Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - May/June 2001

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

The Need for Social Support

by Dorothy N. Moore

We live in an age-segregated society. Children are placed with their agemates, even in churches, from infancy through high school and college, and later in senior-citizen centers. This is a serious risk to the social and mental health of all concerned for it represents a lack of adult social support for the child and rejection of the in-home sibling relationship. Social support is an individual's perception fo how much he is loved and valued by others, and the family is the most important source of that security.

The purpose of the family is to provide connections which are not easily broken -- the feeling of being a part of something greater than themselves. This is done by spending time together at meals, special occasions and such as holidays and vacations, welcoming the Sabbath, working and serving -- building memories that are the family ties that bind.

Association with only agemates, especially for children, produces peer dependence and usually the influence of others who do not model good behaviors. In 1970, almost prophetically, Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner wrote, "If the institutions of our society continue to remove parents, other adults, and older youth from active participation in the lives of children, and if the resulting vacuum is filled by the age-segregated peer group, we can anticipate increased alienation, indifference, antagonism, and violence on the part of the younger generation in all segments of our society -- middle-class children as well as the disadvantaged." He adds that under these conditions, "there is no possibility for learning culturally-established patterns of cooperation and mutual concern."

Yet experiments in locating nursery schools or preschools in the same building with senior citizens have been successful in helping both age groups enjoy live more. One family moved into a neighborhood where there were no children -- only older people. Her children were disappointed at first, but the mother baked banana bread for her children to deliver and visit the neighbors. They soon discovered that they had plenty of friends with whom to share stories, food and projects.

Another working mother was looking for a place where her young child could stay between school dismissal and the time she could pick him up. She felt that it should be some place where her boy could play with other children, but nothing like that was available, so she settled on an older lady. She was delighted that he really enjoyed his time with her.

The damages of failing to connect the young with the old show up most dramatically in teen-agers, with drugs, and other anti-social behavior. A study reported by the American Journal of Public Health 87, No. 12 (1997) reveals that in a healthful relationship between teen-agers and adults the youth were 46 percent less likely to initiate drug use, 70 percent less likely among a minority race; 27 percent less likely to start alcohol use; 53 percent less likely to hit someone; 37 percent less likely to skip class; more confident in their school work; and better able to interrelate with their families.

When one parent is a maker of the home and both parents provide care and moral support, the young person is not likely to be deprived. However, there are times when an adult outside of the family can also provide a relationship which inspires and stabilizes the young person as even a parent cannot do. We call this mentoring and these relationships can happen at school, at church or with a relative or friend when an adult takes an interest in the young person.

It would be well for families to pray earnestly and do some work with pen and paper to see whether the second income is really worth sacrificing the security and values of their tots, given the rat race when both parents are working. In the financial section of the Sunday Star-Ledger, Jersy City, NJ, on Feb. 13, 1994, we found an article by Charles A. Jaffe entitled "Two Incomes Do Not Necessarily Contribute to a Very Happy Family." Jaffe advised parents of new babies to analyze the financial pros and cons, as well as the emotional cost, of both parents working full time.

Financial planner Robert Topping of R. B. Topping and Co., Fairfax, VA said, "When you add up all of the costs that it takes to have both spouses working, the marginal benefit to the second income may be outweighed by someone wanting to stay home with the children." In fact, it is often below a minimum wage, after taxes, child, care, commuting costs and other expenses. "A lot of people are really shocked once they look at how little the second paycheck really brings to the family, given the hectic lifestyle required to keep two jobs."