Recent scandals about sexual assaults on college campuses have provoked vehement debates about the scope of the problem. According to the White House task force formed to investigate the issue, 20 percent of undergraduate women — 1 in 5 — are sexually assaulted while in college. But some observers claim the problem has been blown way out of proportion. For example, Christina Hoff Sommers argued in a May 2014 article in Time magazine that this number is derived from biased samples and poorly-designed survey questions. Instead, she claims, only one-in-forty college women is a victim of rape or sexual assault.

Disagreement is not confined to political debate. In a 2011 report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics acknowledged that competing estimates of sexual violence have existed for two decades without ever being definitively resolved. In this brief we evaluate existing knowledge about the incidence and prevalence of sexual victimization of women attending American colleges and universities. We follow the Bureau of Justice Statistics definition of rape as a form of sexual assault that includes forced sexual intercourse, whether by physical or psychological coercion, involving penetration by the offender(s). We include in our definition of rape any act of sexual intercourse performed on an individual who is incapacitated as a result of being comatose, drugged, or asleep. To avoid ambiguity, we do not include sexual coercion or unwanted sexual contact such as grabbing or fondling—although the latter also meets the Bureau of Justice Statistics definition of sexual assault. Comparing multiple public health surveys—including nationally representative population surveys—we find it likely that between 7 and 10 percent of women experience forcible rape in college, and that somewhere between 14 and 26 percent experience sexual assault. more...

Dads. Credit Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony (Instagram)
Dads. Credit Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony (Instagram)

At the end of this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriages and to recognize same-sex marriages allowed in other states. In the

arguments heard in the lower courts and the record-setting number of amici filed for this case, debate has often veered from whether same-sex couples should be able to marry and waded into the question of how they parent children. Social science research has been front and center in this debate, with a variety of studies examining whether families with two parents of a different sex provide better environments for raising children than two parents of the same sex.

No differences? In general, these studies have examined differences in children’s developmental outcomes to make inferences about differences in what is happening in the home, conflating how children do with the ways that people parent in same-sex and different-sex couples. The “no differences” conclusion refers to the fact that few studies have revealed significant differences in these outcomes between children raised by different-sex parents and same-sex parents. This conclusion about parenting based on data on children, however, may be biased in both directions. For example, same-sex couples are more likely to adopt “hard-to-place” children from the foster care system. They are also more likely to have children who have experienced family instability because they transitioned into new family settings after being in families headed by ‘straight’ couples. Both of these factors are known to affect children’s wellbeing, but they are not as strongly tied to parenting.

New study clarifies. In our new study in the June issue of Demography, we directly address the arguments being made about differences in parenting in two-parent families by examining parents’ actual behaviors. Using the nationally representative American Time Use Survey, we examine how much time parents in same-sex and different-sex couples spend in child-focused activities during a 24-hour period, controlling for a wide range of factors that are also associated with parenting, such as income, education, time spent at work, and the number and age of children in the family. By ‘child-focused’ time, we mean time spent engaged with children in activities that support their physical and cognitive development, like reading to them, playing with them, or helping them with their homework.

Supporting a no differences conclusion, our study finds that women and men in same-sex relationships and women in different-sex relationships do not differ in the amount of time they spend in child-focused activities (about 100 minutes a day). We did find one difference, however, as men in different-sex relationships spend only half as much child-focused time as the other three types of parents. Averaging across mothers and fathers, we determined that children with same-sex parents received an hour more of child-focused parent time a day (3.5 hours) than children in different-sex families (2.5 hours).

A key implication of our study is that the focus on whether same-sex parents provide depreciably different family contexts for healthy child development is misplaced. If anything, the results show that same-sex couples are more likely to invest time in the types of parenting behaviors that support child development. In line with a recent study that has continued to highlight that poverty—more so than family structure—is the greatest detriment to parenting practices, it’s hard not to see how delegitimizing same-sex families in ways that create both social and economic costs for them, pose a greater source of disadvantage for children.

Kate Prickett is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin; Alexa Martin-Storey is a developmental psychologist and Assistant Professor at the Université de Sherbrooke, in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Their new study in Demography (with Robert Crosnoe), A Research Note on Time with Children in Different- and Same-Sex Two-Parent Families, was released today.

