the successful socialization of the child. They
curb the indiscrimate needs and desires of the infantile ego,
favour the internalization of rules and expectations and help
to separate children from harmful influences (see formulations
of this theory in Hetherington, 1979; McLanahan and Bumpass,
1988). From this point of view, the «parenting from a distance»
by the parent who does not live with the child, or conflicts
caused by differences between parents about how to raise the
child can erode the bases of parental authority and hinder
the exercise of adequate levels of supervision and control.
4.2. Joint activities
It is a truism that parents seek their children’s well-being. It
is widely agreed that parents have to spend time with their
children to achieve this goal, but they find it very difficult to do
so. Frequently we hear parents complain that their obligations
keep them from fulfilling their desire to spend more time with
their children. Some fathers and many mothers end up having to
adapt their work to family life. From many different institutions,
work schedules that are compatible with family needs are being
demanded, and governments are taking action on the matter by
adopting more or less ambitious measures in order to facilitate
balancing work and family. However, when asked directly, only a
minority of parents concede that the amount of time they spend
with their children is not enough. In our Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood, 17 percent of mothers
of children between the ages of 5 and 10 and 35 percent of the
fathers considered the amount of time to be insufficient.
The emergence and growth of concern about the amount of
time parents dedicate to children is in part related to the drastic
increase of women in the workforce and to mothers continuing
to work after giving birth. This trend, accompanied by the
growing residential autonomy of seniors, has deprived families
of their primary source of childcare in an (extended) familybased system–that is, one based on mothers and grandmothers
providing childcare–without, apparently, having anyone to
substitute for them. The fear of the void these women have left
in the home has combined with and been reinforced by other
contemporary fears: childhood obesity (caused, according to
some discourses, by food not being prepared at home or parents’
excessive tolerance of their children’s dietary whims), the concern
caused by discipline problems at an early age (whose source is
seen to be the erosion of authority in the home) and school failure
(in the view of many, rooted in the parents’ lack of involvement in
the formal education of their children).
However, as we pointed out in the previous chapter, the reality is
somewhat more complex than suggested by these discourses. The
socioeconomic processes that can have negative repercussions on
parents being able to dedicate time to their children are offset by
other processes– which usually do not receive as much attention–
that counter the more harmful effects of the former. This second
package of social processes includes sociodemographic tendencies
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
and competencies in matters that the school converts into learning objectives. In turn, this allows parents to offer their children
continuous support–but also, a capacity to transmit skills, habits
and evaluation criteria that increase the productivity of their children in school. Families with greater cultural capital are more able
to interact with their children through intellectually stimulating
activities, reading to them, talking to them about a wide range of
issues, or guiding them more effectively in order to develop their
creativity (with educational games, teaching them to draw, doing
crafts, etc.). Children who belong to these families internalize values and work habits that are valued by their teachers, and they
better understand what the school expects from them at every
step (Farkas et al., 1990). Learning the value of education at home
and recognizing prestigious aesthetic and artistic experiences
(such as reading, visiting museums or playing an instrument) facilitate their adaptation to the school culture, where these attitudes
and predispositions are rewarded (Lareau, 2000).
(a) Education
Studies published in the United States have demonstrated that
parents with higher levels of education tend to sacrifice personal
time in order to spend more time with their children (in spite of
greater time spent in paid jobs) and to invest this time in activities
that are more enriching for the children than parents with only
primary school education. Thanks to the extraordinary increase
in the educational level of the population that took place in the
second half of the twentieth century, in aggregate terms there
has hardly been a change in levels of parental involvement in
providing care to their children (Sayer et al., 2004). There is no
evidence suggesting that this pattern cannot be extrapolated
to our country, although we do not have longitudinal data to
confirm it. The educational expansion in Spain in recent decades
has been extraordinary, especially among women. Thus, while
in the cohort born in the post-war period (1941-1950), who had
their children approximately 25-35 years later (around the time of
the transition to democracy), 13 percent of the women graduated
from high school, and 10 percent had university degrees, while
in the cohort born thirty years later (1971-1980), 71 percent of
women graduated from high school, and 45 percent had university
degrees (Marí-Klose et al., 2009: 193). The children of this new
cohort are growing up in completely different family settings: a
significant proportion of mothers and fathers are clearly aware of
the benefits of investing time in their children.
Data from our survey reveal results that point in this direction.
The additional years mothers spend in the educational system
moderates the effect working outside the home has on the
amount of time dedicated to their children. The following tables
contrast the degree of parental involvement in children’s lives
based on a number of indicators among three different groups
defined by educational level. First of all, we map the participation
of all the family members in a daily activity, such as meals, which
gives children and parents the opportunity to communicate and
exchange experiences throughout the day in a structured way that
favours face-to-face intergenerational interaction. Secondly, we
analyze two activities that involve intense interaction within the
home and two activities of lower intensity carried out outside
the home. Finally, we examine the subjective perceptions of
mothers and fathers with respect to their own degree of involvement
and that of their partner (understanding degree of involvement as
the time that each one spends with the child, cares for him or her,
takes care of his/her needs and pays attention to him or her).
At first glance, table 4.1 suggests that in the households where
the mothers have a higher educational level, the children do not
have more opportunities to spend time with their parents at meal
times, but the data merit a closer look. A higher proportion of
children with university educated mothers have breakfast with
their parents every day or almost every day, but the percentage
of those who never do is also slightly higher. A significantly
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
(or «compositional» changes) and cultural changes (which affect
the behaviour of parents). The first of these that must be pointed
out is the overall increase in parents’ educational levels. Regarding
cultural changes, it is necessary to mention, on the one hand, the
consolidation of new models of parenting, and on the other, new
«processes of choosing» fatherhood/motherhood that tend to
separate out from this experience those individuals who are less
willing to make sacrifices for a child.
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
MOTHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
DAILY OR
OCCASIONALLY
ALMOST DAILY
NEVER Total
100
odss RATIO(a)
ODDS adjusted
RATIO(b)
(312)
1
1
NUMBER OF CASES
Breakfast
Primary
20
71
8.9
Secondary
24
64
11
(472)
1.25
1.29
University
31
55
14
(363)
1.41*
1.62*
Primary
48
48
3.4
Secondary
40
57
2.4
0.71*
0.59**
University
24
70
5.6
0.36***
0.89
Primary
84
15
1.3
Secondary
81
18
University
82
15
Lunch
100
1
1
Dinner
100
1
1
1.5
0.81
0.86
2.8
0.76
0.78
* Significance level of 5%.
** Significance level of 1%.
*** Significance level of 1‰.
Note: a) logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two values: 1) eating breakfast,lunch and dinner together daily and 0) not doing so daily. b) In the adjusted model, in addition to controlling for the mother’s
education level, the mother’s employment status is also controlled for.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
lower percentage of children of mothers with university degrees
have lunch with their parents every day or almost every day,
and the same percentage has dinner with their parents. These
figures can be explained in part by the greater dedication to
paid work among mothers with a higher level of education
(and possibly of their partners as well). Thus, to measure their
effort it is necessary to determine the probability adjusted to
their work circumstances and that of their partners (in other
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
TABLE 4.1: Frequency of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together, by mother’s education level
the workforce, no statistically significant differences are then
observed with the households where the mother has a primary
school education. The probability of having dinner together is
the same for both groups.
Table 4.2 provides information on activities that involve a higher
degree of cognitive stimulation and individualized interaction.
Results suggest that there are significant differences in the
number of parents who read stories to their children daily or
TABLE 4.2: How often someone living in the household does cognitively stimulating activities with the child, by mother’s education level
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
MOTHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
DAILY OR
ALMOST DAILY
OCCASIONALLY
NEVER Total
100
ODDs RATIO
ODDS ajusted
RATIO
Tells or reads a story
Primary
50
30
19
1
1
Secondary
58
25
17
1.35*
1.45*
University
64
20
15
1.79***
1.96***
Primary
32
54
14
1
1
Secondary
31
57
12
0.94
1.15
University
33
54
13
1.03
1.35
Does crafts
100
* Significance level of 5%.
** Significance level of 1%.
*** Significance level of 1‰.
Note: a) logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two values: 1) doing cognitively stimulating activities daily or almost daily and 0) not doing them daily. b) In the adjusted model, in addition to controlling for the
mother’s education level, the mother’s employment status is also controlled for.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
words, all other things being equal). The last column in the table
indicates the odds ratio of being together every day or almost
every day (versus not being together) when, in a multivariable
model, we control for the time dedicated to employment. The
adjusted results confirm that in households where the mother
has a university degree the adjusted probability of having
breakfast together is higher. The probability of having lunch
together is lower, but once we control for the effects that must
be attributed to mother’s and their partner’s participation in
The following table shows the involvement of mothers and
fathers in joint outings with their children which involve parental
supervision, but that are not necessarily activities involving
cognitive stimulation. The results suggest that these activities
(especially visiting relatives) are more common among families with
lower educational levels. The multivariable analysis demonstrates
that these differences persist basically intact when we control for
levels of participation of parents in the workforce.
TABLE 4.3: How often someone living in the household does outdoor activities with the child, by mother’s education level
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
MOTHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
DAILY OR
ALMOST DAILY
OCCASIONALLY
Primary
40
56
3.5
Secondary
30
64
5.3
0.65**
0.67*
University
27
67
6.6
0.55***
0.58**
Primary
50
42
7.1
1
1
Secondary
46
47
6.4
0.84
0.92
University
44
49
6.9
0.78
0.92
NEVER Total
ODDS RATIO
ODDS ADJUSTED RATIO
Takes child to visit relatives
100
1
1
Takes child for a walk or to the park
100
* Significance level of 5%.
** Significance level of 1%.
*** Significance level of 1‰.
Note: a) Logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two values: 1) Doing cognitively stimulating activities daily or almost daily and 0) not doing them daily. b) In the adjusted model, in addition to controlling for the
mother’s education level, the mother’s employment status is also included in the model.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
almost daily based on the parents’ level of education, but no
differences are observed in the number that do crafts with their
children. Multivariable analyses confirm that, with employment
conditions being equal, the mother’s level of education increases
the relative probability that stories are read daily or almost daily
in the home, but the adjustment does not translate into significant
statistical differences in the probability of doing crafts (although
this increases slightly).
(b) New models of fatherhood
In recent years, diverse studies have confirmed that although
women continue to assume most of the domestic responsibilities,
in a growing number of households they are almost equally
distributed. The roots of this equalizing process are difficult
to trace. The first sign of changes ahead is found in the recent
change in attitudes of men toward the division of gender roles
in the family. The magnitude of the changes is obvious in table
4.4, which gathers an historic series of data on the same indicator
from different studies carried out by the Centre for Sociological
Research (CIS). In 1990, 42 percent of men in Spain opted for a
symmetrical model for the division of gender roles, whereas in
2004 the percentage had gone up to 66 percent. In less than two
decades, the equitable model had clearly been imposed as the
ideal over the traditional model.
Needless to say, discourse is usually ahead of reality. The change in
men’s attitudes has created divisions in many households between
their orientations and their effective participation in domestic
responsibilities. The family in which the man does not do any
domestic chores is now unusual. According to a recent study on
young couples (Iglesias de Ussel et al, 2009:177), only in 20 percent
of the households do men spend less than a fifth of the time their
partners do on domestic tasks. But in the majority of cases important
inequalities persist in the division of domestic responsibilities, and
this is often the case even in the households where the man claims
to believe in equal roles. Changes have come slowly and unequally,
but there is no doubt that they have taken place in many households
and deserve a closer examination.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
The most significant differences appear when subjective
perceptions are analyzed. Women with higher educational levels
are more likely to respond that they are very involved in their
children’s lives. They are also more likely to see their partners as
«very involved.» This perception does not seem particularly
justified based on the amount of time and activities they share
with their children in comparison to the groups with lower
levels of education, as the results suggest that there are no
marked differences. One possible explanation is that the high
assessment of their involvement in their children’s lives reflects
in part the effort required to reconcile this involvement with
their work. Maintaining the standards of involvement socially
expected from a «good mother» demands extra effort on the
part of mothers who work, mothers who perhaps have more
ambitious professional goals than those with lower levels of
education and less attractive employment prospects. The
adjusted probabilities examined point in this direction. When
we control for the degree of parent’s participation in the labour
market, the probability that they will have breakfast with their
children, read them stories and do crafts with them daily or
almost daily is greater; the probability that they will have lunch
or dinner with their children or that they will go to the park
with them is the same. Only the probability that they will visit
relatives is lower. An alternative possibility is that mothers
evaluate in an especially positive way the quality of this
involvement because they understand that through their effort,
they will be able to transmit advantages (cultural capital)
to their children. In this case, the «degree of involvement» would
have less to do with the quantity of time invested than with an
evaluation of its quality.
for division of responsibilities by gender in the family
In percentages
MODEL OF IDEAL FAMILY(a)
1990
1994
2004
2010(b)
Single breadwinner model
29
25
17
13
Unbalanced two breadwinner model
24
21
14
15
Balanced model
42
50
66
69
Don’t know/No answer
5.0
4.0
3.0
1.7
Other
Total
Number of cases
1.2
100
(1,260)
(1,184)
(1,203)
(1,223)
Note: a) The question asked was: «Nowadays there are different kinds of families. Of the three possibilities, could
you tell me which is closest to your ideal of the family?» The three types of families considered in the question
correspond to the following categories:
– Single breadwinner model: a family in which only the man works outside the home and only the woman takes
care of domestic tasks and cares for the child/children.
– Unbalanced model with two breadwinners: a family in which the woman works fewer hours outside the home and
therefore, has more domestic and child care responsiblities.
– Balanced model: a family in which both the man and the woman work fewer hours outside the home and divide
the domestic responsiblities and child care.
b) In the 2010 survey the possible answers were formulated in a slightly different way without specifying the sex
of the couple who occupied the role in the different models. It also included an additional possible response:
«None of these types of families.»
Source: Data from the Center for Sociological Research, from 1990, Study 1,867; from 1994, Study 2,107; from
2004, Study 2,556 and from 2010, Study 2,831.
In this sense, it is necessary to point out that, based on diverse
quantitative and qualitative studies published in Spain, the
involvement of the father in caring for the children seems to
be significantly greater than in other areas of domestic
responsibilities (Brullet and Roca, 2008; Iglesias de Ussel, et al.,
2009). Some research has ventured to highlight the appearance
of men who fully share responsibilities in caring for the children
with their partners. In this vein it is worth looking at the study
of Inés Alberdi and Pilar Escario (2007). In an excellent qualitative
study on new attitudes and identities among young middle
class fathers (elaborated based on eleven focus groups), the
authors described three profiles of fathers committed to
the care of their children: 1) the intense father, fully dedicated
to the care of his children, equally or more so than the mother;
2) the responsible father, who wants to share equally with the
mother the responsibilities for and care of the children, and 3)
the adaptive or complementary father, who rejects the
traditional model and supports the mother from the outside
in everything she needs, but believes that men cannot replace
the preeminent role of the mother in the relationship with the
children.
It is not possible to create a typology like that of Alberdi and
Escario from the indicators in our survey, and our approach
in no way captures the wealth of nuances Alberdi and Escario
proposed. A similar intention is far from our reach. But we believe
that the indicators of our survey provide an approximate idea of
the numerical importance of the phenomena of new fatherhood.
The following classification is based on the responses of mothers
with children from 5 to 10 years of age to four questions: 1) What
is your level of involvement in your child’s life?; 2) And the level
of involvement of the father?; 3) Do you consider the amount of
time you spend with your child to be more than enough, enough
or not enough?; 4) And the amount of time the father spends
with the child? The classification is based on the opinions of the
mothers who responded to the questionnaire both for sampling
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
TABLE 4.4: Evolution in male opinions about the ideal model
To create typologies we take into account the absolute position
of the father (in other words, his degree of involvement and
participation in terms of time in caring for his child) as well as his
relative position (in relation to his partner). In our classification,
if the mother responded that the father «is very involved» and
spends «more than enough» time with the child, this is categorized
as «intense fatherhood.» If the mother states that her partner is
a «very involved» father who dedicates «enough time» to the
child, we also categorize this as intense fatherhood, as long as
the mother is not «very involved» and does not dedicate «more
than enough» time to the child (and is, therefore, more involved
in caring for the child than the father). In such a case, we identify
this as «responsible fatherhood.» «Responsible fatherhood» also
includes fathers who are «quite involved» and who spend enough
time with their children. Fathers who are «quite involved» but
who do not spend enough time with their children and whose
partners are primarily responsible for them, are categorized as
«adaptive.» We have created two additional categories in order
to cover the full range of possible situations. «Pre-disposed»
fatherhood refers to those fathers who are judged to be «very
involved» by the mother but who do not spend enough time
1 Thus, 51 percent of the men considered themselves to be «very involved» in the life of their child, but only 41
percent of the women categorized their partners’ level of involvement in this way. However, the men were more
likely to evaluate the time they spent with their children as not enough. 35 percent responded in this way. Only 17
percent of the women saw it in this way.
with their children, presumably because of things outside of their
control. «Traditional» fatherhood includes all those cases of little
or no involvement by the father and in which the mothers are
«very» or «quite» involved. Finally, there is also another category
which includes all of the cases in which both the mother and father
present low levels of involvement and dedication of time: these
fathers we have designated as «uncommitted.» The percentage
distribution of fathers is the following:
GRAPH 4.1: Types of fatherhood
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
Adaptive
Traditional
19.8
12.8
Uncommitted
Predisposed
Intense
10.2
6.7
6.5
Responsible
43.9
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The results show that around half of the fathers fit into the
categories of intense (6.7 percent) or responsible (43.7 percent)
fatherhood. The rest are distributed among the other modalities.
In 19.8 percent of the homes, the mothers carry the weight of the
responsibility for raising the children though with some help from
the father (adaptive fatherhood). In 12.8 percent of homes, the
division of responsibilities is traditional: male support is scarce or
does not exist. In 10.2 percent there is a predisposed fatherhood,
Adaptativa
Predispuesta
Responsable
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
reasons (they constitute a sufficient number) and because of
our understanding that men’s answers could be influenced by
a tendency towards providing socially desirable responses. The
answers of the men tended to be more indulgent with their level
of involvement in the life of their child.1
Tables 4.5 and 4.6 give us an idea of the impact of the transition
from the family with a traditional division of domestic
responsibilities to other family types in which intense, responsible
and predisposed fatherhood models have become more
common. In homes with these kinds of fathers, the children enjoy
TABLE 4.5: How often someone living in the household does cognitively stimulating activities with the child, by types of fatherhood
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
TYPES OF FATHERHOOD
DAILY OR ALMOST DAILY
OCCASIONALLY
NEVER Total
NUMBER OF
CASES
100
(139)
Reads or tells a story
Intense
63
19
17
Responsible
62
22
16
(474)
Predisposed
64
23
14
(136)
Adaptive
54
22
24
(157)
Traditional
57
28
15
(108)
Uncommitted
47
29
24
(73)
Intense
38
50
12
Responsible
27
59
14
Predisposed
38
56
6,3
Adaptive
32
50
18
Traditional
34
54
12
Uncommitted
27
53
20
Does crafts
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
100
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
formed by fathers whose partners describe them as «very involved»
but who do not dedicate enough time to their children. In 6.4
percent of households, the mothers describe their partners as not
very involved and not spending much time with their children
(uncommitted), but they see themselves in the same way.
TABLE 4.6: How often someone living in the household does outside
activities with the child, by types of fatherhood
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
TYPES OF FATHERHOOD
DAILY OR OCCASIONALLY NEVER
ALMOST DAILY
Takes child to visit relatives
Intense
40
56
3.8
Responsible
34
61
5.0
Predisposed
41
53
6.3
Adaptive
28
66
5.2
Traditional
35
58
7.0
Uncommitted
39
55
5.9
Intense
56
37
7.7
Responsible
48
44
8.2
Predisposed
50
45
5.0
Adaptive
45
48
7.7
Traditional
45
48
7.0
Uncommitted
37
55
7.8
Takes child for a walk or to the park
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The analysis presented in this section questions the assumption
that the weakening of the traditional family threatens intergenerational interactions between parents and children. The fear of the
void left in the home when mothers work (or when grandmothers
do not live near their daughters) has fed exaggerated concerns.
Certainly, the increase in mothers working outside the home represents a challenge to maintain standards for care and attention
provided to children. But the data suggest that the majority of
families facing this situation resolve the difficulties that arise without the time and opportunities for intergenerational interaction being affected. It is an error to assume that more hours spent
by parents working means less of an investment in providing care
to their children. In recent years historic changes of great significance have taken place which have led parents to strengthen
their commitment to their children, even in families in which the
time pressures are great. Thus, the increase in the educational levels of the parents and the consolidation of new models of being
a «good father» are opening new outlooks for building intergenerational bonds in the home. We are seeing the formation of a
new logic regarding parental responsibility, more equitable and
informed than that which sustained past models, which is enough
(and even more than enough) to prevent the erosion of intergenerational bonds which could otherwise be caused by the increased participation of women in the workforce.
