Recent UC Irvine research shows a call home to mom on Mother’s Day isn’t as special as it used to be.
“It’s so easy to keep in touch that you have no excuse to not call home on Mother’s Day,” said Judith Treas, director of UCI’s Center for Demographic and Social Analysis.
Treas co-authored a recent study on the proliferation of cell phones and how it has affected familial relations.
Adult children are much more in touch with their mothers than earlier generations, thanks to smart phones being so much more affordable and available, Treas said.
“We observed an increase in contact at the end of the 20th Century. It was not face-to-face contact, but other kinds of contact, phones or the Internet,” Treas said.
“Phone contact may make it less necessary to get in touch face-to-face, but they also make it easier to arrange meetings, so I suppose it’s a wash,” Treas said.
This is an international trend, Treas said.
“If you went back 20 years ago it was still very hard to get a land line in Eastern Europe,” she said. “It was very expensive and there were long waits for a land line. Folks living in that country found it much easier to meet face-to-face because public transportation was subsidized and it was so very inexpensive to take the train.”
Now that smart phones are more affordable, there also isn’t much difference in phone contact among the classes as was the case in the past, Treas said.
“It’s made a real difference in terms of equalizing phone contact among social classes,” she said.
Plus, many smart phone providers have less-expensive plans than in the era of land lines only, so that also encourages more calls, Treas said.
“I can remember being a college student and being very careful to keep a call under 10 minutes because it would be so expensive,” Treas said.
“It seems to be getting easier and easier so the real question now is how much contact is appropriate,” Treas said.
For instance, it appears overprotective or so-called helicopter parents can maintain continued contact with their young adult children, Treas said.
“Young adults can keep in touch so often that they don’t have to establish independence — even financially,” Treas said. “There certainly are some accounts of this in the media, but I don’t know that we have a good fix on it in research, but it is a concern and raises the question of how much contact is best.”
Some statistics haven’t changed much, though, Treas said. For instance, daughters still pick up the phone more often to call mom than sons do, she said.
In the United States, mom was called on average once a week, according to the study, which analyzes data going back to the cell phone boom at the end of the 20th Century. That puts the United States sixth among 24 nations.
Moms in Israel and Italy receive the most calls with an average of several rings a week. Moms in Japan, Brazil and Russia don’t hear from their sons or daughters as much — with the average being several times a month.
—City News Service
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