Pepper Schwartz asks us to consider the role of bystander institutions and individuals. Credit: Devon Buchanan Creative Commons
Pepper Schwartz writes about bystander institutions and individuals. Image credit: Devon Buchanan Creative Commons

Pepper Schwartz’s column, “Who enables spring break rapes?” appeared Thursday April 16, 2015. We share it here timed with release of the CCF Online Symposium on Intimate Partner Violence.

The viral video of an alleged gang rape in Panama City Beach, Florida, during spring break has everyone talking about the apparent crassness of onlookers who stood by as the alleged incident unfolded.

Predictably — and appropriately — there is a lot of hand-wringing about both crowd indifference and the rape culture that allows this kind of beastly behavior. No question, it was hideous — but, personally, I think we are all implicated. For years, we have all stood by watching as spring break has turned into an opportunity for mob behavior.

We know what can happen in fraternities and at house parties, for example, when the event gets frantic and alcohol addled brains turn primitive and predatory. We know that when adolescents and 20-somethings party, those drunken events have a high likelihood of getting hormonally heated and desire can turn dangerous. How many times have we heard of a woman passing out (or being drugged) and publicly violated? Can anyone be surprised anymore that drunken spectators lose their judgment and their moral compass?

So, when we turn a blind eye to huge drunken parties and leave beach behavior to the mob, what do we think is going to happen? A tea party?

I  am not saying that spring break turns every man into a rapist. Most men, no matter how drunk they are, do not fancy getting into a rape train that violates a comatose woman, victimized because she is passed out or otherwise rendered helpless.

But on the other hand, we know there are men who have never learned to respect women, who think that any woman who can’t protest is “fair game” and that, in that moment of drunken lust, all other rules or emotions vanish.

Why men involved in gang rape would want to wallow in another man’s semen, why they want to do this as a performance before the crowd, and why a light doesn’t shine in that only minimally intact brain to remind them that this is a felony, is something I can’t quite explain in this space.

What I do know is that we have let mobs of young people build and overpower the beaches, concerts and frat or party houses of this country and we have let partygoers become so soaked in alcohol and adrenaline that watching a gang bang becomes an interesting (and perhaps erotic) performance rather than a moment for compassion, outrage and heroism aimed at saving the victim.

My guess is that there are a lot of spectators that are massively ashamed of themselves right now — as of course, they should be. If they indeed stood by while an assault like this occurred, they have been accessory to a crime.

How about the rest of us?

We should take a good look at our own responsibility. We should demand that institutions — cities, universities, concerts venues and clubs — never let these events gather this much steam accompanied by intense alcohol consumption. We can’t monitor all social events, but there is no reason we cannot demand and enforce stricter rules about alcohol use when the events are in public spaces or in land owned by municipalities and other institutions.

We are not blameless in this horror show. But we could make it much less likely to happen if we really give a damn and do something to change the rules, and nature, of these kind of events.

Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the author of many books, the latest of which is “The Normal Bar.” She is the love and relationship ambassador for AARP and writes the Naked Truth column for She is also a senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families.

Our Youngest Learners: Who Are They and Where Are They Learning?

Every year since 1971, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has sponsored a weeklong celebration of young children, their teachers, and their families (Week of the Young Child; April 12-18, 2015). This year’s theme is Celebrating Our Youngest Learners.

1971 was a year that seemed to promise a giant leap forward for young learners. The Comprehensive Child Development Act (CCDA), an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA) Reauthorization, would have provided every American family access to developmentally-oriented child care on a sliding-fee-scale. In September the bill was debated and passed by both the Senate and the House, and on December 2 a final version was adopted by both houses, to be sent to then-President Nixon. But on December 9 President Nixon vetoed the EOA Reauthorization and along with it the CCDA, declaring that the government would not sponsor “communal child-rearing.”

Despite the continued increase in maternal employment and decades of research showing that quality child care benefits children, families, and employers, the US has made almost no progress since the defeat of the CCDA in 1971. U.S. child care continues to falter because its policy goals are not aligned with the needs of contemporary families. One part of the system provides high quality, no-cost early education to children from low income families. The other part functions to support parental employment and is far less well-regulated.

Either way, finding affordable, convenient, and high quality child care that covers parent work schedules and meets children’s developmental needs is a real challenge for most families. Early education programs typically run for only part of the day. The cost of full-time child care rivals that of college tuition in most states. And aside from the federal standards for Head Start programs, regulation of safety, health, and quality varies widely from state-to-state.

