How Has Parenting Changed Over the Years?

By S.R. Becker
Stay-at-home dads take on traditional mom responsibilities.
Stay-at-home dads take on traditional mom responsibilities.

Parents today are faced with a dizzying number of challenges, not the least of which is supporting children financially. Many parents find it impossible to provide for their kids without both of them working, while others cut corners to allow one parent to stay home. Add standardized testing, social media and extended breastfeeding time to the mix, and it can seem as if parenting is a whole new ballgame, having changed tremendously from when you were a kid.

Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home

It used to be that fathers went off to work while mothers stayed home and raised the kids, but that's not necessarily the case anymore. The American Psychological Association reports that the number of women who were employed or seeking employment went from less than 33 percent in 1948 to 60 percent in 2001. The increased acceptance and visibility of gay couples in the last half century has also led to more gay parents raising children. LGBT people now adopt special-needs children more frequently than heterosexuals do, which means that in two-father families, men are the ones providing care, according to a 2011 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute appearing in an article on LiveScience. The report found that more than half of the children adopted by gays and lesbians had special needs.

Hold the Mayo (and a Bunch of Other Stuff Too)

If you don't remember a peanut-free table at your school, it's probably because there wasn't one. There was an 18 percent increase in food allergies in children between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents now have the option of segregating their children in school lunchrooms to help ensure they don't come into contact with another child's peanut butter sandwich. Likewise, the proliferation of gluten-free and organic foods in supermarkets, especially snacks marketed to children, indicates that more parents are restricting their children's diets. Parents are increasingly choosing to feed their children whole foods rather than the processed, preservative-laden snacks that were a staple of '70s childhoods.

Liked and Shared

The advent of the Internet and increasing affordability of home computers over the last 20 years has given parents a whole new world of media to monitor. Social media sites and smartphones allow children, especially teenagers, to connect in a way they never could before. While in some ways this is good -- for example, kids can talk to others around the globe about common interests -- it also allows bullies and predators to effectively come into their homes. Parents now have to keep an eye on their children's online accounts and text messages, and they have to be careful how much information they disclose about their children on their own social media profiles.

Attached at the Hip

In 1993, Dr. William Sears published "The Baby Book," which promoted the concept of attachment parenting. Sears' theory that attachment parenting could strengthen the connection between parents and children led to such practices as baby-wearing, co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. Instead of letting children "cry it out" in their own beds until they fall asleep, proponents of attachment parenting sleep in a family bed. Elimination communication replaced traditional potty training, with children, rather than parents, directing the process. Corporal punishment, once so common it was practiced in schools, is verboten. Compassionate communication is the norm among attachment parenting advocates, who believe parents should strive to understand the needs driving negative behavior and collaborate with their children on a solution.

About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.