Children: give us cash not caring

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The Independent Online
WORKING PARENTS who feel guilty at spending too little time with their children are worrying about the wrong thing. Money, not time, is what the youngsters want.

A unique study that turned the tables by asking children what they thought of their parents found the chief desire was for their mothers and fathers to earn more. Almost a quarter - 23 per cent - put this as their top priority, compared with 10 per cent who said they wished their mothers spent more time with them and 15 per cent who said the same thing about their fathers.

The American study, published as a book, Ask the Children, is one of the first to examine the changing nature of family life from the child's perspective and challenges many of the preconceptions that adults have about their children. Based on interviews with 1,000 children aged nine to eighteen, it found what most wanted was for their parents to be less tired, less stressed and less rushed. More time was less important than calmer time, with space to share experiences, listen and be heard.

Ellen Galinsky, one of the researchers, says in this Monday's Newsweek that studies of what children think about working parents have been ignored out of fear of what they might reveal. "We have been afraid to ask, afraid to know. But the answers are illuminating, not frightening," she said. "They help us see that our assumptions about children's ideas are often at odds with reality."

The researchers asked the children to evaluate their parents on 12 measures independently shown to help devel-opment and success at school. On every one of the 12, having a mother who worked made no difference to how the children rated their mother's parenting skills.

Ms Galinsky says: "It may seem surprising that children whose mothers are at home caring for them full-time fail to see them as more supportive. But a mother who is employed can be there for her child or not, just as mothers who are not employed can be."

Money is a key factor. Children's perceptions of their family's income is strongly linked to how well they feel looked after.

t Children of lone mothers have been the main losers from the liberalisation of Sunday trading laws, according to a report published today.

An estimated 500,000 children are left on Sundays by the one in three lone mothers who now usually or sometimes works on that day.

The findings have been published by the Keep Sunday Special campaign, to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sunday Trading Act in 1994.

The campaign's report, The Changing Nature of Sunday, shows that 1.3 million more men and women usually or sometimes worked on Sundays in 1998 compared with 1992.

The latest research available, according to the campaign, showed that only 6.4 per cent of all weekly retail spending takes place on a Sunday compared with 20.7 per cent on Saturdays and 23.3 per cent on Fridays.

The shop workers' union, Usdaw, said it had "no problem" with Sunday trading.