4.3. Managing the expression of affection and disapproval
In modern societies, the family and especially the intergenerational
bond, is associated with love and tenderness. To get to this point
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
the same or greater opportunities for intergenerational interactions
thanks to both parents’ commitment and dedication of time,
which compensates for the possible deficits created by their
greater involvement in their professions.
differences by sex: 31 percent of the women said they did this
more often; 67 percent said this was done equally by both parents
and only 2.9 percent said that their partners did this more often.
In contrast, when the men were asked, the response was slightly
different: 8.3 percent recognized that their partner expressed
affection more often; 82 percent stated that it was equal and 9.3
percent believed that they expressed affection more often.
TABLE 4.7: Who cuddles with the child (hugs and kisses) more often,
by types of fatherhood
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
In our society the norm that requires mothers and fathers to
shower their children with expressions of tenderness is very
strong. This figures in the forefront of any prescription for good
parenting. It is a norm that is beyond question and to do so invites
suspicion. Perhaps because of this, when questioned about how
often someone in the home «has kissed, hugged, or tickled» the
child, 97 percent of the mothers and fathers interviewed in
the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood
said that this happened daily or almost daily, without our being
able to differentiate the responses of men and women. This is an
example of a «desirable» answer, which almost certainly does not
reflect the reality for many parents. However, when asked who
lavished this kind of attention most often, there emerged clear
2 In fact, the social historian Edward Shorter (1977) is the author of a classic book that suggests that before the
19th century in Europe, the treatment of children by their mothers was usually rough and insensitive. Far from the
maternal instincts that children awaken in mothers today, the women of the 17th and 18th centuries showed little
interest in the welfare of their children, did not attend to their cries, bound them from their feet to their shoulders
so they could not move, and when possible, they would send them away for long periods of time to wet nurses
who would raise them with their own children. The experience of motherhood did not represent something special, which merited greater dedication and effort in the lives of those mothers.
TYPES OF
FATHERHOOD
FATHER
MOTHER
BOTH EQUALLY
Intense
7.9
11
81
Responsible
4.0
16
80
Predisposed
2.5
31
67
Adaptive
1.9
64
34
Traditional
6.6
19
74
Uncommitted
9.7
19
71
Total
4.8
23
72
Note: The responses are from the mothers.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Despite the differences which appear in the survey, the results are
clear that in the majority of households the man participates actively
in the framework of affection and emotions that is woven around
the child. This emotional involvement is found across all social
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
the evolution of attitudes and practices have been extraordinary.
As the historian Philippe Ariès pointed out in his classic work
Centuries of Childhood (1960), for many centuries children were
not the object of any special sort of sentimental treatment. Far
from what one might imagine, the expression of affection toward
children–kisses, hugs, caresses, etc.–was not a universal practice or
a core assumption of the successful socialization of any civilization.
Maternal and paternal love, as understood today, was an unknown
sentiment in the majority of human societies in the past.2 It is a social
construction that nowadays has acquired a social importance that
it did not have in our own country just a few decades ago.
Expressions of tenderness are only one side of the emotional
dynamics between fathers and children. Educating the child
demands placing limits, controlling their indiscriminate needs and
demands and channelling their behaviour in a manner that is
conducive to a positive family atmosphere and the child’s learning.
Instilling habits and values is not an easy task. It requires dedication
and consistency. There are no recipes that always work, but there are
common experiences that most parents go through sooner or later.
Socialization strategies among parents include communication as
well as rewards and punishment. Differences lie in the importance
that is given to each of these ingredients. Not long ago in Spain,
parental socialization in traditional homes (which constituted the
majority) was based on authoritarianism and a division of roles in
the provision of reward and punishment. The father imposed the
rules hardly providing explanations or taking into account the child’s
arguments or ideas. When the rules were broken, fathers restored
balance through reproach or punishment, including corporal
punishment. The mother’s role was more ambiguous and limited.
Usually without questioning the father’s authority, she often
specialized in giving positive reinforcement to the child which at
times contributed to containing the more despotic forms of authority
exercised by the father.
Times have changed, and with them, the attitudes of Spaniards
toward dialogue with their children and the administration of
punishment. We live in a democratic society where dialogue and
negotiation are highly appreciated values. Dialogue is especially
important in spaces where an authoritarian logic previously
prevailed, such as in intergenerational relationships. The vast
majority of people consider dialogue to be a necessary and effective
instrument to raise their children. According to the work of Iglesias
de Ussel et al. (2009:90), already introduced elsewhere in this volume,
82 percent of young adults who live with a partner agree or totally
agree that «if you explain things, all children will understand their
parents’ reasoning.» In this same study, the authors found that only
5 percent agreed with the old adage, «Spare the rod, spoil the child.»
However, there is also a clear awareness of the importance of
discipline. In the study, 80 percent of young people living with a
partner agreed with the idea that discipline is the key to success
in education. Asked to rate the importance of discipline as a
quality that parents try to inculcate in their children, the Spanish
gave it, on average, an 8.6 (on a scale of 1 to 10). It was rated
slightly lower by younger people: those 35 and under rated it at
8.3, while those 65 and over rated it 9.2. Even so, the rating remains
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
groups (defined by educational level, income and age of the
parents), but not among all styles of fatherhood. In this area, our
analysis found great differences in the role of fathers in these spaces
of intimacy. Fathers who practice new models of parenting (intense
or responsible) have commitments similar to those of their partners.
As Alberdi and Escario also point out in their study, these new fathers
harbour the desire to overcome the old discourses and habits that
associated fatherhood with the exercise of power and a certain
emotional distance from the children. They have opted instead
for a deepening of emotional relationships through an initial
physical communication with their child (through hugging, kissing,
caressing) and the hope of maintaining an emotional and intellectual
closeness later on in subsequent stages of the child’s development.
The data show the limited role of the traditional father in these
spaces. In households where fatherhood follows traditional forms,
the mother is clearly the primary provider of affection.
TABLE 4.8: Opinions on the best method to raise children, by age groups
In percentages
AGE
FROM 18 FROM 35 FROM 50 OVER TO 34
TO 49 TO 64
65
It is better to reward good behaviour than to spank
Tend to agree
83
86
80
77
Tend to disagree
9.7
5.9
9.5
11
Neither agree or disagree
You have to teach children to obey from an early age, even if it means punishing them
Tend to agree
7.0
8.4
11
12
58
58
64
69
Tend to disagree
31
34
24
20
Neither agree or disagree
11
7.5
12
12
Tend to agree
49
57
71
77
Tend to disagree
41
35
22
18
Neither agree or disagree
9.4
8.5
7.0
4.6
A spanking at the right moment can avoid bigger problems
Source: Based on data from Study 2,621, CIS 2004.
3 Spaniards gave it greater importance than other qualities. For example, sensitivity received an average
rating of 8.3; simplicity, 8.2; a sense of thrift, 8; imagination, 7.9; independence, 7.7; competitiveness, 7.1;
leadership, 6.5 and religiousness, 5.9. Evidently, the distribution of values is not the same with all of the variables.
The most legitimate manner to achieve this objective is to reward
appropriate behaviour. 82 percent of the Spanish under 50 years
of age agree that «it is better to reward appropriate behaviour
than to spank» (CIS Study 2,621, 2005). But this does not mean
completely giving up the use of punishment. The majority of
young adults in Spain (around 58 percent) believe that it is
necessary to teach children to obey, even if it is by punishing.
Around half of parents accept the use of mild forms of physical
wpunishment (spanking).
Table 4.9 presents a picture of the use of reward and punishment
to deal with the behaviour of their 5 to 10 year olds. In the survey
there is a battery of questions asking parents about their actions
during the week prior to the interview. The answers reveal a range
of considerable activity. The vast majority of families employed
various actions directed toward getting the child to conform to
parental expectations. The strategy utilized most frequently was
positive reinforcement: congratulating the child for doing a good
job. This, as we have seen, is considered the most legitimate
strategy to discipline, and therefore, there is the risk of answers
being influenced by a tendency to provide socially desirable
responses. It is also necessary to highlight the high number of
parents who ask their children to think about their behaviour,
which indicates a high propensity to trust in the child’s capacity
to reason in response to an explanation. Young parents understand
that their child must be treated as an active subject who can
respond constructively to parental disapproval.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
consistently high.3 Discipline does not have to mean unconditional
obedience. The majority of parents want to build relationships
with their children based on affection and dialogue, but in which
the children follow codes of acceptable behaviour.
In percentages. Household with children from 5 to 10 years of age
FREQUENCY
DAILY
almost daily
OCCASIONALLY
NEVER
Congratulate child on doing things well
43
37
20
0.5
Give child time to reflect on what he/she has done
26
20
49
4.0
Raise voice or shout at child
10
17
64
8.4
Threaten to punish child
10
13
62
15
Punish child (has to stay in his/her room, not allowed
to watch TV,use computer or play videogames)
2.4
4.4
73
20
Spank child
0.2
0.1
36
64
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The least used resource for disciplining is «spanking.» Even so,
36 percent of parents recognized that they had done this in the
previous week. This is a high figure, but it is plausible. This rate
is not far from results obtained in previous surveys in Spain, as
well as in other developed societies (e.g. Save the Children, 2005).
But in light of the plurality of attitudes of Spaniard families
towards punishment, these figures corroborate the general
belief that such practice is not widespread. The Survey on Inter
and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood provides a
unique opportunity to determine the social place of physical
punishment based on a representative sample of Spanish
families with children between 5 and 10 years of age.
A number of nationally representative studies–fundamentally in
Anglo-Saxon countries–that have analyzed the use of corporal
punishment by parents have come to a series of common
conclusions. The first is that the use of corporal punishment
tends to be more common when it occurs under the umbrella of
social norms and values that view it as legitimate and effective.
Since 2007, in Spain these norms and values have lost legal
protection. Corporal punishment in the home was prohibited by
an amendment to the Civil Code in 2007. In its article 154, the Code
had previously recognized the «right» of parents and guardians
to utilize «reasonable and moderate» forms of «correction.»
The data presented in tables 4.8 and 4.9 suggest that the legal
reform reflects only partially what has occurred in the terrain
of attitudes and practices of the Spanish population. Corporal
punishment in its more «reasonable and moderate» versions
continues to figure in the catalogue of admissible strategies to
socialize children, although its legitimate use is reserved only
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
TABLE 4.9: How often parents used reward and punishment in the previous week
A second set of possible factors determining the use of corporal
punishment, according to the literature, are certain parental
profiles. Researchers on these issues have not found a strong
relationship between the educational level or the economic
situation of the parents and the use of corporal punishment, except
in situations of extreme precariousness (Dietz, 2000; Giles-Sims
et al., 1995). Instead, the research demonstrates the importance
of parenting styles (Simons et al., 1994; Socolar and Stein, 1995).
In these studies, corporal punishment is more common among
families that neglect other dimensions in the child’s education and
development, all other things being equal. For example, Grogan,
Kaylor and Otis (2007) found a negative relationship (statistically
significant) between activities of cognitive stimulation and
resorting to corporal punishment.
A third group of factors includes the behaviours and characteristics
of the child. Obviously, corporal punishment usually arises in
response to the child’s behaviour. It is not surprising that the
statistical models tend to show that children who, in the eyes of
the parents, are frequently conflictive or simply hard to control
are more likely to face corporal punishment, while those who are
more passive are less so (Grogan-Kaylor and Otis, 2007). Age is
also an important determinant. The probability of resorting to
corporal punishment decreases as the child gets older. Sex also
has an influence on this likelihood. Some research leads us to
believe that parents tend to punish sons more than daughters
(Giles-Sims et al., 1995), although other research does not reveal
significant differences) (Grogan-Kaylor and Otis, 2007).
We have tested these hypotheses analyzed in these specialized
Anglo-Saxon studies, using a sample of parents interviewed for the
Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood.
The analysis, based on the construction of logistic regression
models with categorical dependent variables, estimates the
TABLE 4.10: Factors related to a child being spanked in the previous week
Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
Logistic regression
INDEPENDENT VARIABLES CHILD being spanked(a)
Characteristics of child
Sex
0
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
for parents. The administration of any form of physical abuse,
no matter how mild, by other adults responsible for children–in
institutions such as schools, boarding schools or civic centres–is
seen today as aberrant and unacceptable.
(Continue)
5 years old
+
6 years old
+
7 years old
+
8 years old
+
9 years old
0
Psychological characteristics
Conflictive(b)
+
Low state of mood(c)
0
Parents’ Characteristics
Mother’s education level (reference primary)
Secondary
0
University
0
Mother’s occupational status (reference does not work)
Works full-time
–
Works part-time
0
Immigrant origin
–
Father’s level of involvement (reference high level of involvement)
Medium involvement
0
Low involvement
0
Father’s age
–
Household Characteristics
Child has siblings
+
Household income per person (reference 1st quartile)(d)
2nd quartile
0
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
Age (reference 10 years old)
3rd quartile
+
4th quartile
+
Characteristics of inter and intra-generational relationships
There is tension in the home(e)
Related to care of the child
+
Related to lack of time to relax
+
Degree of cognitive stimulation of the child(f)
–
Notes: a) The signs +/- represent the direction of the influence of the factors on the dependent variable in a logistic regression model that includes them simultaneously. The ‘0’ indicates that the coefficcient is not statistically significant
with a confidence level of 95 %. The number of cases that the model includes is N=1,021.
b) An index was created to measure the conflict level of the children based on a series of questions parents were asked about their behaviour. The index adds up those cases in which the parents agreed or strongly agreed with the
following statements about their children: he/she gets into conflicts or fights; he/she likes to bother others; he/she loses control easily; he/she can’t stay still.
c) An index was created to measure mood based on a series of questions parents were asked about their behaviour. The index adds up those cases in which the parents agreed or strongly agreed with the following statements about their
children: he/she is sometimes sad; he/she sometimes feels lonely; she/he is shy; she/he is sometimes afraid of things or people.
d) Household income is divided into 4 quartiles. The 1st corresponds to income per person up to 320 euros; the 2nd from 321 to 500 euros; the 3rd from 501 to 800 euros and the 4th, over 800 euros.
e) The cases in which there is often or there is sometimes tension in the home have been combined.
f) The degree of congnitive stimulation is an additive index with values between 0 and 4 that shows the frequency with which parents read stories to their children or do crafts with them. The response categories are: daily or almost daily;
occasionally or never.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
influence of a series of explanatory factors in the variable of
interest (resorting to corporal punishment within the past week),
all other things being equal. That is to say, we use a model which
makes it possible to isolate the statistical effect of each factor
on the explanatory variable, filtering out the relationship it may
have with third variables included in the statistical model. The
main results are presented in table 4.10.
The analysis confirms the weak and insignificant relationship
between the education of the parents and the use of punishment
among Spanish families. The importance of the child’s age is also
corroborated. The risk of experiencing punishment follows a
clear descending path as the child gets older. We also detected a
strong relationship between behavioural problems and the use
of corporal punishment.
There are also indications of an association between parental
styles and the use of corporal punishment. A robust relationship
between the degree of parental involvement with the child and
the use of spanking was not apparent. The coefficients are in the
expected direction, but the effect is not statistically significant
at conventional confidence levels. Apparently, the amount of
involvement of the parents is not significant, but rather it is
how they are involved that matters. As can be seen in graph
4.2, parents who are more committed to cognitive stimulation
activities are less likely to use corporal punishment, all other
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
(Continue)
GRAPH 4.2: Probability of having been spanked in the previous week,
by degree of cognitive stimulation
Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.50
0.45
0.40
Our analysis introduces an innovation with respect to previous
studies. We estimate if tensions in the household, due to a lack
of personal time or related to care of the children, affect the
probability of parents using corporal punishment. As we pointed
out in chapter 3, in a society such as the Spanish one, in which the
patterns found in the division of responsibilities are in transition,
certain norms and expectations are contradictory, which lead
to situations of ambiguity and tension in many households.
Our objective is to determine the influence of such a family
atmosphere in the generation of violent situations, caused by the
relaxing of social inhibitions which in normal conditions deter
the use of physical force. Our hypothesis is inspired by theories
of violence that relate this phenomenon to situations of anomie
(Durkheim, 1897) or adaptation to situations of stress (Coser,
1967; Gelles, 1974).
0.35
The results of the analysis are unequivocal. In households where
situations of tension linked to a lack of time or disagreement over
the care of the children are found, the propensity for corporal
punishment is greater (graph 4.3).
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
NO STIMULATION
LOW
STIMULATION
MID
STIMULATION
MID-HIGH
STIMULATION
HIGH
STIMULATION
DEGREE OF COGNITIVE STIMULATION
Note: The probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) the child has been spanked in the previous week; 0) the child has not been spanked. The following
variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of the child; sex of the child; origin of the
parents; level of father’s involvement; tension in home over childcare; tension in home over lack of time to relax;
mother’s education level; household income per person; index of child’s level of conflictiveness; index of mood of
child; and index of cognitive stimulation. For a more detailed description of the variables see table 4.10.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
things being equal. The effect is robust. The fact that in households
where the mother works there is less corporal punishment also
suggests that families with a more traditional division of roles are
more prone to violent forms of disapproval, which is consistent
with the affinity of this model with an authoritarian style of
socialization.
by existence of situations of tension in home for various reasons
Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
analysis have found very weak evidence for this). One possible
explanation would be that adults in affluent households are less
tolerant of the frustration caused by the inappropriate behaviour
of their children. Economic success could contribute to increasing
expectations regarding children’s behaviour and achievements
and perhaps the level of parental demands, which would increase
the vulnerability of children who are unable to fulfill their parents’
expectations. To confirm this hypothesis would require a deeper
empirical analysis than we have undertaken here.
0.25
0.20
4.4. Family learning cultures
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
NO TENSION OF ANY TYPE
TENSION DUE TO LACK
OF TIME TO RELAX
TENSION DUE TO
CHILD CARE
Note: The logistic regression model includes the same variables as graph 4.2.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
One finding difficult to explain is that, with all things being equal,
corporal punishment is more common in households with higher
levels of income.4 This is a counterintuitive finding (but statistically
robust), given that a good number of specialized studies have
speculated on the possibility that in homes in economically
precarious situations the use of corporal punishment would be
more likely (although, on the other hand, the findings of empirical
4 The statistical effect is weakened when we eliminate variables from the model that measure parental style and
situations of tension in the home.
Intergenerational relationships in the family are a powerful
mechanism in the reproduction of educational inequalities. The
quantity, and especially quality, of these interactions are decisive
in placing students at different levels throughout their educational
career, which determine to a great extent their future life’s course
beyond the educational system. The quality of these interactions
is determined primarily by what has come to be called the family’s
«cultural capital.» Families are differentiated by their capacity to
cognitively stimulate their children from an early age, transmitting
to them the cultural knowledge that will help them in their
education and encourage and support the learning process in
school. These practices and initiatives are worthwhile for children
because they favour their adaptation to the demands of school
and thus, they constitute a form of «capital.» Many studies have
shown the importance of families’ cultural capital, which operates
in different ways, in explaining academic performance and
educational success (DiMaggio, 1982; Esping-Andersen, 2009).
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
GRAPH 4.3: Probabilty of having been spanked in the previous week,
Today almost no one questions the social value of education.
Having a child who gets bad grades or who does not make
adequate progress in school is a cause of worry for virtually
all parents, without large differences among socioeconomic
groups. The democratization of access to higher education
has generated greater ambitions and expectations for the
educational attainment of children among groups traditionally
excluded from education. For example, according to data
from the Longitudinal Study of Families and Childhood, in a
survey from the Institute of Childhood and the Urban World
based on a sample of 3,000 Catalan adolescents from 13 to 16
years of age and their parents, the vast majority of the parents
stated that they wanted their children to go to university. In
families in which the mother had a primary school education,
80 percent of the parents expressed this desire (although only
a fraction of them believed it would be possible). In almost
two out of three households, parents had encouraged their
adolescent children to go to college. Differences based on
parents’ educational level were non-existent (Marí-Klose et
al., 2008b).
Parents’ education also has a limited power in explaining
involvement in activities in support of the formal education of
their children. The data from the Longitudinal Study of Families and
Childhood suggest that students whose parents have university
studies receive a little bit more help from their parents with school
work, but the differences with parents who have lower educational
levels are not significant. There are also no appreciable differences
in the degree of involvement in parents’ associations. The results
are consistent with those obtained from a subsample of parents
with children between 6 and 14 years of age, the universe of
analysis in this case being the whole of the Spanish population
(CIS Study 2,621). It should be noted that due to small number of
cases available for the analysis, it is necessary to be cautious in
interpreting data.
Cultural capital is an intangible quality. It is not as easy to measure it
unlike other forms of capital, which can be measured by economic
resources, educational credentials or even social connections.
Cultural capital is formed by sensitivities, dispositions, attitudes,
which, when they can be activated, cultivate in children forms
of being and self-presentation in different social spaces. These
forms of being and presenting oneself are especially important
in school, as they are key to help children in their academic work
so they can be more in-tune with teachers’ preferences and
demands.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
Cultural capital is correlated with the educational level of the
family, but it is far from being a perfect relationship. Parents
with higher educational levels tend to encourage activities
that contribute to the cognitive stimulation of their children.
