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The center gathered information in 1981 and again in 1997 to compare. According to a story on loss of family time in the September/October issue of Experience Life magazine, the surveys show several factors conspiring against togetherness:

  • An average American family works 388 hours more per year than in 1969.A 100 percent drop in household conversations was measured over 16 years, meaning that in 1997, when the latest survey was taken, periods in which “talking as a family” was the primary activity were virtually down to zero.
  • Time for family meals decreased from about nine hours per week to eight — troubling in light of studies showing that mealtime at home is one of the strongest predictors of high achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems in children.
  • A decline of 12 hours per week in overall free time for children and three hours a week in playtime. Meanwhile, structured sports doubled from about two-and-a-half hours per week to about five-and-a-half hours. There was also a fivefold increase in time spent watching family members play sports, from 30 minutes to more than three hours per week.
  • Time children spend studying increased by almost 50 percent.

What to do?

Experts suggest making time for family in little ways. Schedule a weekly china-and-candles dinner. Brush your child’s hair or rub his back at bedtime. In addition to closeness, such connections are good for one’s health. People who are socially disconnected are two to five times more likely to die from all causes, reports Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam.

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