Teens want more time with parents -study

By Simon Collins

It may be uncool to admit it, but more than half of New Zealand teenagers want to spend more time with their parents.

Details of a survey of almost 10,000 students at 96 secondary schools, published to mark the start of Youth Week today, show that 54 per cent of students "sometimes" or "hardly ever" get enough time with their mothers.

And 61 per cent, sometimes or hardly ever get enough time with their dads.

Auckland University researcher Simon Denny, who led the project, said the results shattered the myth that teenagers hate their parents.

"This is big stuff, much bigger than it sounds," he said.

"Having a close relationship with a parent is one of the most important predictors of good health and wellbeing for young people."

The survey found that only 73 per cent of students in 2007 lived in their main home with two "parents", including step-parents.

A further 22 per cent lived with one parent, 3 per cent with grandparents or other relatives and 2 per cent in foster care or independent flats.

Twenty-nine per cent of students said they lived in more than one home, usually spending part of the time with each parent.

Ninety per cent lived with their mothers in their main homes, 76 per cent with their fathers and 8 per cent also with a parent's partner or step-parent.

The majority of students reported happy family lives.

Asked "How do your family members get along?" 81 per cent said well or very well.

Asked about their own relationships with their families, 71 per cent said they were "happy about how we get on" - up from the 59 per cent in a previous survey in 2001.

Ninety per cent said at least one parent cared about them a lot, barely changed from 92.5 per cent in 2001.

But the proportion saying they got enough time with at least one parent "most of the time" fell from 62 per cent to 56.5 per cent.

Among the others, 62 per cent said they did not get enough time with their mothers because they were at work, and 72 per cent gave the same answer for their fathers.

"What we see is that from 2001 to 2007 was a period of relative economic good times when both the parents might be working more," Dr Denny said.

"That means there is more money in the family, so overall the family relationships are good.

"But if parents are prioritising their work over their teenagers, I'd get concerned. [Australian author] Steve Biddulph says you can't be a good father if you're working more than 50 hours a week. I think that's a reasonable guide."

Other reasons given for not getting enough time with mothers were that they were busy with housework and other children (51 per cent), just "out" (19 per cent) or that mum "chooses not to spend time with me" (7 per cent).

A further 25 per cent said, "I choose not to spend time with her," and 13 per cent said, "I don't live with her."

For fathers, 25 per cent said he was just "out", 23 per cent said he was busy with housework or other children and 12 per cent said he "chooses not to spend time with me".

Only 22 per cent said, "I choose not to spend time with him," but 26 per cent said, "I don't live with him."

HAPPY WEEKENDS HANGING OUT WITH MUM

Sixteen-year-old Lauren Muldrew is perfectly happy watching a DVD at home with Mum.

Lauren, a Year 12 student at Papatoetoe High School, says she spends enough time with her mother "most of the time" and enough time with her father "sometimes".

"At the weekend I normally go out with Mum," she said. "We go shopping together. We watch movies together, DVDs.

"I think most of my friends are like me, they spend enough time with their parents. Some go out a lot and don't really see their parents but most of my friends stay home."

Lauren has a big advantage because her mother, Robyn Muldrew, is the principal's personal assistant at Lauren's school, finishing at 4pm each day.

"I finish a bit later but get most of the school holidays off," Mrs Muldrew said. "We try to go for trips together when we can afford it."

For years she also spent "quantity time" with Lauren at the netball courts, but Lauren decided not to play this year.

Mr Muldrew gets home from work about 6pm and Lauren says she understands.

In her six years at the school, Mrs Muldrew has noticed a growing number of students no longer living with both parents and spending less time with them.

"It manifests in the children's attitude at school and also in their attendance," she said.

"The aspect I find increasingly disturbing is the number coming from intermediate school who are enrolling themselves at high school. It's up to them to do it themselves. For me, it would be the parent going along with the child."

- NZ Herald

www.youthweek.co.nz

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