In addition, they transmit more cultural knowledge and skills,
are more sensitive to the value of prestigious cultural products,
usually take a greater interest in their children’s school activities
and have more fluid and effective contact with their children’s
teachers. However, the variability within the same educational
group is considerable. Educational credentials are an imperfect
indicator of family cultural capital. Studies on educational
performance show that indicators of cultural capital usually have
an independent impact on grades and educational achievement,
which remains firm when the effects of parents’ educational level
is controlled for.
In percentages. Households with children from 7 to 14 years of age
TASKS PARENTS CARRY OUT OR REMEMBER HAVING CARRIED OUT
MOTHER’S EDUCATION LEVEL
PRIMARY Help child at home with school work or studying
Participate in activities of parents association in the school
SECONDARY UNIVERSITY TOTAL
NUMBER OF CASES
86
92
96
89
(384)
44
46
44
45
(192)
Source: Based on data from the study 2,621, CIS 2004.
TABLE 4.12: How often someone living in the household engages in reading activities with the child
In percentages. Households with children from 5 to 10 years of age
READING ACTIVITIES
OFTEN OCCASIONALLY
never
Stops reading and asks child what he/she sees in the illustrations
72
23
5.7
Stops reading and points out letters
67
17
16
Asks child to read
79
12
8.3
Talks about what happens in the story after reading it
79
18
2.8
Stops reading and asks child what he/she sees in the illustrations
49
39
11
Stops reading and points out letters
44
35
22
Asks child to read
58
27
15
Talks about what happens in the story after reading it
66
33
0.8
Read or tell stories to child daily or almost daily read
Sometimes reads or tells a story
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Childhood and Inter and Intragenerational Relationships, 2010.
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
TABLE 4.11: Parental involvement in children’s school work, by mother’s education level
also certain non-cognitive qualities that are useful for success in
school (motivation, self-control, perseverance, capacity to plan
and postpone gratification).
In this sense, one of the most interesting indicators of family
«cultural capital» consists in the activities of stimulation such as
story reading. In table 4.12 we can see that this activity is what many
families use to stimulate the analytical capacity of their children,
their reading comprehension or to help them learn letters and
vocabulary. Families directly involved in cognitive stimulation
activities in the home or that encourage participation in after
school activities designed to stimulate children’s aptitudes and
interests also tend to be more involved in helping their children
with school work.
The PIRLS Survey (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)
by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational
Achievement to evaluate reading comprehension of students
in the fourth-grade of primary school offers us an opportunity
to estimate the effects of these learning cultures on the level of
reading competency of children at the age of 10. In 2006, a total
of 40 countries participated in the survey, among them Spain. This
is one of the only databases available that gathers information on
the socioeconomic context influencing the reading competence
of the student before the end of compulsory education (unlike the
PISA studies, which tests different competences when students are
15 years of age). It is important to point out, before describing the
data, that because of factors that have to do with the way in which
the surveys of families were carried out in Spain, the response
rate was low (59 percent) and therefore not representative. It is
reasonable to suspect that the questionnaires that were answered
correspond to those parents who are most interested in the
education of their children (Spanish PIRLS Report, 2006).
Other results of our analyses suggest that there is an association
between involvement in cognitive stimulation activities in
the home and the likelihood that the child will receive help with
homework or participate in after school activities. Children who
live in homes with greater amounts of cultural capital usually
benefit from multiple «quality» interactions with their parents or
other adults, in the course of which they improve their cognitive
profiles (knowledge, analytical capacity and linguistic skills), but
Taking into consideration these limitations, our analysis shows
a clear social gradient in the results on the reading competency
of children at the age of 10. For example, there are 73 points of
difference in the indicator for reading competency between
Spanish children with parents who have university studies
(552) and those who only have a primary school education
(479) (educational level is based on the parent with the highest
educational level in the household).
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
The data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships
in Childhood sheds light on some of these dimensions of cultural
capital and their interrelationship with parents’ support of
the formal education of their children at early ages. Although the
indicators available are limited, the data show that in Spanish
families there is considerable variability in «learning cultures,»
configured by different intellectually stimulating activities and the
consumption of cultural products. Our analyses indicate that these
«learning cultures» are the result, but only in small part, of the
educational level of the parents. They are made up of different
pieces connected by a common thread.
Children who enjoy a cumulative range of opportunities for
learning enter into a virtuous spiral which favours their academic
success. As the economist and Nobel Prize winner James Heckman
has suggested, «learning begets learning» (see, for example,
Heckman and Masterov, 2007). In the homes with a positive family
learning culture, the biblical principle from Matthew comes to
pass: «because to anyone who has something, more will be given,
and he will have more than enough. But from the one who doesn’t
have anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.»
Evidence such as this impels us to rethink the causes of phenomena
that are generating great social alarm, such as school failure and
educational inequality. As recent studies have warned (Fernandez
Enguita, 2010; M. Marí-Klose et al., 2010), the road to failure and
dropping out is long.
GRAPH 4.4: Level of reading comprehension of 10 year old children,
by how often parents read to them up until they were three years of age
In percentages
PERCENTAGE
LEVEL OF READING COMPREHENSION
90
550
80
540
70
530
60
520
50
510
40
500
30
490
20
480
10
470
0
460
OFTEN
OCCASIONALLY
NEVER/HARDLY EVER
FREQUENCY OF READING STORIES
Frequency of reading stories
Source: Based on PIRLS data, 2006.
Reading comprehension
Intergenerational relationships among 5 to 10 year olds
PIRLS provides information about the activities and practices
carried out by parents with their children that fosters knowledge
of language and reading during the early stages of childhood.
Among other aspects, PIRLS asks about the frequency with which
the parents or another adult in the home read stories to the child
before the beginning of primary school. As can be seen in graph
4.4, there is a relationship between reading performance at 10
years of age and this type of cognitive stimulation: there is a 48
point difference in the reading performance of children whose
parents stated that they often read to their children (45 percent
of the parents) with respect to those whose parents said they
had never or almost never done so (only 7 percent). However,
the differences are also considerable with respect to those who
responded that they had done so sometimes (almost half of the
parents): the reading performance of their children was 36 points
below the children whose parents read them stories often. These
gaps can be explained only in part by the education of the parents.
When educational resources in the home are controlled for in a
multivariable model, the differences are somewhat reduced (33
points between children who come from families that often read
stories and families without this practice), but they continue to be
statistically significant.
Uses of free time
V. Uses of free time
There are certain activities considered to be basic in the life of
children, such as eating, sleeping and learning. Experts from all fields
(doctors, psychologists, educators, etc.) have been prolific in the
publication of precepts and prescriptions to help parents guarantee
that their children eat well, sleep enough and learn quickly. In
contrast, for a long time other activities associated with free time
and play have received much less attention. In fact, throughout
history, free time and play have often been considered unimportant
aspects, even a waste of time, in children’s lives. Thinkers such as
Locke or Kant were pioneers in pointing out that play is a mental
activity that contributes to the balanced development of the child’s
personality and promotes his or her learning processes (Chudacoff,
2007). Later, some of the first scholars to study educational processes
vigorously defended play as a method of exploration that allowed
children to learn about society and nature, and as a result, they
recommended incorporating it into the learning process (Dewey,
1900). Today, we have abundant empirical evidence demonstrating
the importance of leisure time and play for healthy childhood
development, and in particular the development of children’s motor
skills, organizational capacities and capacities for social interaction
(Pellegrini and Smith, 1998; Razza Blair, 2009).
Although play now occupies a central place in the life of children, for
many generations, childhood was spent working (Ariès, 1960;
Heywood, 2001). This continues to be the case in many countries in
Africa, Asia and Latin America. The right of children to play, to be
happy while they make use of their free time, to not have
responsibilities that infringe on these rights is a dimension of
childhood unknown in many societies, and which has only been
recognized in our own society recently. In contemporary societies,
play has become a central element in what defines childhood
identity, what precisely separates it from adult life. Play is connected
to a concept of childhood as a stage of life in which children are still
not prepared to venture into the world of romantic relationships, the
working world or political participation. Child’s play implies
immaturity and irresponsibility. In this respect, as Michael Wyness
(2006) pointed out, child’s play also becomes a justification for
maintaining the separation between adulthood and childhood, thus
legitimizing the subordinate and dependent status of children.
In this chapter we offer an overview of how children from 5 to 10
years of age spend their free time. To do this, we analyze the information contributed by their parents in the Survey on Inter and Intra-
5.1. Structured and unstructured after school time
One issue that raises much debate is if after school time should or
should not be programmed and planned. Should parents let their
children spend this time playing freely or should they encourage
them to participate in structured activities that are healthy, safe
and educational? Should there be an adult supervising the
activities of children at all times? Underlying this question there
is a basic tension that arises when children become aware of their
individuality: the «power struggle» between parents and children.
In early childhood, parents make almost all of the decisions related
to their children: when, what, where and how much they eat, sleep,
play, are alone, etc. As children come to recognize themselves as
individuals, they begin to demand greater autonomy. On occasion,
this translates into small conflicts in which children refuse to eat
what they are given or go to bed at a certain time or in tantrums to
get what they want or because play time has ended (Belden et al.,
2008). Children look for small openings to try to assert their own
desires in lives which are directed by others; trying in this way to
increase their decision making capacity in relation to those who
normally have control. As an example, research shows that children
more often refuse to eat when it is the mother who is feeding them
– if she is the person normally in charge of doing so – than if other
family members do so (Faith et al., 2004).
In our analysis of time use among children from 5 to 10 years of
age, we differentiate between organized and unstructured activities
following the scheme of Mahoney et al. (2005). Under the term
«organized», we refer to activities that are characterized by a structure
imposed through the presence of an adult. Compared with free play,
in structured activities, adults have more input, for example initiating
the activity, controlling the resources available for the activity, or
intervening or participating during the course of the activity. The
emphasis is often on skill-building and activities are generally
characterized by challenges that need to be met as the complexity of
the activity increases with children’s growing mastery of the activity
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). In contrast, non-structured activities refer
to leisure time and improvised play shared with friends, whether in
the park, on the street or at home, such as playing hide-and-seek,
riding bicycles, or playing on the swings at the playground, etc. In
some cases, adults participate or supervise these activities, but they
do not direct them. This can also refer to time children spend alone
reading, playing an instrument or watching television.
(a) Participation in structured activities
One of the patterns of modern parenthood is the attempt by parents
to enrich and entertain their children enrolling them in all kinds of
tutored activities (sporting, artistic, etc.). Starting at an early age, many
children are enrolled in a wide range of extracurricular activities.
These activities are considered critical not only for the healthy
development of children, but also for their educational opportunities,
Uses of free time
generational Relationships in Childhood. Some of the key aspects
that we address in this chapter are the types of activities children
participate in during programmed and non-programmed time,
with whom they spend this time, and what the level of parent’s
involvement and supervision is in these activities. The patterns
of behaviour observed in Spain are framed in broader contexts
related to processes of children’s socialization and development
in the world today.
It is important to highlight that participation and frequency of
attendance is approximately the same among boys and girls (about
78 percent participate in at least in one activity, regardless of
gender, and in both cases they do so an average of twice a week).
However, as can be seen in graph 5.1, there are differences in the
activities in which they participate. Girls are more likely to participate
in artistic activities and language classes, boys in sports. The
differences in other types of activities are fewer. Even so, it seems
that parents provide their sons with opportunities oriented toward
physical activities and their daughters those oriented toward the
development of creativity and educational competencies.
GRAPH 5.1: Children enrolled in after school activities,
by sex and type of activity
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
SPORTS
ARTISTIC
(DANCE, ART,
MUSIC…)
LANGUAGE
CLASSES
Boys
REMEDIAL
CLASSES
AFTER SCHOOL
ACTIVITIES
REQUIRING PARENTAL
PARTICIPATION
OTHER
ACTIVITIES
Girls
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Practiced with the same assiduity these activities three or more
times per week are involved in organized sports or remedial
classes. As can be seen in graph 5.2, the majority of the activities
are carried out twice a week.
Uses of free time
exposing children to an enriched upbringing and preparing them to
face the challenges of the modern world (Education, Audiovisual &
Culture Executive Agency, 2009). From our data, it is evident that
parents in Spain feel the necessity to involve their children in various
types of organized activities. Even among children as young as those
in our sample (aged 5 to 10), involvement in extracurricular activities
is very common. In our survey we asked parents if their 5-10 year olds
were signed up in any of these six extracurricular activities: (1)
organized sports, (2) artistic (such as dance, art, or music), (3) language
classes, (4) remedial classes, (5) scholastic activities, or (6) other, nonspecified. According to parents, these children are signed up for an
average of 2 activities. About three quarters of children participate in
at least one activity, which means that a sizeable 28 percent of children
are not engaged in any type of organized activity. Over half of the
children (55 percent) are enrolled in either one or two activities and
19 percent are engaged in three or more. As can be seen in the graph
below, among the organized activities for which we have information
available, organized sports were the most common activities, with
about 6 in ten children involved. Next most common were art-related
activities, with about 1 in 4 of the children who participate in any type
of activity engaged in arts. In addition, about 1 in 4 of all children
aged 5-10 are taking language courses outside of school. Other
activities like remedial courses or scholastic activities are less common.
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
family obligations (such as taking care of other children or elderly
or disabled family members). Finally, some parents simply have
fewer social connections or are less socially inclined than others
(Burdette and Whitaker, 2005).
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
SPORTS
ARTISTIC
(DANCE, ART, MUSIC…)
Once a week
LANGUAGE
CLASSES
Twice a week
REMEDIAL
CLASSES
AFTER SCHOOL
ACTIVITIES REQUIRING
PARENTAL PARTICIPATION
OTHER
ACTIVITIES
Three or more times a week
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Participation in after school activities, especially when this
requires travel or the parents’ participation is linked to the
availability of various types of family resources. Not all families
are able to provide the time and opportunities for after school
activities for their children (or opportunities for them to play with
other children outside of school). In some cases this is because
they lack the economic means to meet the expenses involved.
Other times it is because of parents’ long work day or work
schedules which leave them with no time available at sociable
hours. Parents may also have other responsibilities or excessive
0,8
0,7
0,6
Graph 5.3 shows the percentage of families who do not enroll their
children in any organized activity. The black line indicates the 28%
of the sample that is not involved in any activity, so comparison of
the bars with the black line indicates whether a particular subgroup of the population is below or above the average in terms
of involvement. As can be seen, children who are less likely to
participate in extracurricular activities come from disadvantaged
environments lacking in economic resources or from families
with difficulties in finding time to manage their children’s
participation in these activities. The first factor seems to be
the most important, although we do not have information on the
economic effort that these families must make (expenses related
to supplies, equipment, uniforms and registration). Families
with lower levels of income have much lower participation rates
in after school activities than more affluent families. There also
appears to be a significant gap between immigrant and nativeborn children, and a slightly smaller gap between single parent
families and two-parent families. Families with higher educational
levels tend to enrol their children more often in after school
activities, although it is difficult to clarify if this is due to having
the economic resources necessary or because of their belief that
such activities are beneficial for the children. Probably both of
these play a part in their decision.
Our data suggest that the majority of parents who take their
children to after school activities do so because the child asks
Tres o más
Dos veces
Uses of free time
GRAPH 5.2: Frequency of participation in after school activities
graph 5.3: Children who do not participate in any after school activity, by household characteristics and family socioeconomic situation
Household structure
Parents’ origin
Father
Parents’ education
Mother
Father
Parents’ employment status
Mother
Monthly income (in euros)
Single-parent
Two-parent
Immigrant
Native-born
Primary
Secondary
University
Primary
Secondary
University
Does not work
Works part-time
Works full-time
Does not work
Works part-time
Works full-time
<1200
1201-2000
2001-3000
3001-5000
5001+
0 5
Uses of free time
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
10
15 20
25
25
30
35
AVERAGE
Not enrolled in any activity
40
45
0
5
10
15 20
25
25
30
35
AVERAGE
Not enrolled in any activity
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
40
45
For some parents, their children’s participation in after school
activities is a way of balancing their work schedules with the
necessities of childcare, but this is not usually the case. Only 8.9
percent of the parents who have their children in after school
activities said that their work hours played a very important part
in it. 14 percent said that it was quite important. These results
and the previous data suggest that, in contrast to the image of
children pushed to spend their days far from the family based
on the needs of the parents, children’s wishes and initiative to
participate in these programmes play a role that analysis has
often ignored.
(b) Participation in unstructured activities
According to widely held opinion, children must have the
opportunity to entertain themselves outside of activities
programmed by parents. Free time has an intrinsic value for
children and cannot be evaluated only from an outlook based
on improving the child’s development or skills. The overzealous
parent programming his or her child’s time has sparked a
groundswell of opinion in support of recovering free time for
children, invoking the need for unrestricted unsupervised play
for the healthy development of the child. In this regard, the
American Pediatric Association has recently warned about the risks
to the mental health of children if they do not have the freedom to
play in childhood (Gibbs, 2009: 56).
In the rest of this section and the following we focus on an analysis
of the unstructured time that children spend at home or with a
family member as well as the time they spend in social activities
with friends. In general, un-structured activities do not require
previous planning and are usually free. The questionnaire asked
about the following activities: watching television or videos;
going to the cinema, theatre or a museum; playing in the street or
practicing some sport or physical activity; playing video games
or on the computer, and going to visit relatives. Graph 5.4 shows
the frequency of children’s participation in these activities. It should
be highlighted that watching television is the most widespread
activity among children in this age group: 84 percent watch
television daily or almost daily. In addition, many children spend
even more time in front of a screen because another frequent
activity is playing video games (20 percent of children doing
so daily and an additional 65 percent doing so occasionally).
Physical activity is also very common, about half of the children
(48 percent) do physical activities on a daily basis and another
45 percent occasionally. The majority of children visit relatives at
least occasionally (65 percent), but only 20 percent do so several
times a week.
Uses of free time
them to do so. Thirty nine percent stated that the child’s request
weighed heavily in their decision, and 34 percent stated that
this was quite important. Only 17 percent said they had signed
their children up to an after school activity without taking into
account the child’s wishes. Based on the parents’ testimony, 60
percent indicated that their child liked very much attending an
after school activity or programme, and 35 percent stated that
the child quite liked the activity. Parents who force their children
to go to after school activities which the children do not like are a
very small minority. Evidently, the reliability of the responses may
be affected by the perspective of the respondents, but it does not
seem likely that the children’s perspective if it were possible to
ask them would be that different.
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
VISITS
RELATIVES
PLAYS VIDEO OR
COMPUTER GAMES
OR SIMILAR
Daily or almost daily
DOES SPORTS
OR PHYSICAL
ACTIVITY
GOES TO
CINEMA, THEATRE
OR MUSEUM
WATCHES TV
OR VIDEOS
Occasionally
PLAYS MUSICAL
INSTRUMENT
The childhood use (or abuse) of new technologies is a topic of
debate and often appears in the media as a source of alarm.
Hence, we have looked at the relationship between certain family
characteristics and the use of TV and video games. To do this, we
have compared this more sedentary form of entertainment with
the frequency with which children practice a sport or physical
activities, usually considered beneficial for their age. To simplify
the analysis we have focused exclusively on families in which
children do both types of activity daily or several times a week.
Table 5.1 shows the differences are small, but reveals a pattern in
terms of parental education and income. Children in families with
a higher socioeconomic level tend to watch television and play
video games less often. They are, instead, more likely to practice
sports and physical activities daily–with the exception of those
children in families with the highest levels of income; among this
group we find the lowest percentage of children that do so.
Never
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Ninguna vez
Alguna vez
Cada día o casi cada día
Practica
otros
sola, familiares
ordenador
algún deporte
Va
o juevos
al cine,
o actividad
similares
teatro
Miraolafísica
museo
TV
Toca
o videos
un instrumento
visitar a otros familiares
Uses of free time
GRAPH 5.4: Frequency of participation in unstructured activities
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
WATCHES TV OR VIDEOS
PRACTICES/DOES SPORTS OR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
PLAYS VIDEO GAMES
Single-parent
78
48
24
Two parents
85
54
20
Immigrant
80
45
23
Native-born
85
49
20
Primary
85
42
23
Secondary
86
48
20
University
80
54
19
Does not work
86
46
22
Works part-time
82
43
24
Works full-time
83
53
17
Does not work
82
46
25
Works part-time
88
54
21
Works full-time
84
48
19
SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS
Household structure
Parents’ origin
Mother’s characteristics
Education level
Employment status
Father’s characteristics
Employment status
Uses of free time
TABLE 5.1: Activities child does daily or almost daily, by different socioeconomic characteristics of household
(Continue)
Primary
87
49
24
Secondary
85
43
20
University
79
56
16
Less than €1,200
82
46
24
From €1,201 to €2,000
84
45
21
From €2,001 to €3,000
86
49
21
From €3,001 to €5,000
86
56
16
More than €5,000
72
40
22
Household income
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
5.2. Parents’ involvement in their children’s free time
As we pointed out in previous chapters, despite the assumption
often held being the opposite, boys as well as girls receive more
attention and emotional support from their parents today than
children did in the past. Parents are driven by the desire to do the
right thing for their children, following both their own criteria and
that of the watchful society in which they live. Parents develop a
set of guidelines about what is right for a child based on their own
experience as children, observations from the rearing of siblings
or other relatives, what they have read or been told, or what they
feel based on common sense. Driven by a sense of urgency that
any misstep in following these guidelines could lead a child to
having nutritional, sleep or educational deficiencies, they set out
to direct the child at every step according to these guidelines.
