to the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work
In the 1950s, the typical American family was a "nuclear" family: mom was a homemaker, dad worked, and the children went to school. Mom saw to the meals, dad fixed the car, mom did the laundry, dad cleaned the gutters. These roles and their boundaries were tightly woven into America's social fabric. Now, more than 40 years later, the weave has loosened and the threads have tangled: in most households both parents work outside the home; homemaking chores that were once solely the woman's responsibility are now shared by both partners and the children.
We need to better understand the social fabric of today's families. How do dual career families balance work and family responsibilities? How are children spending their supervised and unsupervised time? How are values transmitted to children? What roles do schools and the media play in the social and moral development of children?
Today's families must be flexible and able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, but these changing circumstances make them more vulnerable to pressures both from within and without. The issues facing parents, children, families, employers, and schools are intricate and complex, and they are at the heart of the Alfred P. Sloan Family Center on Parents, Children & Work at The University of Chicago, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), and Michigan State University.
As part of a network of six Sloan Working Family Centers, the Sloan Center based out of the University of Chicago and currently working out of Michigan State University was founded to examine the issues facing working parents and their children by taking a different approach to conceptually defining the research issues and exploring new research methodologies. Studying these issues requires that we understand the dynamics of working families not only from the perspective of adults in the household, but also through the voices of the children. The complex dynamics of this century's working family cannot be understood through just one approach, they require interdisciplinary approaches such as those employed by The University of Chicago, NORC, and Michigan State University. Faculty from psychology, sociology, economics, child development, human development, and public policy are collaborating on this work. The Center is directed by Barbara Schneider and Linda Waite, whose research expertise explores family, marriage, adolescents, and education issues.