New York Times, October 24, 2000

Moms and Dads Flunk a Parenting Test

Many new parents wonder if they know what they're doing. A new study suggests there may be grounds for these worries.

A national survey by Zero to Three, a nonprofit clearinghouse for information about child development, has found what it calls serious gaps in many people's basic knowledge of raising children.

The group paints a portrait of parents and prospective parents who have unrealistic expectations of what children can do, and of how best to help them meet their potential. Many do not realize, for example, that the average child is unable to share a toy until at least age 2; most said they thought a 15-month-old could.

And 44 percent of those questioned believed incorrectly, in Zero-to-Three's view, that picking up a 3-month-old every time he cried would spoil him.

About 60 percent of parents still spank, even though they concede the punishment is ineffective.

Others seemed unaware of how tuned in infants are to their surroundings, including conflict and adults' emotional problems. "They are taking it all in," said Dr. Kyle D.Pruett, a Yale professor and the president of Zero to Three. "They're like sponges."

The survey, conducted this year, involved 3,000 adults, 1,066 of whom were parents of children up to age 6. It was commissioned by Civitas, a nonprofit group that tries to help people raising children, and it was paid for by a toy company.

One finding stood out, Dr. Pruett said. "The people who have the least amount of appropriate information and the greatest confusion are those who plan to be parents," he said.

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