This includes what and how much the child should eat; when,
where and how long the child should sleep; how much time he
or she should spend with adults and with other children; which
activities are appropriate and which ones are not allowed; and
what the rules are for these activities and interactions.
In addition, parents feel outside pressure to demonstrate to the
world that they are good parents by following norms and freely
offered directives from relatives and other adults about what
children should and should not do, receive, and be engaged in. Even when these norms are not in full accord with the parents’
own guidelines, parents must publicly demonstrate their good
parenting. This includes demonstrating that the child is supervised
and not allowed to roam on his/her own, that the child is clean and
Uses of free time
Education level
In a society in which people are having fewer children, but at
the same time are investing more in them (in terms of health,
education, toys and after school activities), the norms that parents
establish as well as the social pressures, seem to be changing.
There is growing concern about the safety of children. Parents
today are less permissive than their own parents were or their
grandparents when it comes to allowing children to play outdoors
without adult supervision. This concern for childhood safety is
due to the objective increase of certain risks (for example, being
hit by a car), but much of the perception of risk is inspired by new
currents of collective anxiety which place childhood at the centre
of obsessions about safety. This anxiety is embodied in the fear of
risks that are negligible (such as children being kidnapped by a
stranger or being abused by a paedophile) while ignoring many
of the risks to children’s physical and emotional safety (including
sexual abuse) that tend to originate in the home or the immediate
environment. Paradoxically, the obsession over risks, which has
caused many parents to limit their children’s freedom to go out
alone, has been related to the origin of new risks, real or perceived.
Phenomena such as childhood obesity or young people’s lack of
initiative have been attributed to childhood experiences in homes
converted into «gilded cages,» where children lack opportunity
for entertainment.
It must be remembered that the data analyzed refer to young
children (between 5 and 10 years of age), so that their «free time»
tends to be supervised by adults. As can be observed in table 5.2,
parents participate in the majority of their children’s activities. They
are present when the children go out, whether to the cinema, to the
TABLE 5.2: Persons with whom the child usually does different activities(a)
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
ALONE
WITH YOU OR YOUR PARTNER
SIBLINGS
OTHER RELATIVES Play video games
26
22
32
1.8
2.6
15
Practice/do sports or physical activity
15
20
8.0
1.1
49
7.5
Go to cinema, theatre or museum
0.3
78
2.0
2.4
4.0
13
Watch TV or videos
17
54
26
1.7
0.5
0.9
Visit relatives
1.3
92
1.5
1.1
0.0
3.9
ACTIVITIES
Note: a) The percentages are calculated based on the total number of children that do the activity.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
FRIENDS DOESN’T DO THIS ACTIVITY
Uses of free time
neat, that the child has been taught basic manners, and that he
or she is receiving adequate social and educational stimulation. immigrant families than among native families. By level of income,
the difference is in the number of times per week that children
spend in the homes of friends: in homes with higher incomes, the
proportion of parents who say their children have friends over
one time per week is higher; in contrast, in homes with a lower
economic level, they have friends over more often.
5.3. Time with friends
To understand what happens in children’s free time, we cannot
ignoretheroleofotherfamilymembers. Inmanyfamiliesgrandparents
provide important support. For a long time, grandparents have
taken care of their young grandchildren, and they still do this
today. In different developed countries, many parents rely on
their own parents to take responsibility for the children after
school, whether it is to pick them up, give them something to eat,
supervise them or simply be with them. In a country such as
Spain, where families tend to live near their relatives, it is common
for the grandparents to share in the responsibilities of taking care
of the children (Borra and Palma, 2009). Three generations living
together (parents, grandparents and grandchildren) in the same
home is not very common today. However, living together is not
a requirement for the grandparents to take care of their
grandchildren. According to recently published data, in Spain
one out of every four grandparents takes care of their
grandchildren. The European average is somewhat higher with
one out of every three. However, Spanish grandparents that take
care of their grandchildren do it more intensively than in the rest
of Europe: they dedicate on average seven hours a day to the care
of their grandchildren, two hours more than the European
average (Badenes Pla and Lopez Lopez, 2010).
Time with same-aged peers peaks in adolescence, especially
between ages 14 to16 years, however, it is common for children to
spend time outside of school with other children even at these
younger ages. The importance of creating these connections, also
known as peer cultures has been demonstrated to benefit child
development (Corsaro, 1985). To analyze the time spent with
friends, we have focused on two aspects: how often the child
has friends over to his or her home and the level of supervision by
parents when there are friends over. As can be seen in table 5.3,
spending time with friends at home is something that is relatively
common but does not happen every day. This is an expected
result, taking into account that these are children between the
ages of 5 and 10 and, therefore, requiring adult supervision. It is
even likely that the parents plan these encounters with other
children. According to our data, in four out of every ten families,
the children do not invite friends to their home. Moreover, only 11
percent of the families responded that their children spend time
in the homes of their friends three or more times per week.
Although there are not marked differences, it is more common
among girls to have friends over to play. It is less common among
5.4. Involvement of grandparents and siblings
Uses of free time
theatre or to visit relatives, and inside the home, while the children
play an instrument or watch television. Our data contradict the
vision of parents leaving their children in front of the television (a
«safe» activity that does not require supervision) in order to work
or do other tasks. More than half of the children in our sample
usually watch television accompanied by their parents. The only
activities that they commonly do with their siblings and friends
are playing video games and sports or doing physical activities.
In percentages: Children from 5 to 10 years of age
NUMBER OF DAYS A WEEK FRIENDS COME TO PLAY
SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS
0
1
2
3 or more
Single-parent
38
32
14
15
Two parents
43
34
13
10
Boy
46
31
12
10
Girl
39
36
13
12
Native-born
42
33
14
11
Immigrant
47
35
7.7
10
Primary
38
32
15
15
Secondary
44
34
12
10
University
45
36
12
7.0
Does not work
40
35
13
13
Works part-time
52
27
17
3.8
Works full-time
43
34
13
11
Household structure
Sex of child
Parents’ origin
Father’s characteristics
Education level
Employment status
Uses of free time
TABLE 5.3: How often child has friends over to play, by household socioeconomic characteristics
(Continue)
Education level
Primary
41
27
16
16
Secondary
44
34
12
10
University
43
38
11
7.7
Does not work
38
33
14
14
Works part-time
48
31
13
8.1
Works full-time
44
35
12
8.8
Less than €1.200
43
28
17
13
From €1,201 to €2,000
38
33
16
13
From €2,001 to €3,000
46
37
10
7.2
From €3,001 to €5,000
43
36
11
10
More than €5,000
47
44
3,1
6.3
Total
43
34
13
11
Employment status
Household income
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
As we have seen, grandparents, just like older siblings, can be a
resource in taking responsibility for the supervision of the youngest
children and, in general, for being with them, especially when the
parents are working, preparing meals or doing other household
chores. But in certain situations, grandparents and siblings can
also take away from the time parents are able spend with their
young children. This is the case when the grandparents have
health problems or when the youngest child’s siblings are young
themselves; it is possible that they require time, effort and resources
that otherwise the parents could dedicate to the youngest.
In 8.4 percent of the families interviewed, one of the grandparents
lives in the home. Forty-two percent of the households received
help from the grandparents in caring for the children. Table 5.4
shows that in households that count on the grandparents’ help,
whether because they live with them or because they help with
Uses of free time
Mother’s characteristics
TABLE 5.4: Number of after-school activities child participates in, by composition of household
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
GRANDPARENTS
NUMBER OF AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES CHILD IS ENROLLED IN(a)
RESIDE IN HOME
SIBLINGS
DO NOT RESIDE in home (b)
(
HELP
DO NOT HELP
RESIDE IN HOME
DO NOT RESIDE in home
Total
NUMBER OF CASES
None
28
26
16
29
26
28
(324)
1
27
26
17
30
21
27
(313)
2 or more
45
48
67
41
53
45
(510)
100
(1,147)
100
Note: a) After school activities: language classes, art classes, remedial classes, sports, school activities or other organized activities.
b) The category «does not reside» includes cases in which the child does not have this family member and those in which he/she does but family member does not live in the home.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
childcare, the children tend to do fewer after school activities. This
fact suggests that the provision of care offered by grandparents
attenuates the necessity of many families to resort to these
activities to resolve the scheduling problems they have. However,
the fact that three out of four children that have grandparents
«available» participated in at least one after school activity (and
many in two or more) indicates that it would be a serious error
to think that children’s participation in these activities is simply a
way to reconcile work and family life for those who have no other
means of taking care of their children.
Almost 70 percent of the families interviewed have more than
one child living in the home. Children between 5 and 10 years of
age who live in families with two or more children participate on
average in fewer organized activities. It is possible that children
who have siblings do not ask as often to participate in activities
outside the home as they can be entertained playing with their
siblings. In addition, the increase in the number of children
also increases the effort that parents must make to offer the
opportunity to participate in different after school activities, both
from an economic perspective (possible fees) and in regards to
the time necessary to manage all these different activities.
All of the data presented in this chapter suggest that new modalities
for managing children’s free time (with a growing emphasis on
organized activities) cannot be considered simply strategies
Uses of free time
(grandparents and siblings living or not living in the home)
Secondly, we are witnessing the consolidation of the role of
the child in choosing his or her educational and entertainment
activities, which is not necessarily in contradiction with the
processes described in the previous paragraph. Until very recently,
it was understood that adults had to decide for children («for their
own good») how their time should be organized (to be spend
primarily in school), reserving spaces for them of unsupervised
time after school in which they could enjoy a considerable
amount of freedom with their peers. The growing fear of parents
of the risks for the physical safety of children in public space
has reinforced their ties to spaces controlled by adults. But this
does not necessarily mean that their autonomy has disappeared
completely. In contrast to an image that emphasizes activities
planned by adults, the evidence is otherwise; children are involved
in the selection of the activities they do, and the majority of them
enjoy these activities. Although the nature of these activities can
be quite varied, there are reasons to think that in many of them
children find spaces for interaction and entertainment that offer
opportunities to affirm their identities as agents (Näsman, 1998).
Uses of free time
resulting from parents pressured by a lack of time. It is necessary to
interpret them in at least two other ways. First of all, they are linked
to the growing concern among parents to provide «optimum
support» to their children (Beck-Gernsheim, 2003). Starting at the
end of the twentieth century, the progress in medicine, psychology
and pedagogy combined with the decrease in the number of
children per family, has fuelled new expectations of «improvement»
for children within the family through an adequate channelling
of resources. New discourses equate not taking advantage of
possibilities for children’s development with neglect, resulting
in growing demands placed on parents. The creed of the new
attitude toward children, which the data suggest extends to a
greater or lesser degree among all social groups, is that parents can
promote children’s faculties (and correct their defects) by providing
them with the opportunity to get off to a good start. After-school
activities occupy a privileged position in the catalogue of strategies
for improvement that parents are called on to adopt.
The situation of children in the developed world is awakening
concern. The majority of international reports offering an analysis
of this population’s quality of life and its evolution are in agreement
in finding a vulnerability to risks concentrated in early childhood.
The risks which have generally threatened childhood are those
related to health, poverty and other economic difficulties.
With regard to health, in the past century that of children’s has
greatly improved throughout the world. For centuries childhood
was seen as an unhappy and vulnerable period in life as children
often suffered from illness. Children that were fragile and victims
of chronic illness were part of the daily life of many families. The
lack of hygiene, the affect of infectious diseases and hunger took
a terrible toll in childhood, claiming many lives. We know, for
example, that at the end of the nineteenth century in certain
years (1880, 1882-1883, 1885 and 1900) one quarter of all
newborns in Spain died. Childhood illness and death were a part
of daily life, and adults exhibited a certain fatalism in facing them. In many testimonies from that time (in novels, health reports, the
press, etc.), the idea that children’s lives hung by a thread was
accepted with resignation (A. de Miguel, 1998: 195-197).
The increase in life expectancy during the past century has been
extraordinary. At the beginning of the twentieth century the
infant mortality rate in Spain was 203 deaths for every 1,000
children. Since then, it has continuously declined. From 19601970 when the parents of our Survey on Inter and Intragenerational
Relationships in Childhood were growing up, the infant mortality
rate in Spain was already then below 40 deaths for every 1,000
births. According to most recent estimates, the infant mortality
rate has gone down to 3.5 deaths for every 1,000 births (World
Bank, 2008). This decline in infant mortality has been accompanied
by a decrease in morbidity. Respiratory infections and diseases
which are common in developing countries are rare and seldom
deadly among children in develped countries. However, this does
not mean that the health problems of childhood have been
eradicated. New illnesses, no longer mortal, are appearing related
to lifestyle and unhealthy habits.
The situation with respect to poverty and economic difficulty
continues to be of concern. For example, in the majority of
countries in the European Union the poverty rates among children
are higher than those among adults (European Commission,
The emergence of social risks in childhood
VI.The emergence of social risks in childhood
The degree of family participation in the labour market is the
principal factor determining its economic situation. Thus, seven
out of ten children under ten years of age from families where none
of the economically active members are working are poor. However,
economic precariousness does not only affect households in which
no one works. When one person works, the risk of poverty is
reduced considerably, although it continues to be high: affecting
three out of ten children from 0 to 10 years of age. The traditional
family model with just one breadwinner, usually the man, does not
assure protection from economic exclusion for many families with
dependent children. A very high proportion of children from 0 to
10 years of age who are poor come from these families (58.5
percent). The poverty rate for children from 0-10 years old goes
down by 20 percentage points when two people in the household
work (8.6 percent), which indicates that today more than in the
past, it is necessary to have two incomes in the home to avoid
economic vulnerability in childhood.
In addition to work, the second factor that has a strong impact on
the living conditions of children is household structure. Large
families and single parent families are overrepresented among
households in which children are exposed to poverty: 49 percent
of the children who live in large families and 43 percent of those
in single parent families are poor. When the mother is the head of
a single parent household and does not work the risk of poverty
increases. While 30 percent of single parent households in which
the mother works are living in poverty, in those where the mother
does not work this goes up to 69 percent (data from the Quality
of Life Index, 2008).
It is also necessary to look at the situation of children of immigrant
origin. According to the Survey of Income and Living Conditions
(2008), approximately four out of ten children under 10 years of
age whose mother or father was born outside of the EU-25 are
living in poverty, twice the rate of autochthonous children. High
poverty rates and severe poverty rates follow similar patterns:
The high poverty rate is 15.6 percent among children of foreign
origin and 6.2 percent among autochthonous children, and the
severe poverty rate is 6 percent among those of foreign origin
and 3.5 percent among autochthonous children.
The limited data available for the recent years of economic crisis
suggest that the poverty rates, measured according to available
income, have not varied much since 2007, but the perception of
hardship has.1 According to data gathered in the Survey of Income
1 At the time of publication of this book, the INE (Spain’s National Statistics Institute) has preliminary results from
the Living Conditions Survey for 2010. According to these results the poverty rate for children under 16 is 24.6
percent, 4.3 points above the risk of poverty for the population over 16 years of age. If we subtract the «imputed
rental value» (a measure of the rental value of the dwelling), the poverty rate (22.2 percent) is much greater than
that for all other age groups (for example, 9 points greater than for the population over 65 years of age).
The emergence of social risks in childhood
2009; OECD, 2008). Spain forms part of the group of European
countries with the highest levels of child poverty. Whereas in the
EU-27, one out of every five children under 18 years of age is poor,
in Spain poverty affects one out of four, a figure which situates
Spain in a worse position than the majority of EU countries, with
the exception of Italy, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania (Eurostat,
2008). If we focus specifically on the age group of our study
(children from 0 to 10 years of age), the outlook is not encouraging:
21.7 percent of Spanish children are poor (data from the 2008
Survey of Income and Living Conditions of the National Statistics
Institute). These findings show that the childhood poverty rate is
two percentage points higher than the overall poverty rate for
Spain (19.6 percent).
Regarding over-indebtedness, according to the 2008 Survey of
Income and Living Conditions, only 4.2 percent of the Spanish
population with bank accounts stated that they had an overdraft
or outstanding balance due to economic difficulties. In households
with children 10 years old and under, the proportion is somewhat
higher (7.2 percent). When the economic situation worsens, some
households find it difficult to pay their bills. Half of the families with
children 10 years old and under recognized that in 2008 the total
cost of housing represented a heavy burden for the household,
and 8.3 percent of homes with children from 0-10 had got behind
in paying their mortgage or rent in the previous year. The impact
of the cost of housing is more noticeable in households with
children under 10 years of age than in households headed by older
persons because these children tend to belong to younger families
who are still covering the costs of housing that they were likely to
have rented or purchased during the recent great increase in the
price of housing. In fact, the percentage of children living in poverty
increases by 11 points (from 22 percent to 33 percent) after
subtracting families’ housing costs from household income.
Besides the traditional risks of illness or economic hardship to the
well-being of children, throughout the twentieth century new
causes for concern emerged related to the physical, emotional
and educational vulnerability of children. In this chapter we utilize
our Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood
to analyze the influence that factors examined in the previous
chapters–household structure, socioeconomic conditions, styles
of parenting or after school time use–have on key aspects of the
well-being and health of children in contemporary society. We
focus our analysis on three indicators that generate considerable
social concern today: body weight, socio-emotional competence
and educational engagement.
The experiences of childhood play a crucial role in people’s
lives. There is growing empirical evidence to support the idea
that the problems children face affect their physical and emotional development and their learning capacity, endangering not
only their well-being but also their quality of life and opportunities when they are adults. In this sense, the components analyzed
here are central aspects of children’s health and well-being. International studies on children’s weight, socio-emotional competencies and their response to the demands of school have shown that
problems related to these factors can have long-lasting effects
that are very difficult to reverse. The studies on these issues that
have been carried out in Spain have tended to approach these
problems once they have fully developed, generally in adolescence when they take on new forms: isolation and marginalization,
emotional distress and school failure. Rarely has there been data
available on earlier stages of childhood, making it difficult to get
to the root of these problems. Our survey offers us this opportunity. A good understanding of the mechanisms involved in the generation of these problems is one of the keys for families as well as
governments to be able to channel their energy, time and money
The emergence of social risks in childhood
and Living Conditions (2008), in the preliminary phases of the crisis,
26 percent of the Spanish population said that in the previous year
they had already suffered a significant decrease in income. In
households with children 10 years of age and under, the percentage
was somewhat higher: 31 percent. The economic crisis could also
have accentuated conditions of economic hardship, which are
measured based on indicators such as over-indebtedness or the
impact of the cost of housing on the risk of poverty.
6.1. A weighty problem: the road to obesity
Body weight reflects the balance between energy intake (the
ingestion of food) and energy expenditure. When children are
very young, they are able to regulate the proper intake, but as
they get older the influence of external social factors becomes
more important (Birch, 1987). Childhood is a crucial stage in life
in terms of defining food preferences and tastes as well as for
acquiring habits that promote physical activity. Parents prepare
most of the meals children eat (when they are not eating at
school), decide on their distribution throughout the day and
decide on the type and quantity of food the child is going to eat;
they are in charge of and monitor energy intake, and they are
responsible for teaching children about the qualities of foods
and the behaviours that must be observed during mealtimes.
In reality, what affects the health of the child is not so much weight
but the amount of body fat or adiposity. Indeed, the most effective
treatments to improve children’s health have focused on reducing
adiposity without altering weight (American Dietetic Association,
2006). Although there are complex ways to measure adiposity, the
most common is the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by
dividing weight in kilograms by height in centimetres squared. In
addition, when sex and age are taken into account, the calculation
of body mass index provides a very rough measure of body fat
(Johnson-Taylor and Everhart, 2006). In adults, body weight is
measured using the BMI. However, in the case of children this
is more problematic since weight gain and changing shape are
part of the growth process itself. Taking into account that the BMI
varies according to sex and age in childhood, studies have generally
utilized for their calculations the BMI percentiles or the standard
deviations (Z score) (Johnson-Taylor and Everhart, 2006).
In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the
prevalence of overweight in childhood. Today one out of every ten
school-age children in all of the world is overweight (Lobstein et
al., 2004). In the United States, it is estimated that 17 percent of the
children between 6 and 11 years of age are obese (in other words,
their body mass index is above the 95th percentile) and one out
of three are overweight (BMI ≥ 85th percentile), according to data
from 2003-2006 (Ogden et al., 2006). In Spain, using international
measurement standards of reference for weight and height
according to age, Aranceta-Bartrina et al., (2005) calculated that
in the year 2000, 14.5 percent of the children between 6 and 9
years of age were above the 85th percentile, but below the 97th
percentile, and 15 percent had a weight above the 97th percentile
(Aranceta-Bartrina, et al., 2005).2
Childhood obesity has been shown to be associated with
diverse health problems, such as asthma and sleep apnoea,
early onset of type 2 diabetes or menstrual irregularity (Must et
al., 2003). The physiological consequences in childhood tend
to last long, multiplying the risks of obesity in adulthood or
suffering from chronic diseases (Serdula et al., 1993; Thompson
2 In general, one is considered overweight if the BMI is above the 85th percentile and obese if above the 95th
percentile for the same age and sex, according to recommendations of the European Childhood Obesity Group.