Today’s Youngest Learners: What Distinguishes Them and Their Families?


A report and commentary prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families.

A set of tables released by the U.S. Census this month provides new evidence of how much the structure, composition, and life-course of American families have changed over the past 55 years. Poverty figures in the same report show that having two parents may help in keeping children out of poverty, but by no means guarantee it. And other research shows that the relationship between income and family structure goes both ways: People who are well above the poverty line are more likely to get and stay married.

In 1960, according to Census figures from that year, nearly 90 percent American children lived in two-parent families, with only 8 percent in mother-only families. A miniscule 1 percent resided in father-only families, and 3 percent lived either with grandparents, other relatives, or in other arrangements (Census, 1960).

By 2014, according to figures newly released by the U.S. Census Bureau (CPS ASEC, 2015), almost a quarter of American children (24 percent) lived in a mother-only household, a 300 percent increase since 1960. Four percent lived in a father-only household, still a small percentage but a four-fold increase since 1960. Another 4 percent were living either with grandparents or in other arrangements. Just 68 percent of American children were living in two-parent families. more...

It is time to quit viewing motherhood as incompatible with employment.

In 2013, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones set off a controversy when he remarked that “you will never see as many great women investors or traders as men.” In his experience, Jones claimed, a woman did fine until she had a child. But “as soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s (sic) bosom, forget it….”

By virtually every measure, we are closer to gender equality today than we were fifty years ago—with one very big exception. As Joya Misra notes, the majority of the gender gap in wages is now the result of the lower earnings of mothers. This once led Denise Venable of the National Center for Policy Analysis to claim: “When women behave as men do [by not having children], the wage gap between them is small.” But mothers not only earn less than childless women. They earn less than fathers. When women “behave as men do” and have children, the wage gap between fathers and mothers remains large. more...

How does growing economic inequality affect traditional patterns of gender inequality?

It used to be that the most economically successful women earned no more than the typical man, even when they had more education and held more highly skilled jobs. In 1970, the average woman in the top of the women’s distribution (between the 85th and 95th percentiles) made less than the average man who fell in the middle of the men’s distribution (between the 45th and 55th percentiles). The average female college graduate also earned less than the average male high school graduate.

But gender is no longer so predictive of earnings. Being at the top now outweighs being a woman. In 2010, high earning women made more than 1.5 times as much as the typical man. more...

Via wikimedia commons, credit Bunyanchad.
Via wikimedia commons, credit Bunyanchad.

In the 1950s, dating etiquette decreed that the man had to initiate all interactions. Although much has changed since then, many women continue to believe they will end up with a higher quality man if they don’t appear too eager. You might think the tech savvy women who turn to the internet to search for partners would be less inhibited, but in a recent study using 6 months of online dating data from a midsized Southwestern city (N=8,259 men, 6,274 women), my coauthors and I found that women send 4 times fewer messages than men.  

But the payoffs for violating older gender conventions are significant. A woman who initiates a contact is twice as likely to get a favorable response from a potential partner as a man who does so. And women who take the initiative connect with equally desirable partners as women who wait to be asked, without having to wade through a pile of less desirable suitors.

University of Texas sociologist Shannon Cavanagh studies online dating and analyzes hundreds of thousands of messages between partners.

What do you plan to give your valentine this February 14th – a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a candlelit dinner? If celebration plans include any type of sexual activities, then perhaps it is worth considering how to avoid giving or receiving one of the most-unwanted gifts: a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The reality is that several STDs have reached epidemic proportions here in the U.S. and have become pandemics throughout the rest of the world. Therefore, a day that celebrates love, romance, and sexuality is a good reason to focus on sexual health. While researchers have discovered a lot of useful information about STDs, many people continue to come up with reasons to avoid learning the truth about these socially taboo infections. So, whether or not sex is part of your plans for this Valentine’s Day, consider these myths and facts about STDs: more...

On average, white women earn 81 percent of what white men make. At first glance it may appear that there is more gender equality among minority men and women than among whites. Hispanic or Latina women make 88 percent of what Latinos do and African American women make 90 percent of what their male counterparts make.

But when we add race to gender, these pay gaps become a veritable chasm. African American women earn 36 percent less than white men and Latinas a mere 45 percent. Interestingly, the gap between the earnings of Asian women and white men is smaller, just 12 percent, but that mounts up over a lifetime, and Asian American women earn just 73 percent of what Asian American men make. more...