But some authors have chosen different thresholds, such as the 90th and 97th percentiles to define overweight
and obesity, respectively. Because of this, on occasion it is difficult to establish comparisons between the findings
of different studies given that the criteria employed to define overweight and obesity are not the same: not everyone uses the same tables as a reference or the same cut-off point.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
in the most efficient way possible and in this way be able to promote changes that contribute to the well-being of children.
sample of 847 with plausible measurements for children’s weight
and height.3
The average height of children in the sample is 128 cm, and the
average weight is 30.3 kilograms. If we compare these figures with
the international reference established by the WHO (International
reference population), the children of our sample are slightly
taller and weigh about half a standard deviation more. Their
body mass index is above that of the reference population by
over half a standard deviation. This indicates that approximately
half of the children (46 percent) are in the normal range, while 14
percent are underweight, 24 percent are overweight; 12 percent
obese and 4.6 percent suffer from morbid obesity.
TABLE 6.1: Distribution of boys and girls in weight categories,
Our study is based on data provided by parents about their children.
In studies with a large sample like ours, this method turns out to
be more viable than direct measurement. However, the declared
weights and heights are usually biased, requiring caution in the
interpretation of the results (Bogaert et al., 2003). To construct
the BMI we have utilized the Child Growth Standards for schoolage children of the World Health Organization (WHO Reference,
2007). Children who are placed two standard deviations above the
mean are considered obese.
The data from the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships
in Childhood, like other studies, suggests that parents are more likely
to know their child’s weight than the height. In the analysis carried
out, taking into account age and sex, the cases with a biologically
impossible weight and height were eliminated. From the total of
1,148 parents of children between 5 and 10 interviewed, we got a
by body mass index
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
WEIGHT
CATEGORIES
NUMBER OF CASES
PERCENTAGE total
GIRLS
Underweight
115
14
12
14
Normal weight
390
46
54
40
Overweight
202
24
23
24
Obesity
101
12
9.0
15
39
4.6
2.0
7.0
847
100
100
100
Morbid obesity
Total
BOYS Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
3 Given that we do not have a very large sample, and in order to maintain the reliability of our results, we
minimize the number of controls we introduce into our analysis to maintain adequate representation of families
and children in each of the categories.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
et al., 2007). Obesity in childhood also has psychological and
social consequences. Much research has documented the
stigmatization and marginalization suffered by children with
overweight (Sweeting et al., 2005; Storch et al., 2007), as well as
the emotional consequences of being discriminated against by
peers, with the consequential increase in the risk of suffering
from problems of low self-esteem or depression (Storch et al.,
2007). In the worst of cases, obesity can lead to a downward spiral
of socio-economic, relationship and mental problems that feed
on each other. Children who are obese often find themselves on
the first steps of a path that can lead to diverse complications
in the future, not only of a medical nature but also social
and psychological (Ferraro and Kelly-Moore, 2003; Crosnoe and
Lopez-González, 2005).
In the next section we will analyze some of the primary determinants
of weight for Spanish children between 5 and 10 years of age
based on the sample from our survey. With the goal of facilitating
the interpretation of the findings and given the limitations of the
sample, we will differentiate solely between obese and nonobese children. We have designated as «obese» the 16.7 percent
of children who have levels of obesity or morbid obesity. All of the
rest (including those who have lower than normal weights) are
categorized as «non-obese».
(a) Fathers’ and mothers’ weight
One of the most important predictors of the body mass index of
children is the body mass index of their parents. There is a genetic
component in the relationship between one’s own weight and
the weight of family members. In our sample, mothers tended to
maintain normal weights more often than fathers. The average
BMI of mothers was 23.6 (normal weight), while that of the fathers
entered in the category of overweight, with an average of 26.3.
In fact, only 27 percent of the children had both parents in the
normal category. 5 percent had at least one parent with
underweight (in 80 percent of the cases this was the mother),
and one out of five children had at least one obese parent (in
almost 70 percent of the cases, the father).
Many studies suggest that the mother’s weight has more influence
than does the father’s weight on the weight of the child. However,
in our sample the relationship is the opposite, and the child’s
weight appears to be slightly more correlated with the weight of
the father (r=0.16) than with that of the mother (r=0.14). These
correlations are also lower than those reported in other studies:
the BMI of the father and mother explains approximately 4
percent of the variation in the BMI of the children. Still, a child
with an obese father has almost 3 times higher odds of also being
obese, and a child with an obese mother has 80 percent higher
odds of being obese compared with a child whose mother is
normal weight.
(b) Socioeconomic characteristics and household structure
In addition to the genetic predisposition to overweight, we must
also look at the influence of new habits and behaviours as well as
other social factors on the increase in childhood obesity that has
taken place in recent years. As seen in earlier chapters, children’s
development during the first stages of childhood is marked by
their home environment. This is especially true in the case of
weight. When children are small, the parents have an influence
over their diet, the physical or sedentary character of their
activities, and expectations about the body and the importance
given to taking care of it (Golan et al., 2004). To better understand
the influence of socioeconomic and attitudinal factors on
childhood obesity we will return to some of the factors analyzed
in previous chapters.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Although a large part of the child population has a normal weight,
boys tend to weigh more and have a greater probability of being
in the problematic categories (both for underweight and obesity).
The differences are especially marked for morbid obesity, which
affects 7 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls. The odds ratio for
being obese for girls is half that of boys of the same age.
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.16
0.14
0.12
0.10
0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02
0.00
NORMAL WEIGHT
OVERWEIGHT
Mother
OBESITY
Father
Note: The probability is calculated based on logistic regression models in which the dependent variable had
two values: 1) The child is obese; 0) The child is not obese. The following variables have been introduced into
the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day, mothers’
weight and father’s weight.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
In earlier chapters, we looked at diverse evidence on the
relationship between the socioeconomic characteristics of
families and children’s well-being. The children of well-off families
tend to grow up in contexts more favourable for their development.
However, the following tables indicate that the relationship
between household income level and obesity is not very strong.
Although descriptive data suggest that there are Padre
a lower
proportion of obese children among those who come from
families with higher incomes, the differences are not statistically
significant. In fact, when we control for other factors (mother’s
level of education and employment status), the relationship
disappears, which suggests that the differences must be explained
by other characteristics of the child and his or her family (see
table 6.2). More than income, without a doubt, the most important
explanatory factor is the educational level of the parent. As we
will see later on, this is a relationship repeated with the other
indicators analyzed in this chapter: socio-emotional competence
and the response to demands of school. Children whose parents
have completed secondary education have a lower odds ratio for
being obese than children who come from households with
lower educational levels. If the parents have a university education,
the odds ratio for being obese is even lower. In this case, the
educational level of the mother has greater explanatory power
than that of the father. If we control for the influence of parental
education, other socioeconomic factors, such as parental income
level and employment status, do not explain the variation in
obesity among children (as can be seen in the last column).
Another socioeconomic factor significantly associated with
risk of obesity is immigrant status. The percentage of children
of immigrant origin having problems with obesity is greater
than that of autochthonous children (21 percent and 16
percent respectively). If we control for the effect of other
sociodemographic factors, children between 5 and 10 years of
age who are of immigrant origin have an 80 percent higher risk
of suffering obesity than the children of Spanish parents.
Madre
Madre
Padre
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Graph 6.1: Probability of children being obese, by parents’ weight
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS
Household income
Less than €1,200
From €1,201 to €2,000
From €2,001 to €3,000
From €3,001 to €5,000
More than €5,000
Parents’ origin
Native
Immigrant
Mother’s characteristics
Employment status
Does not work
Works part-time
Works full-time
Education level
Primary
Secondary
University
Father’s characteristics
Employment status
Does not work
Works part-time
Works full-time
PERCENTAGE
ODDS RATIO(a)
ODDS ADJUSTED RATIO(b)
18
20
17
15
4.2
1
1.28
0.97
0.82
0.20*
1
1.32
1.25
1.36
0.35†
16
21
1
1.45
1
1.78*
18
17
15
1
0.88
0.74
1
0.99
0.91
22
17
17
1
0.69†
0.48**
1
0.66†
0.46**
26
18
16
1
0.87
0.74
1
0.92
0.81
The emergence of social risks in childhood
TABLE 6.2: Obesity in children, by socioeconomic characteristics of household
Education level
Primary
Secondary
University
18
17
14
1
0.9
0.71
1
0.89
0.74
† Significance level of 10%
* Significance level of 5%
** Significance level of 1%
*** Significance level of 1‰
Note: a) Probability of child being obese. b) Probability of child being obese, socioeconomic conditions being equal.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
An important aspect to bear in mind in relation to the family
situation is family structure; that is, which people live with
the child and thus, form part of his or her daily life. One of the
most studied aspects is whether the absence of one parent in
the home affects indicators of well-being. Research on family
structure and obesity is limited. Even so, the assumption is
that children who live with only one parent run a greater risk
of having unhealthy eating habits because of being subject to
lower levels of parental control, due to the difficulties involved in
doing this job alone. In the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational
Relationships in Childhood we have a very small sample of singleparent families, which limits our capacity to reach relevant
conclusions. Only 7.1 percent of our sample of children from 5
to 10 years of age lives in a single-parent home. The results of
our analysis, however, point in the expected direction: children
who live with only one parent have a greater probability of
being obese than those who live with both parents, although
the differences are not statistically significant.
A large number of international studies have concluded that
the presence of other adults in the home can be beneficial for
childhood health. Among the most significant evidence for this
is that it is often pointed out that children who live with or often
spend time with a grandmother tend to obtain better scores on
different indicators of well-being, including survival (Mace, 2000)
and growing up without health problems (Duflo, 2003). In the
United States, Pope (1993) related living with a grandmother to
higher cognitive capacities, better behaviour and health at three
years of age. Regarding nutrition and risk of obesity, the presence
of additional adults in the home, above all grandmothers, could
be especially important given that they are often in charge of
caring for the children and the preparation of meals. Their
presence in the home can increase the levels of supervision of
children’s habits and promote meal preparation at home. That
said, it is also possible that grandparents are more tolerant of their
grandchildren eating more, or they are more likely to give them
fattening foods (sweets, candy, etc.) and that in general, they are
The emergence of social risks in childhood
(Continue)
In line with these results, Spanish children who live with
grandparents have a significantly higher probability of being
obese (table 6.3). Childhood obesity is a relatively recent problem
in Spain, about which older generations are not well-informed. In
addition, perhaps the fact that many of them experienced food
shortages in their own childhood (or at least serious restrictions
in the range of products available) could reduce their concern
about obesity in their grandchildren. It is doubtful, therefore,
that the presence of grandparents in the home can contribute to
increasing the levels of control over their grandchildren’s habits
and limit the amount they ingest. In fact, research carried out in
other countries suggests that grandmothers put a lot of pressure
on mothers when they think that their grandchildren are too thin
(Bruss et al., 2003).
TABLE 6.3: Obesity in children, by composition of household
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
COMPOSITION OF HOUSEHOLD PERCENTAGE
ODDS RATIO(b)
ODDS ADJUSTED RATIO(c)
Household structure
Two parents
16
1
1
Single-parent
22
1.44
1.34
Do not reside in the home(a)
17
1
1
Reside in the home
16
0.92
0.91
Do not reside in the home
16
1
1
Reside in the home
26
Siblings
Grandparents
1.86*
1.73†
† Significance level of 10%
* Significance level of 5%
** Significance level of 1%
*** Significance level of 1‰
Note: a) The category «do not reside» combines the cases in which the child does not have siblings and those in which he/she does, but they do not reside in the home. b) Probability of child being obese. c) Probability of child being
obese, socioeconomic conditions being equal.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
less concerned about the negative consequences of childhood
obesity (Jiang et al., 2007).
(c) Parental styles
Graph 6.2: Probability of child being obese, by parents’ perception
Daily routines and sedentary habits have a considerable influence
on the risk of being overweight. The time children spend in front of
the screen (television, computer or video console) and childhood
obesity have increased simultaneously in recent years. Despite this,
research has not yielded clear findings regarding the relationship
between obesity and the time that children spend watching
television or playing video games. Apparently, the relationship
becomes stronger after 10 years of age (Marshall et al., 2004; ReyLopez, 2008). In line with this, our analysis does not reveal the
existence of a relationship between the activities children do at
home–that is, the frequency with which they watch television, play
video games, practice sports or eat with their parents–and the risks
of obesity among children between 5 and 10 years of age. Looking
at parents’ assessments of the amount of time they share with
their children–independent from how they spend that time–we
find that this does have an influence on the risk of obesity. Graph
6.2 shows that the probability of suffering from obesity is higher
in children whose parents state that they do not spend enough
time with their children. The amount of time the father dedicates
is apparently more crucial than that of the mother, especially when
it is not enough time.
0,25
0,20
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
NOT ENOUGH
ENOUGH
Mother’s perception about amount
of time father spends with child
MORE THAN ENOUGH
Mother’s perception about amount
of time spent with child
The emergence of social risks in childhood
of the amount of time they spend with him/her
Note: The responses of mothers on their perception of the amount of time they spend and the father spends with
the child were collected. Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent
variable has two values: 1) the child is obese; 0) child is not obese. The following variables have been introduced
into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day,
mother’s perception of time father spends with child and perception of time she spends with child.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Today there are still many questions about the way in which the
family influences the weight of its youngest members. In fact, it
seems that the parents’ commitment to promoting healthy eating
can end up backfiring. For example, Galloway (2006) has found that
parental pressure on children to eat healthy food is not usually very
successful. Other research has even indicated that childrenPercepción
who are
del tiem
Percepción del tiem
Graph 6.3: Probability of child being obese, by type of fatherhood
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
INTENSE
RESPONSIBLE
ADAPTIVE
TRADITIONAL
PREDISPOSED
UNCOMMITTED
TYPES OF FATHERHOOD
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) the child is obese; 0) child is not obese. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously
into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mothers’ education level, mother’s working day and
parenting styles.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
(d) Friendships and free time
4 These types of fatherhood are defined in Chapter 4. See pages 91-93.
The negative social and psychological ramifications of adolescent
obesity may be as damaging as its consequences for physical
health. Obese children face social problems such as teasing,
systematic discrimination, mistreatment, exclusion and chronic
victimization, even more than children with other stigmatized
attributes (Storch, 2007; Sweeting, 2005). Children have negative
The emergence of social risks in childhood
not allowed to eat or are restricted from eating certain harmful foods
tend to eat those more and gain weight (Clark et al. 2007). At the
other extreme, an excessive permissiveness or lack of supervision of
children’s eating habits can lead to situations of persistent obesity
and/or nutritional deficiencies (Brann and Skinner, 2005). Our
research supports these findings. The risk of suffering from obesity
between 5 and 10 years of age in Spain is related to the patterns
of control and permissiveness of parents. In this regard, the father’s
involvement can be crucial. Utilizing data from our survey, there is
evidence that in the homes where the father participates intensely
in caring for his children there is a lower probability of the children
being obese. In contrast, children whose fathers are «traditional,»
«pre-disposed,» or «uncommitted,» where only the mother or neither
parent is involved in the child’s life, have a significantly higher risk of
obesity, socioeconomic factors being equal.4
found in the study carried out in the United States. Children
described by their parents as shy, sad and with a tendency to be
fearful have a higher probability of being obese (see graph 6.4).
Obesity in childhood can lead to an accumulation of adverse
situations. Obese children have a greater probability of suffering
from psychological problems such as depression and low selfesteem, as well as expressing dissatisfaction with their own
bodies (Strauss, 2000; Storch et al. 2007; Haines and NeumarkSztainer, 2006). Moreover, they tend to be more withdrawn, to
consider themselves bad students, to have lower educational
expectations and to suffer a greater number of attempted suicides
(Falkner et al. 2001). In previous studies carried out in the United
States, we studied the direction of causality with longitudinal
studies (Jackson and Argeseanu, 2010). With a sample of North
American children, we found that (non-obese) children who have
been diagnosed with depression have a higher risk of becoming
obese three years after the initial diagnosis of depression, but
children diagnosed with obesity were not more likely than nonobese children to develop depression in the same time period
(Papadopoulos et al. 2010). These findings suggest that low
socio-emotional competence and depression are at the origin
of obesity and not the reverse. With the results from our Survey
on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood it is not
possible to reconstruct the direction of causality given that this
was not a longitudinal study. Symptoms of emotional distress and
measurements of weight were recorded in a single moment in
time. But the findings do reveal evidence of the same associations
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
0,30
0,25
Graph 6.4: Probability of child being obese, by level of symptoms
of depression
PROBABILITY
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
MINIMUM LEVEL
MAXIMUM LEVEL
DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS INDEX
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) the child is obese; 0) child is not obese. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously
into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and
level of child’s symptoms of depression. The depression symptoms index is the sum of parental responses of
agreement or disagreement with the following statements about their child: «he/she is sometimes sad,» «she/he
is sometimes afraid of things or people,» «he/she gets angry with others.» The index has values from 0 (disagrees
with the statement) to 8 (strongly agrees with the statement).
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
To summarize, the analysis we carried out supports the idea that
obesity is the product of genetic factors and socioeconomic
probability
The emergence of social risks in childhood
attitudes towards obese children, and these negative feelings are
held even by children who are themselves obese (Staffieri, 1967;
Cramer and Steinwert, 1998). As children enter adolescence,
parental influence on body-image weakens, and instead, the
importance of peer opinion becomes stronger. In adolescence,
weight becomes a major yardstick to measure self-worth.
6.2. Raising socially and emotionally competent
children
With the improvement in children’s health described at the
beginning of this chapter, society’s attention to the well-being of
children has expanded to include broader components beyond
physical health, such as mental health and social adjustment.
Happiness and sociability are common indicators of child wellbeing
and are primary concerns for today’s parents, healthcare
practitioners, and researchers. Many authors have stated that
interactions with other people in childhood provide opportunities
to develop skills such as social reasoning (Piaget, 1932; Rubin et al.
2009). In other words, in the context of socialization with a group
of peers, children have opportunities to question their ideas,
negotiate and discuss diverse points of view and decide which
arguments they keep and which ones they reject. These experiences
interacting with peers are positive for the development of adaptive
behaviours, including among others, the ability to empathize with
the thoughts and feelings of others. Appropriate social and
emotional competencies gives us the ability to manage difficult
situations that otherwise could lead to fights, anger, or offensive
responses (Steiner, 1998). Along these lines, some authors in Spain
have highlighted the importance of including socio-emotional
education in the design of educational curricula in order to
minimize discipline problems, violence, risk behaviours and
prevent their appearance (Darder, 2001; Izquierdo, 2000).
In addition, the latest research shows that psycho-social wellbeing is important not only for a healthy childhood but that it can
also have long-term consequences. Children with emotional or
behavioural problems are at higher risk of developing psychological
and social problems in adulthood related to mental health, sexual
relationships, education and employment, and they are more
likely to engage in criminal activities or consume addictive
substances (Fergusson et al. 2005). In this regard, the OECD has
recently recognized the need to extend the attention dedicated
to «cognitive» competencies (in studies such as the PISA) to also
include other types of skills that favour the development of a
balanced personality and that promote learning processes, such
as assertiveness, self-motivation and the capacity to handle
different levels of social relationships.
Children restricting access to shared activities (i.e., the act of
rejecting other children and refusing to let them join in play) is a
consistent feature of social interaction among young children and
The emergence of social risks in childhood
inequalities, but also of other psycho-social processes that take
place in the world in which the child lives. The dynamics of the
social interaction between parents and their children as well as
between children and their peers play a role in this. It is important
to point out that our analysis did not find evidence that women
working outside the home negatively affects the risk of obesity
(other things being equal), but there is a correlation between the
degree of parental involvement in the life of a child and the risk
of obesity. With respect to this, it is important to note the role
that new forms of co-responsible parenting can play in the
prevention of obesity. We also did not find evidence that children
who were enrolled in pre-school from 0-3 years of age or who are
now in after school programmes have a higher risk of developing
obesity than those who have not utilized these services.
Children who are repeatedly refused admittance into shared
activities are classified as “rejected children”, and repeated
rejection may be due to, or may cause, either aggressive or
withdrawn behavior. Children who are not rejected, but still do
not take active part in social interaction, are called “neglected
children” (Corsaro, 1997). Both rejected and neglected children
are often at a disadvantage in developing friendships and social
competence, with negative consequences lasting into adulthood
(Parker, 1997).
Many studies have confirmed the importance of socio-emotional
competencies in childhood. For example, Gilliam (2005) showed
that children with many socio-emotional problems in primary
school have a three times greater risk of being expelled from school
than those who do not have these problems. Initial disadvantages
can have fairly long-range effects. Children who have been bullied
in pre-school by other children have a greater probability of
engaging in risky behaviours in adolescence and adulthood
(Gagnon et al., 1995). Mahoney et al. (2003) found that social
competence during pre-adolescence is associated with higher
educational expectations in adolescence and higher educational
achievement at the age of 20. Social and emotional competencies,
which are manifested in the ability to interact positively with
others, improve individuals’ employability. In personnel
selection processes the evaluation of these types of qualities is
increasingly more common with the objective of creating
dynamics of mutual understanding among members of work
teams and therefore contributing to the generation of a positive
working environment.
For the analysis of emotional and behavioural problems in
childhood developed in this section, we have used an adapted
version of Achenbach’s Child Behaviour Checklist (1992). In our
survey parents were asked to what extent they agree with the
following thirteen statements with respect to their children: he/
she likes spending time with other people; he/she gets into conflicts
or fights; he/she likes to bother others; he/she likes to laugh; he/
she is sometimes sad; he/she sometimes feels alone; he/she is
normally in a good mood; he/she loses control easily; he/she can’t
be still; he/she is shy; he/she likes to try new things; he/she is
sometimes afraid of things or of people; and he/she often gets
angry with others. For each behaviour, the parents had three
possible response choices; «strongly agree,» «partly agree,»
«disagree.» In the literature, behaviours and attitudes similar to
those listed above fall under the umbrella of socio-emotional
competence (Rubin et al., 2009). Based on parental responses we
created a scale in which the highest values indicate a greater
tendency to manifest positive social and emotional behaviours.
Although it would be equally as interesting to analyze the different
attitudes and behaviours separately, this is beyond the possibilities
of this study. Because of space considerations and to facilitate
interpretation we have opted for an index to unify and analyze
the responses. The index permits us to classify children into three
groups, based on the scores obtained from the thirteen questions
The emergence of social risks in childhood
not necessarily problematic. It is when these antisocial behaviors
become the norm that children may be experiencing a problem
requiring intervention. Acquiring strategies to overcome rejection
is essential for children. Strategies such as approaching a group,
observing their common task or topic of conversation, and finding
a way to appropriately insert oneself into the interaction are
utilized and refined throughout childhood and adulthood.
In the following pages, following the same schema as in previous
sections, we will analyze the association between problems of
socio-emotional competence and family characteristics and social
environment. The tables in this section include the percentages in
the first two columns and the odds ratio in the next two. The first
odds ratio measures the direct association established between
the index of socio-emotional competence and the characteristic
being analyzed. Finally, in the last column we show the odds ratio
adjusted for family socioeconomic conditions (that is, other things
being equal, for parents’ educational level, employment status,
the sex and age of the child and national origin). In this way,
controlling for the influence which other variables may have, we
can know what effects specific family characteristics have on
socio-emotional competence.
(a) Socioeconomic characteristics and household structure
Some studies have suggested that there is a direct relationship
between family socioeconomic conditions and levels of socioemotional development in children: in families with greater
economic and educational resources children have greater social
skills (Mahoney, 2003). It is argued that families with greater
economic and educational resources are more likely to encourage
their children to argue and defend their ideas, and in these
families children are more accustomed to interacting with people
with whom they do not share family ties than children from more
disadvantaged social classes (Lareau, 2002). Perhaps parents in
families with greater educational resources are better prepared
to understand the emotional changes their children go through
and to find solutions to problematic situations. It is also possible
that this association between social class and socio-emotional
competence can be attributed to that fact that children who live
in homes in more precarious situations are exposed to a wider
range of social risks and destabilizing factors which may affect
the development of their competencies, such as family break-ups
caused by separation or divorce, unemployment and economic
insecurity (McLeod and Shanahan, 1996).
Our data support this idea. Table 6.4 shows that the non-adjusted
odds ratio of a child having low socio-emotional competence is
lower in homes with a higher economic level than in those in
more insecure economic situations, although the result is not
sufficiently robust after controlling for other socioeconomic
factors. The best predictor of socio-emotional competence is the
educational level of parents. According to the results of our
analysis, economic and employment conditions being equal,
The emergence of social risks in childhood
formulated. The children included in the group with «low socioemotional competence» are those who received scores at least
one standard deviation below the mean, which includes 30
percent of the children; in other words, these are children whose
parents responded that they strongly agreed with at least nine of
the statements regarding problematic behaviours and attitudes.
Another 40 percent of the children fall into the group of «medium
level socio-emotional competence» formed by those who
answered that their children manifested negative behaviours
between five and eight times. Finally, 30 percent were in the
group of «high socio-emotional competence,» that is, children
whose parents responded that they disagreed when asked if their
children were sometimes sad, angry with others, or shy and that
they agreed that their children had positive behaviours (such as
laughing or normally being in a good mood) in at least 9 out of
the 13 behaviours analyzed.
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
LOW
SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
MID SOCIO-EMOTIONAL
COMPETENCE
HIGH SOCIO-EMOTIONAL
COMPETENCE
Less than €1,200
38
34
28
From €1,201 to €2,000
31
45
24
0.73†
0.81
From €2,001 to €3,000
30
41
30
0.69†
0.84
From €3,001 to €5,000
21
42
37
0.44***
0.66
More than €5,000
9.7
45
45
0.17*
0.31†
Native
28
42
30
Immigrant
38
38
24
Does not work
32
40
28
1
1
Works part-time
31
40
29
0.97
1.11
Works full-time
25
44
31
0.72*
0.88
Primary
36
41
23
1
1
Secondary
31
40
29
0.78†
0.83
University
21
44
35
0.46***
0.60*
Does not work
34
39
26
1
1
Works part-time
34
44
22
0.98
0.97
SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACtERISTICS
ODDS RATIO
ADJUSTED ODDS RATIO(a)
Household income
1
1
Parents’ origin
1
1.60**
1
1.67**
Mother’s characteristics
Employment status
Education level
Father’s characteristics
Employment status
The emergence of social risks in childhood
TABLE 6.4: Level of socio-emotional competence of children, by socioeconomic characteristics of household
Works full-time
27
42
31
0.72*
0.85
Primary
33
41
27
1
1
Secondary
31
42
27
0.86
0.98
University
20
42
38
0.49***
0.69†
Education level
† Significance level of 10%
* Significance level of 5%
** Significance level of 1%
*** Significance level of 1‰
Note: a) Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence, with respect to probability of having average or high socio-emotional competence, socioeconomic conditions being equal.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
there is lower risk of low socio-emotional competence in homes
with greater educational resources; in other words, parents with
higher levels of education tend to raise more sociable children,
less prone to have behavioural problems (such as getting into
fights) or attitudinal problems (sadness, shyness). Economic
resources or the employment status of parents are no longer
significant, educational conditions being equal. It is interesting
to note that the employment status of parents does not seem to
significantly affect the level of socio-emotional competence.
Concretely, it is striking that the children of mothers who work
full-time are at lower risk for socio-emotional problems than
those of mothers who do not work, although the effect is not
significant after controlling for other socioeconomic factors.
Children of immigrant origin also face additional difficulties
related to socio-emotional competence. The percentage of
children with low socio-emotional competence is higher in the
homes of the foreign population than in Spanish homes (38
percent and 28 percent, respectively). The adverse economic
situations experienced in these homes could partially explain this
difference (Marí-Klose et al., 2008ª). It should be noted, however,
that the disadvantage of children of immigrant origin is maintained
even when they are compared to children who come from families
in similar socioeconomic conditions. This finding is consistent
with the evidence gathered in other countries with significant
levels of immigration. It is probably symptomatic of the great
effort required to adapt to new social norms, and often a new
language. Some children of foreign origin might have gone
through the migratory process themselves, which, even if this
occurs at an early age, tends to have a destabilizing effect. Along
with the difficulties involved in integration when there are cultural
differences, changing one’s country brings among other things
changes in routines, separation from family and friends, and on
occasion, having to face ridicule, hostility or exclusion from other
The emergence of social risks in childhood
(Continue)
Table 6.5 shows the relationship between socio-emotional
competence and factors related to the structure in the home. 35
percent of the children who live in single-parent homes fall into
the category of low socio-emotional competence, compared to
29 percent of those who live in two parent homes. But the
differences are not statistically significant (probably because of
the low representation of single-parent families in the sample).
Neither are the differences significant between homes in which
the child has siblings and those where he/she does not, or
between homes where the child lives with grandparents and
those where he/she does not.
TABLe 6.5: Level of socio-emotional competence of children, by composition of household
In percentages. Children from 5 to 10 years of age
COMPOSITION OF HOUSEHOLD
LOW SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
MID SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
HIGH SOCIOEMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
ODDS RATIO(b)
ADJUSTED ODDS RATIO(c)
Household structure
Two parents
29
42
30
1
1
Single-parent
35
41
24
1.34
1.19
Do not reside in the home(a)
29
45
26
1
1
Reside in the home
29
40
31
0.98
1.02
Do not reside in the home
29
42
30
1
1
Reside in the home
34
39
27
1.29
1.16
Siblings
Grandparents
Note: a) The category «do not reside» combines the cases in which the child does not have siblings and those in which he/she does, but they do not reside in the home.
b) Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence, with respect to probability of having average or high socio-emotional competence. c) Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence, with respect to
probability of having average or high socio-emotional competence, socioeconomic conditions being equal.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
children. There is abundant research about immigrant children
and adolescents in the United States and other countries with a
longer migratory history than Spain, which describes these
destabilizing effects in what has been called the 1.5 generation–
children of immigrant origin who arrive in another country at an
early age (Suarez-Orozco and Todorova, 2008; Kasinitz et al., 2008).
As important or more important than socioeconomic conditions
in the household are interpersonal interactions. The family
atmosphere in which the child grows up is determined to a
great extent by the interpersonal relationships between parents
and children (shaped in turn by different ways of fathering and
mothering) and the interpersonal relationships between the
parents. In this regard, situations of tension can negatively affect
the emotional development of the child (Anthony et al., 2005;
Deater-Deckard, 1998).
We will begin our analysis by examining the influence of
fatherhood on children’s level of socio-emotional competence.
Table 6.6 shows that children who live in homes where the
fathers are less involved in their lives (with «adaptive» and
«traditional» forms of fatherhood, and in the remaining
category where both mothers and fathers are not very involved
in children’s lives) tend to have lower levels of socio-emotional
competence than those in homes where the fathers exercise
«intense» or «responsible» fatherhood. The effect is not very
robust after controlling for socioeconomic factors but the
anticipated direction remains.
TABLE 6.6: Level of socio-emotional competence of children, by parenting styles
In percentages: Children from 5 to 10 years of age
LOW SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
MID SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
HIGH SOCIO-EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE
Intense
23
44
33
1
1
Responsible
27
40
32
1.28
1.24
Adaptive
34
37
29
1.79*
1.68†
Traditional
36
42
22
1.88*
1.64†
Predisposed
22
48
30
0.97
0.91
Uncommitted
39
41
20
2.13*
1.84
TYPES OF FATHERHOOD
ODDS RATIO
† Significance level of 10%
* Significance level of 5%
Note: a) Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence, with respect to probability of having average or high socio-emotional competence, socioeconomic conditions being equal.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
ADJUSTED ODDS RATIO(a)
The emergence of social risks in childhood
(b) Parenting styles and interpersonal relationships in the home
Graph 6.5: Probability of child having low socio-emotional
competence, by degree of exposure to cognitively stimulating activities
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
NO COGNITIVE
STIMULATION
LOW
MID
MID-HIGH
HIGH COGNITIVE
STIMULATION
DEGREE OF EXPOSURE TO COGNITIVELY STIMULATING ACTIVITIES
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) the child has low socio-emotional competence; 0) child does not have low socio-emotional competence.
See detailed definition on pages 158-159. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the
model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and degree of
exposure to cognitively stimulating activities.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
between cognitive stimulation and socio-emotional capacity
also remains significant, socioeconomic conditions in the home
being equal.
There are two elements related to the interaction between parents
and children that have been shown to be key in explaining low
socio-emotional competence in children: the use of sanctions
(such as the threat of punishment, giving them time to reflect on
their actions, punishing them by different forms of deprivation,
yelling at them or spanking them) and level of stress that is felt by
parents. As can be seen in the following graphs, the use of sanctions
is clearly associated with low socio-emotional competence. The
use of positive reinforcement (congratulating the child for things
done well) reveals no relationship to the probability of having
low socio-emotional competence (although, significantly, there
does exist a positive correlation with the likelihood of high socioemotional competence). In contrast, the relationship between
the frequency of sanctions and low socio-emotional capacities
remains for different disciplinary methods. Evidently, the data
must be interpreted with caution because we cannot disentangle
the direction of causality. We can appeal here to other research on
these issues. Studies carried out in other countries with longitudinal
samples support the idea that the abuse of disciplinary methods
is at the origin of emotional and behavioural problems, and they
minimize the importance of the alternative hypothesis (Gershoff,
2002; Grogan-Kaylor, 2005).
The emergence of social risks in childhood
One interesting finding is that the benefits of cognitive stimulation
activities described in chapter 3 are not exclusively cognitive but
also social and emotional. As can be seen in graph 6.5, parents who
do cognitive stimulating activities with their children (reading
them stories and doing crafts with them) have children who are
less vulnerable from a socio-emotional perspective. The relationship
Graph 6.7: Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence,
competence, by frequency of use of rewards and punishments
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
PROBABILITY
0.70
0.60
0.60
0.50
0.50
0.40
0.40
0.30
0.30
0.20
0.20
0.10
0.10
0.00
0.00
NEVER
OCCASIONALLY
Raise voice or shout at child
Punish child (has to stay in his/her room, not
allowed to watch TV,use computer, etc)
Congratulate child on doing things well
ALMOST DAILY
NEVER
DAILY
Threaten to punish child
Spank him/her
Give child time to reflect on
what he/she has done
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) The child has low socio-emotional competence; 0) child does not have low socio-emotional competence.
See detailed definition on pages 116-118. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the
model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and frequency
of use of positive and negative reinforcement. There is insufficient data to estímate the probability that a child will
have low socio-emotional competence when his/her parents spank him/her daily or almost daily.
OCCASIONALLY
OFTEN
FREQUENCY OF TENSION IN THE HOME
Tension over division of domestic responsibilities
Tension due to economic difficulties
Tension caused by job stress
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Graph 6.6: Probability of child having low socio-emotional
Tension over child care
Tension due to not having time to
relax
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) The child has low socio-emotional competence; 0) child does not have low socio-emotional competence.
See detailed definition on pages 116-118. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the
model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and frequency
of tension due to different causes.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Interactions between parents and children are part of a wider
which these situations are produced (in different modalities) and
network of relationships in which there can be situations of tension
the socio-emotional competence of the child. The data show that
caused by different social and environmental circumstances.
independently of the socioeconomic conditions of the child and
0,6
Graph 6.7 describes the relationship between the frequency
withreflexionar
family, said tensions affect the development of these competencies.
Tensión por estrés e
Le hace
0,5
Le felicita
Tensión por no dispo
0,4
Le da un cachete
Tensión por dificulta
6.3. The origins of school disengagement
The third and final aspect related to well-being in childhood that we
will analyze is interest in studying and being in school or its opposite,
the processes leading to school disengagement and difficulties
with staying in school. Interest in studying and involvement in
school (engagement) have been defined as consisting of a
constellation of interrelated attitudes and behaviours that promote
learning in an academic environment (Marks, 2000; Newmann et al.,
1992). School engagement requires concentration, dedication and
effort. In contrast, school disengagement involves a lack of attention,
little interest and limited investment. The problems of school
disengagement limit both the capacity to learn and educational
performance.
School engagement is central for bringing about academic
success since it fosters the achievement of academic goals and
prevents dropping out (Newmann et al., 1992; Rumberger, 1987).
Students tend to obtain better marks when they show an interest
in educational tasks (Csikszentmihalyi and Schneider, 2000).
Students who show high levels of commitment to school tend
to learn more, be more satisfied with the time spent in school
and continue to study after ending their compulsory education
(Marks, 2000). School disengagement, on the other hand, has
been linked to learning delays and difficulties in keeping up with
the prescribed academic rhythm, which in turn can lead to a
spiral that ends with the student dropping out (Finn, 1989; Marks,
2000; in Spain, see Fernández-Enguita, 2010). Disengagement
can begin at an early age and can condition the educational
development of the child. For example, Alexander et al. (1997)
related lack of school engagement in the first year of primary
school to the decision to drop out in secondary school. There are
also studies which have found an association between school
engagement and other dimensions in children’s trajectories. For
example, Manlove (1998) found evidence that there is a lower
incidence of adolescent pregnancy among students with high
levels of school engagement.
Helping children to develop an interest in their studies and to
identify with educational goals is without a doubt a challenge for
educators, parents and policy makers. Although the symptoms
of disengagement that have been most analyzed (absenteeism,
grade retention, dropping out) usually occur later on in school,
the process that leads to this is forged during the first years
of schooling. Understanding the nature of the determinants of
school engagement as well as the contextual influences and
the interpersonal relationships involved is imperative in order
to detect and prevent problems caused when engagement is
lacking.
Although dropping out of school and educational performance
have been the object of numerous studies, the problems related
to disengagement have not received sufficient attention. Our
Survey on Inter and Intragenerational Relationships in Childhood,
which has a section dedicated to the education of children from
5 to 10 years old, offers us a rare opportunity to look closely at
that stage in which boys and girls may begin to disconnect from
school and at a time when their destiny has not yet been written.
At this earlier stage, problems with concentration, lack of interest
The emergence of social risks in childhood
In homes where situations of tension occur often, the probability of
the child having low levels of socio-emotional competence is higher.
A significant number of parents in our survey revealed problems
of disengagement among their children: between 15 percent and
30 percent, depending on the indicator used and the age and
sex of the child. Our analysis has confirmed research carried out
in other countries which shows that at all stages of compulsory
education, boys suffer higher levels of disengagement than
girls (Lee and Smith, 1994). In 31 percent of homes, the parents
interviewed indicated that the teacher had commented that their
sons had problems with concentration, but only 19 percent said
the same thing about their daughters; 27.1 percent of parents
said that their sons did not like studying, whereas 18.7 percent
said the same about their daughters. Finally, 19.5 percent of
boys versus 15.7 percent of girls had problems following certain
material or a certain subject in school (see graph 6.9). Earlier
studies have also pointed out that disengagement increases
as children get older (Jacobs et al., 2002). Our data partially
corroborate this. As can be seen in graph 6.10, there is no linear
relationship between age and disengagement for the different
components analyzed. The percentage of children who do not
like to study or who have problems with certain material or a
subject is low before eight years of age (when the amount of
educational material is still low), and somewhat higher later on,
but the prevalence of problems with concentration reveals more
erratic behaviour.
Graph 6.8: Children with problems of disengagement from school, by sex
In percentages: Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
PROBLEMS
CONCENTRATING (a)
DON’T LIKE TO STUDY
Boys
PROBLEMS KEEPING UP WITH
SUBJECT IN SCHOOL
Girls
Note: a) Children from 5 to 10 years of age.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
or difficulties in keeping up with subjects in school can condition
students’ progress, but they still do not constitute determining
factors for the future. Even with these problems, some students
are still able to get good marks (Martinez et al., 2004). Studying
school engagement or the problems of disengagement makes
it possible to analyze the educational process from a new focus,
affects children’s lives and well-being beyond their educational
implications. Based on the responses given by parents, we
selected three indicators of school disengagement at early stages
in children’s education trajectory: a) «the teacher has commented
that the child has problems with certain material or a subject in
school»; b) «the teacher has said that the child has problems with
concentration or paying attention»; and c) «the child does not
like to study». These responses capture different dimensions: the
academic dimension (a) as well as others of a more psychological
or attitudinal nature (b and c).
by age
In percentages: Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
5 YEARS
Problems
concentrating
6 YEARS
7 YEARS
8 YEARS
Don’t like to study
9 YEARS
10 YEARS
Problems keeping up
with subjects in school
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
(a) Socioeconomic characteristics and household structure
The level of engagement children have in school can be
considered the result of a combination of natural inclinations and
predispositions, the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) their educational
experiences bring them, and the expected returns they hope to
gain in the future (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Parents, through the
30attention and stimulation they provide their children, play a very
important role in the formation of their children’s preferences and
25
attitudes. Parental influence is manifested in different ways. The
20
15
most studied is the association between the socioeconomic level
of the parents and the level of engagement or disengagement of
the children (Lee and Smith, 1994). This relationship is consistent
with a theory of educational attainment, according to which
parents’ education is the main predictor of the educational
attainment of children (Sewell and Shah, 1968). Much subsequent
research has traced the mechanisms responsible for producing
this relationship.
The findings of the Survey on Inter and Intragenerational
Relationships in Childhood confirm the relationship between
parents’ education and children’s interest in studying and
engagement in school. Data unequivocally suggest that problems
with concentration are less common among children whose
parents have high levels of education: 29 percent of all the parents
with a primary school level education said that the teacher had
told them their son or daughter had problems with concentration,
while this had occurred with only 19 percent of the parents who
had a university degree. It is also more common to find children
whose teachers say they have problems keeping up with a subject
coming from families with lower educational levels: in families
where the parents only had a primary school level education, the
odds ratio for having this type of problem is four times greater
than if at least one of the parents had university studies (other
socioeconomic conditions being equal). Among children of parents
with secondary school education, the odds ratio is twice as high.
These findings remain statistically robust even when adjusted for
different socioeconomic factors in the household (participation in
the labour market and origin of the parents, as well as age and sex
of the child). The results indicate that the influence the level ofparents’
education has on disengagement is not simply the product of the
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Graph 6.9: Children with problems of disengagement from school,
age are probably better prepared to maintain their attention and
adapt to the learning dynamics in school than those children who
have not had those kinds of experiences.
The third indicator analyzed (if the child likes studying) has a weaker
level of association with the educational level of the parents.
Even so, it can be seen in table 6.7 that in households with higher
levels of education, the children are less likely to demonstrate
TABLE 6.7: School disengagement by parents’ education level
In percentages. Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
ODDS RATIO(a)
adjusted odds RATIO(b)
Mother’s education level
Has problems concentrating(c)
Primary
29
1
1
Secondary
28
0.97
0.91
University
19
0.59**
0.57**
Has problems keeping up with subject
Primary
30
1
1
Secondary
16
0.45***
0.46***
University
10
0.26***
0.28***
Primary
27
1
1
Secondary
24
0.89
0.88
University
18
0.61*
0.60*
Does not like to study
The emergence of social risks in childhood
unequal distribution of the material and social conditions which
produced the educational credentials of the parents. As we have
seen in previous chapters, parents with higher levels of education
tend to dedicate more quality time to their children, participate
more often in cognitive stimulation activities (and when the children
are at an earlier age), and understand better the educational value
of after school programmes and choose them accordingly. Children
who have benefitted from after school programmes from an early
(Continue)
Has problems concentrating
Primary
29
1
1
Secondary
26
0.80
0.80
University
18
0.52***
0.63*
Primary
25
1
Secondary
17
0.63**
0.88
University
9.0
0.30***
0.52*
Primary
27
1
Secondary
21
0.70*
0.77
University
19
0.59**
0.69
Has problems keeping up with subject
1
Does not like to study
1
* Significance level of 5%
** Significance level of 1%
*** Significance level of 1‰
Note: a) Probability of child having some problems with school disengagement, with respect to probability of not having problems. b) Probability of child having some problems with school disengagement, with respect to probability
of not having problems, socioeconomic conditions being equal. c) Children from 5 to 10 years of age.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
negative attitudes toward studying. It is to be expected that the
families in which the parents have spent more years in school
would place greater value on studying and would tend to put
more emphasis on instilling this value in their children from
an early age. However, the fact that this variable has a weaker
relationship to the parents’ education points to the possibility
that this dimension of school engagement is more difficult to
transmit and mould at this age, and perhaps responds to deeper
personality traits of the child.
Table 6.8 provides information on the influence of the parents’
employment situation on the different aspects of school
engagement examined. As in the preceding table, we offer
the results for mothers and fathers separately. Some of the
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Father’s education level
situations of tension and uncertainty that have repercussions
on the well-being of the children. More striking is the effect
of women working. In the households where the mother
works full-time the children tend to have fewer problems of
disengagement. The effect is not very robust, but it helps to
shed light on the supposed negative consequences of women’s
participation in the labour market.
TABLE 6.8: School disengagement by parents’ employment status
In percentages, Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PERCENTAGE
ODDS RATIO(a)
adjusted odds RATIO(b)
Mother’s employment status
Has problems concentrating(c)
Does not work
26
1
1
Works part-time
29
1.18
1.33
Works full-time
23
0.87
1.06
Does not work
24
1
1
Works part-time
15
0.61*
0.72
Works full-time
14
0.58**
0.87
Does not work
24
1
1
Works part-time
22
0.88
0.96
Works full-time
22
0.90
1.06
Has problems keeping up with subject
Does not like to study
The emergence of social risks in childhood
findings are to a certain extent counterintuitive; others are
more predictable. Among these, it should be highlighted that
in homes where the father does not work the children tend to
have more problems, especially regarding difficulties with a
school subject, other conditions being equal. The experience
of a father being unemployed or economically inactive can be
a destabilizing element in the family, given that it often leads to
(Continue)
Has problems concentrating
Does not work
30
1
1
Works part-time
27
0.75
0.90
Works full-time
24
0.87
0.78
Does not work
23
1
1
Works part-time
27
1.17
1.22
Works full-time
17
0.53**
0.62*
Does not work
28
1
Works part-time
12
0.36*
0.38*
Works full-time
22
0.75
0.78
Has problems keeping up with subject
Does not like to study
1
* Significance level of 5%
** Significance level of 1%
Note: a) Probability of child having some problems with school disengagement, with respect to probability of not having problems. b) Probability of child having some problems with school disengagement, with respect to probability
of not having problems, socioeconomic conditions being equal. c) Problems with concentration calculated with children from 5 to 10 years of age.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Finally, it should be mentioned that a slightly higher proportion
of children of immigrant origin have problems keeping up with a
subject or material in school. 22.6 percent of the parents of these
children said the teacher had commented that their children
had these difficulties, while this was the case with 16.7 percent
of children of Spanish origin. This difference is statistically
significant when other socioeconomic factors are controlled
for. No significant differences are observed, however, in the
probability of children of immigrant origin having problems
with concentration or not liking to study.
(b) Parenting styles and involvement
Parental involvement and monitoring of their children in school
have repeatedly been identified as crucial in determining the
adolescents’ educational results. Starting with the first studies
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Father’s employment status
Graph 6.10: Probability of child having problems keeping up
with a school subject, by degree of parental involvement
Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.50
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
Parental involvement in the educational and psychological
development of their children could be considered one of the
primary responsibilities of parenting. However, not all forms
and levels of involvement have the same effect. Graph 6.11
illustrates the effect of parental involvement on the probability
of a child between 6 and 10 years of age having problems
with a subject or certain material in school, sociodemographic
conditions being equal. It is easy to see that the lower the level
of parental involvement (especially of the mother), the greater
the risk of suffering from these problems. The degree of parental
involvement also has an effect on the probability of the child not
liking to study (graph 6.2). In contrast, we have not detected a
significant effect from parental involvement on the probability of
the child having problems with concentration.
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00
LITTLE OR NOT INVOLVED
MODERATELY INVOLVED
VERY INVOLVED
DEGREE OF INVOLVEMENT
Mother
Father
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) Teacher has said that child has difficulty keeping up with a subject; 0) Teacher has not said this. The
following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of
parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and degree of parents’ involvement.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
A second aspect that was analyzed was the influence the different
forms of fatherhood identified in chapter 4 have on school
disengagement. The findings again support the importance of
the father’s involvement in the prevention of disengagement
problems. Children whose fathers practice «intense fatherhood»
or «responsible fatherhood» tend to have less difficulty in following
a subject or material in school. Other conditions being equal,
The emergence of social risks in childhood
done by Coleman (1988), several authors have suggested
that school performance depends to a great extent on family
characteristics, questioning the explanatory capacity of school
factors. Although these approaches may overestimate the
influence of family factors, it seems reasonable to think that
the behaviours and attitudes of mothers and fathers, the values they
transmit, and their styles of parenting are decisive, particularly
at early ages, when parents exercise a higher level of control on
their children’s activities.
Graph 6.11: Probability of child not liking to study,
by degree of parental involvement
Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
The influence of the family on children’s attitude toward school
extends to other areas as well. Thus, we find that the quality of the
couple’s relationship and the tensions stemming from work or
economic difficulties can also affect the atmosphere in the home and
as a result, the well-being of the child. Our study analyzed the influence
of various types of tension on the risk of school disengagement:
division of domestic responsibilities, care of the children, economic
difficulties, and lack of personal time to relax or disconnect.
Graph 6.12: Probability of child having problems keeping up with
0.50
a subject, by types of fatherhood
0.45
0.40
Children from 6 to 10 years of age
0.35
0.30
PROBABILITY
0.25
0.30
0.20
0.15
0.25
0.10
0.20
0.05
0.00
LITTLE OR NOT INVOLVED
MODERATELY INVOLVED
VERY INVOLVED
DEGREE OF INVOLVEMENT
Mother
Father
0.15
0.10
0.05
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) Child has said he/she does not like to study; 0) Child has not said this. The following variables have been
introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education level,
mother’s working day and degree of parents’ involvement.
0.00
INTENSE
RESPONSIBLE
ADAPTIVE
TRADTIONAL
PREDISPOSED
UNCOMMITTED
TYPES OF FATHERHOOD
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) Teacher has said that child has difficulty keeping up with a subject; 0) Teacher has not said this. The
following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of
parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and type of fatherhood.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
The emergence of social risks in childhood
the risks are greater in traditional families in which the mother is
involved in childcare and the father is not, and in households in
which both parents have a low level of commitment.
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
Children from 5 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
Graphs 6.14, 6.15 and 6.16 show that there is a positive relationship
between the probability of having problems of disengagement
and frequent tension in the home. This relationship is maintained,
socioeconomic conditions in the home and characteristics of the
child (parents’ level of education, sex and age of child) being
equal. The form of disengagement that seems to be most closely
linked to tensions in the home is difficulty in keeping up with a
subject in school, which is specifically closely linked to tensions
caused by distribution of childcare responsibilities. Problems
with concentration are more related to tensions resulting from
employment-related stress. These findings support the hypothesis
that family tension, whether or not related to the children, directly
affect children’s engagement with school.
0.05
0.00
NEVER
OCCASIONALLY
OFTEN
FREQUENCY OF TENSION IN THE HOME
Tension over division of domestic responsibilities
Tension due to economic difficulties
Tension caused by job stress
Tension over child care
Tension due to not having time
to relax
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) The teacher has said the child has problems concentrating; 0) the teacherhas not said this. The following
variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents,
mother’s education level, mother’s working day and frequency of tension in the home due to different causes.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
Tensión por estrés en el trabajo
Tensión por no disponer de tiempo personal para relajarse
Tensión por dificultades económicas
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Graph 6.13: Probability of child having problems concentrating,
Graph 6.15: Probability of child saying he/she does not like to study,
subject, by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
Children from 6 to 10 years of age
Children from 6 to 10 years of age
PROBABILITY
PROBABILITY
0.55
0.45
0.50
0.40
0.45
0.35
0.40
0.30
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.25
0.20
0.20
0.15
0.15
0.10
0.10
0.05
0.05
0.00
0.00
NEVER
OCCASIONALLY
OFTEN
NEVER
FREQUENCY OF TENSION IN THE HOME
Tension over division of domestic responsibilities
Tension due to economic difficulties
Tension caused by job stress
OCCASIONALLY
OFTEN
FREQUENCY OF TENSION IN THE HOME
Tension over child care
Tension due to not having time
to relax
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) The teacher has said the child has problems keeping up with a subject; 0) The teacher has not said
this. The following variables have been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child,
origin of parents, mother’s education level, mother’s working day and frequency of tension in the home due to
different causes.
Tension over division of domestic responsibilities
Tension due to economic difficulties
Tension caused by job stress
The emergence of social risks in childhood
Graph 6.14: Probability of child having problems keeping up with a
Tension over childcare
Tension due to not having time
to relax
Note: Probability is calculated based on a logistic regression model in which the dependent variable has two
values: 1) The child has said he/she doesn’t like to study; 0) The child has not said this. The following variables have
been introduced simultaneously into the model: age of child, sex of child, origin of parents, mother’s education
level, mother’s working day and frequency of tension in the home due to different causes.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Childhood and Inter and Intragenerational Relationships, 2010.
Source: Based on data from the Survey on Inter and Intra-generational Relationships in Childhood, 2010.
0,45
0,40
0,35
0,30
Tensión por estrés en el trabajo
Tensión por estrés en
Tensión por no disponer de tiempo personal para relajarse
Tensión por no dispo
Tensión por dificultades económicas
Tensión por dificultad
The emergence of social risks in childhood
In short, the findings of our analysis demonstrate the powerful
influence of intergenerational relationships on school
disengagement observed at early ages. Evidence such as this
suggests the need to focus our attention in dealing with school
failure and dropping out on earlier stages of childhood, which are
often ignored in analyses of educational problems. The gap
between educational success and failure begins to appear before
the problem is fully expressed in adolescence. In light of the
evidence, there seems to be little doubt that the setting where
things start to go wrong is in the family home.
CONCLUSION
CONCLUSION
Our society has an ambivalent attitude toward children: on the one
hand, they are seen as fragile and innocent, needing to be cared for
and protected and on the other, they are out of control (even
perverse) little ones who must be socialized or they will end up
wayward and failures– they are angels or demons. Historically, the
function of caring for children and protecting them has been
the domain of the family, and that of educating them, the domain
of the school. No one could better protect children than their own
parents. The state should intervene only as a last resort, when the
family had clearly shown itself to be negligent, incapable of
attending to the basic needs of the child or egregiously abusive. In
contrast, with respect to education, most states have had the
primary responsibility for educating children for more than a
century. Having well educated children who can adequately exercise
their citizenship is for the state too important a goal to leave in the
hands of adults who are often incapable of maintaining their own
lives in order. Schools (and compulsory education) symbolize this
public interest in controlling the education of the citizenry.
However, the basis of the relationship among children, families
and the state has changed in recent years. Gradually states
have colonized spaces of protection traditionally reserved for
families, but that families–immersed in a process of dramatic
transformation–are incapable of handling effectively. At the same
time, many families have become increasingly more willing to
hand over certain aspects of protection. More and more families
believe that state aid to families must be increased both in terms of
economic support as well as childcare services. Families recognize
that they are no longer the self-sufficient entities they may once
have been and need public support in order to effectively carry
out their role. In this process, certain traditional beliefs have
disappeared (at least among the majority of the population)–
such as the belief that a child must be raised by the mother (or
grandmother)–and prejudices regarding the participation of
fathers or childcare professionals have been overcome.
Paradoxically, however, it has been the absence of children (or at
least their scarcity) that has led to them, and therefore the families
who decide to have them or not, becoming an object of public
concern. As we have seen in the previous pages, having children
and raising them is a rewarding experience. They enrich parents’
lives, contributing to their self-realization. But there is also a
The findings of our study reveal that what parents have to give
up is not something that is evenly distributed throughout the
population. Children continue to be taken care of primarily by
mothers, who, as a result, are the ones who make the sacrifices
that dedication to children demands. Some mothers leave the
workforce, reduce their work hours, or change jobs in order to
take care of their children. But in contrast to what happened in the
past, there are fewer mothers willing to definitively give up their
career aspirations. We find ourselves before a new generation of
mothers, the majority of whom work while taking care of their
children; in the first place because they want to, and secondly
because they feel they have to (in order to have a sufficient
income to sustain their families, to have financial security in their
old-age, or to face the consequences of divorce). Our research
has sought to highlight the extent to which this radical change in
the architecture of family relationships has been accompanied by
other transformations (what is known in statistics as intervening
variables), which have increased or mitigated the implications of
this change in the lives of children.
In this regard, the initial conclusion of our research contradicts
some of the quasi-apocalyptic expectations about the
consequences of this social shift. The evidence we have presented
- and which corroborates research done in other countries - clearly
shows that households where the mothers work are not cold
heartless places, where children spend long hours attended by
substitute mothers who are less committed to their care or alone
waiting for their absent parents. Families do often rely on
substitute mothers, generally someone from the close family
circle (many times grand mothers), who gives a dose of dedication
and commitment equal to what would be expected of a mother.
For example, 55 percent of the families interviewed with children
between 0 and 2 years old had resorted to someone who was not
living in the home to take care of their child in the previous month.
But this was not always possible and, perhaps, increasingly less
so. For this reason, families must often find other solutions,
without these shaking the foundations of a good upbringing for
their child. In fact, in light of the data, there is some great news.
In the first place, we must welcome with optimism the increasing
commitment of fathers to children taking place in recent years.
The changes observed in the attitudes of men toward the division
of gender responsibilities, partially endorsed in daily practice in
the home, is contributing to forging new ways of understanding
masculinity. Some of the greatest progress has been made in
changes in the exercise of fatherhood. Our study provides evidence
of some of the benefits of these new forms of fatherhood. The
beneficiaries of this change are the partners, the atmosphere in
the family, and ultimately the children. With respect to the first,
mothers, the analysis indicates that fathers who show a greater
level of involvement with their children help alleviate to a great
CONCLUSION
personal cost to raising children, which is sometimes quite high.
For this reason, a growing number of couples do not have children
or decide not to have a second or third child, or in other cases
wait to have children until the burden of costs no longer affects
other aspects of their personal well-being that they consider to
be important. Even so, on the terrain of sentimental relationships
individuals are rarely guided by cost benefit analysis. The vast
majority of couples end up having children and assuming the
responsibility that this entails, often in adverse circumstances. In
such situations, the proper care of children necessitates giving
up certain things.
Secondly, there is no reason for alarm regarding the extraordinary
increase in the number of families relying on professional
childcare services. The substitution of a system which rested on
the sacrifice of mothers and grandmothers by another one in
which the children are taken care of by childcare professional does
not necessarily have negative repercussions for the well-being of
children, as long as those services have high quality standards
and are accessible to disadvantaged groups. On the one hand, it
is a mistake to assume that care provided by a mother who does
not work or a grandmother substituting for her guarantees in all
cases the best development of the child. The analysis presented
in this book provides evidence of advantages (or at least the
absence of disadvantages) in indicators of well-being among
the children of women who work full-time, other socioeconomic
conditions being equal. It also shows that grandmothers do
not always provide the best care for their grandchildren, as is
revealed, for example, in the association between the presence
of a grandmother in the home and a higher risk of obesity.
Moreover, a large volume of research has shown that attending
a day-care centre can have a beneficial effect on children’s
cognitive and social development, especially if they come from
disadvantaged environments. In our analysis of the impact
attending a day-care centre has on indicators of health and
childhood well-being, we did not detect significant differences
among children between 5 and 10 years old who had attended or
had not attended day-care. Nine out of ten mothers and fathers
who placed their children in day-care expressed satisfaction
with the services received, although it must also be added that
there was reasonable suspicion that a minority of day-care
centres–between 10 and 20 percent–provide services in need of
improvement. Approximately three out of four parents thought
that the day-care centres offered opportunities for the children to
develop cognitive and social competencies that either could not
be developed at home or that could complement those learned
in the family. Based on the data examined in this study, there are
no reasons to question this.
CONCLUSION
extent the anxiety and guilt felt by mothers who work because of
their not being able to dedicate more time to their children. If a
woman who works full-time has a partner who does not dedicate
enough time to the children, it is 3.4 times more likely that she will
feel she does not dedicate enough time to the children herself
than if her partner’s involvement is greater (other conditions
being equal). Regarding the benefits to the atmosphere in the
family, men being co-responsible is essential in order to prevent
situations of tension derived from the division of housework and
care of the children in the home. For example, in the homes where
both parents work, the probability of tensions arising over caring
for the children is 52 percent higher when only the mother is
very involved than when both parents are fully co-responsible. If
this were not enough, the results of the statistical analysis point
to the time dedication of intense and responsible fathers having
positive repercussions on the health of the child, on his or her
socio-emotional competence, and on his or her engagement with
school. The probability of a 5 to 10 year old having problems of
obesity is, other conditions being equal, almost two times greater
when the father does not dedicate enough time than when his
degree of commitment is intense. The magnitude of the observed
gap is similar when we look at the probability of the child having
problems keeping up with a subject in school in relation to the
degree of dedication of the father.
Clearly, these findings do not support the hypothesis that children
today are becoming a generation at risk. However, as we warned
in the introduction, not all is rosy. In the context of an ageing
population, children who are in situations of vulnerability are the
forgotten ones in systems of public protection. Child poverty rates
and indicators of educational attainment in Spain are, in general,
bad. Some of the groups most vulnerable are those which have
gained the most demographic weight in recent years as a result
of the great social changes taking place in Spain, such as children
living in single-parent families and those of immigrant origin. Of
particular concern is the situation of immigrant children, who
systematically are ranked highest regarding vulnerability in terms
of poverty level, obesity, socio-emotional competence and school
failure. Approximately four out of ten children of immigrant origin
under 10 years of age live in situations of poverty; 21 percent
of 5 to 10 year olds in this group have problems with obesity,
38 percent have low levels of socio-emotional competence and
23 percent have problems keeping up with a subject in school.
The accumulation of situations of risk and adversity in childhood
threatens to open a social divide which will be difficult to reverse.
Faced with this situation it becomes urgent to ask what systems
of service provision–which begin with the work of government,
but also increasingly involve a host of different agents engaged
in these services– can do to address new forms of social exclusion
that begin in childhood and condition individuals’ life course.
This question is of great relevance at a time in which the outlook
ahead of an ageing population and the challenges this presents
threaten to eclipse discussion about the needs and demands of
groups in the early stages of life. Now more than ever it we need to
reflect on the measures necessary to promote the «best interest
of the child». This book cannot offer a prescription for how to do
this, but with the arguments presented–based on our research
and the evidence accumulated in similar studies in Spain and
other countries–it aspires to serve as a guide for concrete social
action. In this regard, it should be noted that:
1.Mothers’ paid work is crucial to preventing situations of
economic exclusion in childhood, especially among the
more vulnerable groups. Promoting women working implies
creating conditions that favour this, especially among
mothers whose opportunity costs from working (instead of
staying at home and taking care of their children) are higher.
Unequal access to childcare centres, detected in the present
CONCLUSION
Similarly, there is no reason to be alarmed over the participation
of children between 5 and 10 years old in organized after school
activities. According to the responses of their parents, children tend
to be very or quite satisfied with the after school programmes they
attend. Although the possibility cannot be ruled out that parents’
responses reflects a certain amount of self-deception, two out of
three parents stated that the decision to put their children in after
school programmes was «very» or «quite» influenced by what their
children wanted; a minority said that the decision was based on the
necessity of reconciling work and family life (slightly less than 25
percent of parents said that their work hours were very important or
quite important in the decision). In households today, children are
not passive subjects of decisions made unilaterally by parents and
without consultation. Children value the opportunity for learning
and entertainment provided in participating in these activities and
their evaluation, in the context of a growing recognition of the
individuality of the child, is a factor that parents do not ignore.
have become irreversible. The return to a world where
women assumed the role of taking care of and educating
the children is blocked and any attempt to return to it
(even partially) would not be productive and possibly even
counterproductive for children. Consequently, it is necessary
to make known the advantages of male involvement in these
responsibilities, not only to improve the family atmosphere
in homes where both parents work, but also in the interest
of the general well-being of children. Legislative initiatives
should aim to support shared responsibility among parents
from the moment a child is born, eliminating rights founded
on sexist assumptions about which parent is best able to
be in charge of the child at different stages of his or her life.
Beyond these initiatives, it is important to complement the
extension of rights and opportunities of men, encouraging a
culture of co-responsibility which reinforces their disposition
to be involved in the care and education of their children.
2.The dedication of mothers and fathers to their children is a
very important investment which favours the present wellbeing and the social and cognitive development of children.
As we have been able to show, this dedication is not simply
expressed in terms of «quantity of time,» but has more to
do with how mothers and fathers use this time. It is clear,
however, that parental commitment is not feasible if parents
feel «overwhelmed.» The existence of intergenerational shared
time does not depend merely on the length of the work day, but
also that fathers and mothers’ work schedules are predictable
and regular and that shared time can be really experienced
as «family time,» without the distorting factor of overtime or
parents bringing work home. Having dinner together or other
family rituals, such as watching television together or spending
time together outdoors on the weekend, are important links
for intergenerational bonding that need to be protected
from the interference of the working world. The starting
point of «reconciliation policies» is to promote mothers and
fathers and children having time in those moments that
they need it (as in the Anglo-Saxon expression, having time
at the right time). This implies the expansion of new rights
and labour practices that promote the possibility of workers
being able to reorganize their work schedules to meet the
needs of the family.
4.Health in childhood is sine qua non for the equality of
opportunity in life. Child health has social determinants which
must be considered and addressed at an early age (some
even from birth). Phenomena such as obesity, responsible
for a large number of diseases and health problems in
adulthood, have their origin in childhood. Similarly, distress
in childhood and low socio-emotional competence hinder
children’s personal progress and educational opportunities.
Early detection of these situations is crucial to prevent these
consequences.
3.New forms of fatherhood have clear benefits for the child in
a context in which the transformations in the lives of women
5.The educational system is not able to correct the effects
of social inequality on academic achievement and success
CONCLUSION
study, creates effects which are contrary to those that are
desirable. Similarly the phenomena of wage discrimination
and underemployment are disincentives for working mothers.
In order to achieve all of the above, it is essential that budgetary
allocations in Spain for family services reach the same level, in
comparison to other countries, as the allocations for services for
the elderly, for health care or for the unemployed. We are at the
back of the line among OECD countries in terms of policies for
the protection and support of families, especially for those
who have dependent children. This anomaly reveals a lack of
commitment to these forms of protection and reflects historical
inertia. The future of our society demands a change in direction.
In this world in which we must live, not investing in childhood is
a luxury that we can no longer afford.
CONCLUSION
in school. Said inequalities are caused to a great extent by
factors outside of school, and it is probably there where
some of the new solutions are to be found. It is difficult to
change parenting styles which are responsible for certain
inequalities or to give those families which do not have
it, the cultural capital that would empower their children
to assure them success in their educational journey. Even
recognizing such difficulties, parents have to understand the
role they play in the educational path of their children and
find encouragement, support and advice to help them be
responsible parents. However, the stimulation of cognitive
and other capacities essential for educational achievement
is not an objective that can be reached only through the
family and school. The role of other formal services (preschools, after school programmes) can be key provided
that those who could most benefit from these services have
access to them.
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Graphs
2.1Probability that there will be situations of tension in homes
with children from 0 to 10 years of age for different reasons
by different models for the division of responsibilities by gender 30
3.1 Women that have had to abandon an activity after the birth
of their child by educational level
3.2Average time fathers and mothers spend with children
by child’s age. Week days and weekends 3.3Average time fathers and mothers spend with children
by parent’s educational level. Week days and weekends
3.4Average time fathers and mothers spend with children
by couple’s employment status. Week days and weekends 3.5Parent’s evaluation of the amount of time they spend
with their children
3.6Probability of mother believing she does not spend enough
time with her child by different levels of partner’s
co-responsibility
51
3.7How often parents did different activities with their child
in the previous week
53
3.8Probability of parents placing children in a nursery school,
pre-school or day are centre, by household income 61
4.1Types of fatherhood
72
4.2Probability of having been spanked in the previous week,
by degree of cognitive stimulation
82
4.3Probabilty of having been spanked in the previous week, by
existence of situations of tension in home for various reasons
83
4.4Level of reading comprehension of 10 year old children,
by how often parents read to them up until they were
three years of age 87
40
47
48
49
50
Index of graphs and tables
Index of graphs and tables
6.8 Children with problems of disengagement from school, by sex 126
90
6.9 Children with problems of disengagement from school, by age 127
5.2Frequency of participation in after school activities
91
6.10Probability of child having problems keeping up with
a school subject, by degree of parental involvement 132
6.11Probability of child not liking to study, by degree of parental
involvement
133
109
6.12Probability of child having problems keeping up with
a subject, by types of fatherhood 133
6.2Probability of child being obese, by parents’ perception
of the amount of time they spend with him/her
113
6.13Probability of child having problems concentrating,
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
134
6.3Probability of child being obese, by type of fatherhood
114
6.14Probability of child having problems keeping up with
a subject, by frequency of tension in the home due
to different causes 135
6.15Probability of child saying he/she does not like to study,
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes
135
5.3 Children who do not participate in any after school activity,
by household characteristics and family socioeconomic
situation
5.4Frequency of participation in unstructured activities
6.1Probability of children being obese, by parents’ weight
6.4Probability of child being obese, by level of symptoms
of depression
6.5Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence,
by degree of exposure to cognitively stimulating activities 6.6Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence,
by frequency of use of rewards and punishments 6.7Probability of child having low socio-emotional competence,
by frequency of tension in the home due to different causes 92
94
115
123
Tables
124
2.1 Most important reasons for having a child among women
who do not have children but want to have them and for
women who already have children but would like to have more 21
124
2.2 Most important reasons for not having children. Women
between 25 and 39 years of age without children and who
do not want to have them
23
Index of graphs and tables
5.1 Children enrolled in after school activities, by sex and type
of activity
57
3.8Households that have received some kind of child care
assistance in the previous month from someone who does
not live in the home, by mother’s characteristics
59
3.9Evolution of enrolment rates in early childhood education
59
4.1Frequency of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together,
by mother’s education level
67
4.2How often someone living in the household does cognitively
stimulating activities with the child, by mother’s education
level
68
4.3How often someone living in the household does outdoor
activities with the child, by mother’s education level
69
4.4Evolution in male opinions about the ideal model for division
of responsibilities by gender in the family
71
4.5How often someone living in the household does cognitively
stimulating activities with the child, by types of fatherhood
73
4.6How often someone living in the household does outside
activities with the child, by types of fatherhood
74
4.7 Who cuddles with the child (hugs and kisses) more often,
by types of fatherhood 75
4.8Opinions on the best method to raise children, by age groups
77
3.5How often someone living in household does cognitively
stimulating activities with the child, by mother’s education level 54
4.9How often parents used reward and punishment in
the previous week
78
3.6How often someone living in household does cognitively
stimulating activities and outside activities with the child,
by mother’s employment status
4.10Factors related to a child being spanked in the previous week
79
2.4Distribution of domestic responsibilities in homes in which
the women work, by couples with and without children
2.5Persons who say that there is tension in the home for different
reasons, by socio-demographic characteristics of parents
and by child’s age
2.6Opinions on whether women should work full-time, part-time
or not work in different situations, by age group
24
26
28
31
2.7Opinions on whether it is necessary for children to attend
school or day care, by different age groups of children
32
2.8 Why child is or was in day care before three years of age
33
2.9Opinions on whether children under three develop certain
abilities better in school or in the family, by education level 3.1 Working day of couples between 25 and 49 years of age
by age of child
3.2 Mother’s current employment status by status at the time
of the birth of child
3.3 Women who took maternity leave by age, education level
and household income
3.4Fathers who took paternity leave before and after the Law
of Equality entered into effect
34
38
40
42
44
56
Index of graphs and tables
3.7 Men who take primary responsibility for cognitively
stimulating activities or take equal responsibility, by their
educational level
2.3 Most important reasons for not having children. Women
between 25 and 39 years of age who have children but
do not want to have more
4.12How often someone living in the household engages
in reading activities with the child
5.1Activities child does daily or almost daily, by different
socioeconomic characteristics of household
112
6.4Level of socio-emotional competence of children,
by socioeconomic characteristics of household
119
6.5Level of socio-emotional competence of children,
by composition of household
121
6.6Level of socio-emotional competence of children,
by parenting styles 122
6.7School disengagement by parents’ education level
128
6.8School disengagement by parents’ employment status
130
A.1Autonomous Community by age of the child
158
A.2Autonomous Community by size of municipality
159
85
85
95
5.2Persons with whom the child usually does different activities
97
5.3How often child has friends over to play, by household
socioeconomic characteristics
99
5.4Number of after-school activities child participates in,
by composition of household (grandparents and siblings
living or not living in the home) 6.3Obesity in children, by composition of household
101
6.1Distribution of boys and girls in weight categories,
by body mass index
107
6.2Obesity in children, by socioeconomic characteristics
of household
110
Index of graphs and tables
4.11Parental involvement in children’s school work, by mother’s
education level
To carry out the present study a specific survey was designed.
What follows are the characteristics of this survey.
tested in research on these matters in studies carried out in other
countries. The telephone interviews were carried out by Random
Estudios de Opinión, Márketing y Socioeconómicos SA.
Survey on Inter and Intra-generational
relationships in Childhood (2010)
Date of survey: January and February, 2010.
Scope: Spain.
Design: The survey is based on two questionnaires, structured in
function of the age of the child living in the home: the first, for
children up to four years of age; the second, for children from five
to ten years of age. In the case of more than one child at these ages
in the home, the interviewer asked questions only about one of
the children. In such cases, the selection was random. The average
duration of the interview was 15 minutes and it was carried out
over the telephone (CATI) with one of the parents. The questionnaire
for children up to four years of age included 57 questions; that for
children from five to ten years of age, 62 questions. One block of
questions was common to both questionnaires; other questions
were specific for the different age groups. The questionnaire was
developed by the research team for this study. To the extent
possible, the survey was based on standard questions previously
Universe: The universe was composed of a sample of fathers and
mothers that live with their children of 0 to 10 years of age. The
survey was responded to by 611 fathers and 1,595 mothers. The
responses referred to 1,058 children from 0 to 4 years of age and
1,148 children from 5 to 10 years of age. In total, information was
gathered for 1,160 boys and 1,046 girls.
Sample Size: 2,206 families with children up to ten years of age
(based on a prevision of 2,200 families).
Sampling procedure: Representative geographic distribution.
Quotas based on the size of municipality in each autonomous
community in Spain, sex and age of the child, and the economic
Methodological Appendix
Methodological Appendix
Sampling error: ±2,13%
Questionnaires and data files are available to researchers upon
request. ([email protected]).
TaBlE A.1: Autonomous Community by age of the child
from 0 to 3 years
of age
from 4 to 6 years
of age
from 7 to 10 years
of age
145
106
139
390
Aragon
23
16
21
60
Asturias
18
14
18
50
Balearic Islands
20
14
19
53
Basque Country
40
28
35
103
Canary Islands
38
29
40
107
Cantabria
11
8
10
29
Castilla and León
41
31
41
113
Castilla-La Mancha
33
25
33
91
138
95
119
352
Extremadura
17
13
18
48
Galicia
47
34
46
127
La Rioja
5
4
5
14
Madrid
126
87
110
323
Murcia
26
18
23
67
Navarre
11
8
10
29
Valencian Community
90
64
83
237
3
2
2
7
832
596
772
2,200
Andalusia
Catalonia
Ceuta and Melilla
Total
Total
Methodological Appendix
status of the mother. Random selection of households based on
data updated semi-annually by the CMT. Below, the number of
interviews forecast according to age of the child and size of
municipality is presented.
5.001-10.000
Andalusia
39
34
50
64
58
145
390
Aragon
14
3
6
3
2
32
60
Asturias
3
3
8
5
7
24
50
Balearic Islands
3
5
6
16
3
20
53
Basque Country
11
9
16
19
11
37
103
Canary Islands
3
8
12
27
19
38
107
Cantabria
6
3
5
3
3
9
29
Castilla and León
34
10
7
9
16
37
113
Castilla-La Mancha
27
12
13
10
21
8
91
Catalonia
36
28
38
58
45
147
352
Extremadura
16
7
5
6
7
7
48
Galicia
17
18
22
21
17
32
127
La Rioja
3
2
1
1
0
7
14
Madrid
7
11
13
19
37
236
323
Murcia
1
2
9
17
7
31
67
Navarre
9
4
4
3
0
9
29
20
19
27
61
31
79
237
0
0
0
0
7
0
7
249
178
242
342
291
898
2,200
Valencian Community
Ceuta and Melilla
Total
10.001-20.000
20.001-50.000
50.001-100.000
MORE THAN
100.000
0-5.000
Total
Methodological Appendix
TaBlE A.2: Autonomous Community by size of municipality
Social Studies Collection
Available on the internet: www.laCaixa.es/ObraSocial
1. FOREIGN IMMIGRATION
IN SPAIN (Out of stock)
Eliseo Aja, Francesc Carbonell,
Colectivo Ioé (C. Pereda, W. Actis
and M. A. de Prada), Jaume Funes
and Ignasi Vila
5. THE SPANISH FAMILY AND
ATTITUDES TOWARD EDUCATION
(Out of stock)
Víctor Pérez-Díaz, Juan Carlos
Rodríguez and Leonardo Sánchez
Ferrer
2. VALUES IN SPANISH SOCIETY
AND THEIR RELATION TO DRUG
USE (Out of stock)
Eusebio Megías (director),
Domingo Comas, Javier Elzo,
Ignacio Megías, José Navarro,
Elena Rodríguez and Oriol Romaní
6. OLD AGE, DEPENDENCE AND
LONG-TERM CARE (Out of stock)
David Casado Marín and Guillem
López and Casasnovas
3. FAMILY POLICIES FROM A
COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
(Out of stock)
Lluís Flaquer
7. YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE
Joaquim Prats Cuevas (director),
Cristòfol-A. Trepat and Carbonell
(coordinator), José Vicente Peña
Calvo, Rafael Valls Montés and
Ferran Urgell Plaza
4. YOUNG WOMEN IN SPAIN
(Out of stock)
Inés Alberdi, Pilar Escario
and Natalia Matas
8. SPAIN AND IMMIGRATION (*)
Víctor Pérez-Díaz, Berta ÁlvarezMiranda and Carmen GonzálezEnríquez
9. HOUSING POLICY FROM A
COMPARATIVE EUROPEAN
PERSPECTIVE
Carme Trilla
10. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
(Out of stock)
Inés Alberdi and Natalia Matas
11. IMMIGRATION, SCHOOLING
AND THE LABOUR MARKET (*)
Colectivo Ioé (Walter Actis, Carlos
Pereda and Miguel A. de Prada)
12. ACOUSTIC CONTAMINATION
IN OUR CITIES
Benjamín García Sanz and
Francisco Javier Garrido
13. FOSTER FAMILIES
Pere Amorós, Jesús Palacios,
Núria Fuentes, Esperanza León
and Alicia Mesas
14. PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
AND THE LABOUR MARKET
Colectivo Ioé (Carlos Pereda,
Miguel A. de Prada and Walter
Actis)
15. MOSLEM IMMIGRATION
IN EUROPE
Víctor Pérez-Díaz, Berta ÁlvarezMiranda and Elisa Chuliá
16. POVERTY AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Joan Subirats (director), Clara Riba,
Laura Giménez, Anna Obradors,
Maria Giménez, Dídac Queralt,
Patricio Bottos and Ana Rapoport
17. THE REGULATION OF
IMMIGRATION IN EUROPE
Eliseo Aja, Laura Díez
(coordinators), Kay Hailbronner,
Philippe de Bruycker, François
Julien-Laferrière, Paolo Bonetti,
Satvinder S. Juss, Giorgio
Malinverni, Pablo Santolaya
and Andreu Olesti
18. EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL
SYSTEMS: CRISIS OR
TRANSFORMATION?
Joaquim Prats and Francesc
Raventós (directors), Edgar
Gasòliba (coordinator), Robert
Cowen, Bert P. M. Creemers,
Pierre-Louis Gauthier, Bart Maes,
Barbara Schulte and Roger
Standaert
19. PARENTS AND CHILDREN
IN TODAY’S SPAIN
Gerardo Meil Landwerlin
20. SINGLE PARENTING AND
CHILDHOOD
Lluís Flaquer, Elisabet Almeda
and Lara Navarro
21. THE IMMIGRANT BUSINESS
COMMUNITY IN SPAIN
Carlota Solé, Sònia Parella and
Leonardo Cavalcanti
22. ADOLESCENTS AND ALCOHOL.
THE PARENTAL VIEW
Eusebio Megías Valenzuela
(director), Juan Carlos Ballesteros
Guerra, Fernando Conde Gutiérrez
del Álamo, Javier Elzo Imaz, Teresa
Laespada Martínez, Ignacio Megías
Quirós and Elena Rodríguez San
Julián
23. INTERGENERATIONAL
PROGRAMMES. TOWARDS
A SOCIETY FOR ALL AGES (*)
Mariano Sánchez (director),
Donna M. Butts, Alan HattonYeo, Nancy A. Henkin, Shannon
E. Jarrott, Matthew S. Kaplan,
Antonio Martínez, Sally Newman,
Sacramento Pinazo, Juan Sáez
and Aaron P. C. Weintraub
24. Food, consumption
and health (*)
Cecilia Díaz Méndez y Cristóbal
Gómez Benito (coordinators),
Javier Aranceta Bartrina, Jesús
Contreras Hernández, María
González Álvarez, Mabel Gracia
Arnaiz, Paloma Herrera Racionero,
Alicia de León Arce, Emilio Luque
and María Ángeles Menéndez
Patterson
25. VOCATIONAL TRAINING IN SPAIN.
TOWARD THE KNOWLEDGE
SOCIETY (*)
Oriol Homs
26. Sport, health and quality
of life (*)
David Moscoso Sánchez and
Eduardo Moyano Estrada
(coordinators), Lourdes Biedma
Velázquez, Rocío FernándezBallesteros García, María Martín
Rodríguez, Carlos Ramos González,
Luís Rodríguez-Morcillo Baena and
Rafael Serrano del Rosal
28. CARING FOR OTHERS
A CHALLENGE FOR THE 21ST
CENTURY (*)
Constanza Tobío, M.ª Silveria
Agulló Tomás, M.ª Victoria Gómez
and M.ª Teresa Martín Palomo
29. SCHOOL FAILURE
AND DROPOUTS in Spain (*)
Mariano Fernández Enguita,
Luis Mena Martínez and Jaime
Riviere Gómez
30. Childhood and
the Future: new realities,
new challenges (*)
Pau Marí-Klose, Marga Marí-Klose,
Elizabeth Vaquera and Solveig
Argeseanu Cunningham
27. The rural population
in Spain. from disequilibrium
to social sustainability (*)
Luis Camarero (coordinator),
Fátima Cruz, Manuel González,
Julio A. del Pino, Jesús Oliva and
Rosario Sampedro
(*) English version available on the internet
This study examines the activities and relationships of children
under 10 years old and how they are being affected by recent social
transformations, such as the appearance of new types of families, the
massive incorporation of women into the workforce and new forms
of fathering and mothering. The authors also trace the origins of
phenomena that can become an obstacle to children’s development,
such as obesity, socioemotional problems and school disengagement.
The findings of this study are an invitation to reflect on this critical stage
in which the experiences children live through will have a decisive
influence on their future lives. In addition, they contribute to the
development of initiatives aimed at helping families and improving the
well-being of children.
With this study, ”la Caixa” Social Projects seeks to promote research on
and analysis of the social factors that shape individuals’ opportunities
throughout their lives. Evidence such as that presented in this book
can help in the development of instruments to prevent and correct
situations of exclusion and vulnerability.

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