You May Be 70, But I'm Still Your Mother
Mothers who worry their role is over when they push their adolescent kids out of the nest have another worry coming, says a UC Davis human development researcher.
"The parent-child relationships can go on for 70 years, now that many people's parents are still alive when the adult children are in their 60s," says Carolyn Aldwin, professor of human development at UC Davis.
The fact that life expectancy for Americans is now 76, compared to 46 100 years ago has many implications, she says.
"There are many autonomy issues, which can be very interesting when parents in their 60s and 70s are helping their children financially."
Often this assistance involves major expenditures, such as down payments for houses or grandchildren's college education.
This type of support is not usually a problem, since for most families, the gifts represent part of mutual reciprocity that occurs in families, Aldwin says. But sometimes, adult children in their 40s have not become financially independent, which can be an issue.
The lengthening of life spans also means that many more multigenerational families exist than in previous centuries. That issue of autonomy often must be renegotiated, this time for the aging parent.
"The tricky part comes when parents become very old and frail," Aldwin says. "Many elders resist when their children try to take control, or they may request more help than an adult child can provide."
Aldwin has spent the last 20 years studying transitions to adulthood, midlife adulthood development and aging.
Media contacts: Carolyn Aldwin, Human and Community Development, (530) 752-2415, email@example.com; Susanne Rockwell, News Service, (530) 752-9841, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breastfeeding Expert Studies Growth Patterns of Youngsters
A UC Davis nutritionist who specializes in the health of mothers and children is part of a global research team working to develop better growth charts to monitor the health and development of young children.
Kathryn Dewey, a UC Davis nutrition professor, is directing the only United States research site for a worldwide research project, coordinated by the World Health Organization, to revise growth charts for children under the age of 5 years.
Previous research by Dewey and other nutritionists suggests that current growth charts, used to gauge whether children are growing appropriately, don't accurately reflect the growth patterns of breast-fed children.
Dewey's team is collecting data on the growth of some 700 children in the Davis area, which will be used in revising the World Health Organization growth charts.
"At certain ages, breast-fed babies tend to grow more slowly than do formula-fed children," said Dewey. "The concern is that health professionals might mistake this slower growth for a failure to thrive and recommend that the mother switch to formula."
Research has shown that breast milk is effective in warding off illnesses such as ear infections and diarrhea, and helps boost mental development.
Dewey has been researching maternal and infant nutrition for more than 15 years. Her work includes studies on infant growth and nutrition, the impact of nutrition and exercise on nursing moms, breastfeeding and post-childbirth weight loss in mothers, and growth problems in infants and children in developing countries.
Media contacts: Kathryn Dewey, Nutrition, (530) 752-0851, email@example.com; Patricia Bailey, News Service, (530) 752-9843, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Stories Bond Immigrant Mothers With Daughters
Immigrant mothers and American-born daughters who learn to share their heritage and struggles through family stories can avoid losing a central familial bond, according to a UC Davis scholar who studies the stories passed through generations.
In California, where 26 percent of the population is immigrant and some 45 percent of the state's births are to immigrant mothers, a dislocation of culture and familial relationships can likely to occur. Familial relationships can be painful sites of discovery and compromise, but they can also be dynamic sites for resistance and transformation for women, their families and communities, says Wendy Ho, an associate professor of Asian American studies and women and gender studies.
She uses stories by California novelists Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan and Fae Myenne Ng to analyze how immigrant mothers' experiences are forged in the social-economic and historical dislocations in China and in the United States.
"Sadly, many of the daughters do not understand the value of this legacy: They have lost or devalued the meanings of their mothers' stories in their Anglo-American translations," Ho writes in her book, "In Her Mother's House: The Politics of Asian American Mother-Daughter Writing."
Without romanticizing these mother-daughter stories, Ho points out that mothers and daughters can work through their social and emotional dilemmas by using a dialogue that includes telling their often silenced or marginalized stories to each other.
"Such practices of talk-story can enable women and men to fruitfully negotiate alliances and create opportunities for the development of strong, supportive interactive communities," Ho says.
Media contacts: Wendy Ho, Asian American Studies, (530) 752-3818, email@example.com; Susanne Rockwell, News Service, (530) 752-9841, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family-Friendly Workplaces, Schools Help Working Moms, Kids
Working mothers who worry about how their job outside the home affects their children's development may want to look at their situation more broadly, says a UC Davis researcher.
Because both working and not working outside the home can pose problems for children's growth, says Brenda Bryant, a professor of human development and family studies, mothers may want to look more closely at the types of shared experiences they have with their children, which are key to their children's development.
And, moms, in deciding to work, may want to reconsider who all are responsible for their children's development -- including the roles of both parents, parents' employers and children's school teachers. This approach, Bryant suggests, may change the question from "Should mothers work?" to "How can family needs be fulfilled in ways that help children's development to flourish?"
Thinking about the decision in this way has implications for society, such as the need for workplace and school "family-friendly" policies, Bryant says.
A workplace policy could allow phone access to parents and occasional leaves so parents can help children in person. Schools could schedule activities with parents' availability in mind.
Media contacts: Brenda Bryant, Human Development, (530) 752-2242, email@example.com; Susanne Rockwell, News Service, (530) 752-9841, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mom and Daughter Police Officers Together on UC Davis Force
When UC Davis police officers Lynn Matranga and Jennifer Roth were recently dispatched to a campus disturbance, the duo handled their assignment like they'd been working together forever.
Matranga, a 20-year veteran of the force, and Roth, a rookie, moved quickly to help an angry, distraught woman. Matranga, who arrived first, helped calm the woman. They both put the woman in handcuffs, and Roth drove her to a mental health clinic for evaluation.
Despite their differing law enforcement experience levels, the duo performed their task seamlessly. However, that's not surprising, said Matranga. She's not only one of Roth's colleagues; she's her mother.
"We've been together her whole life," said Matranga, 63. "We read each other pretty well."
Roth and Matranga, always close, are delighted to work together. As far as they know, they are the only mother-daughter team in the area working on the same police force.
Working on the same force has made for some unique mother-daughter moments. One recent morning, the two found each other side-by-side inspecting their patrol cars. A daily check requires each officer to make sure his or her equipment and weapons are in good working order. The routine task, however, was something neither Matranga nor Roth ever imagined doing together. But on this morning the chore seemed natural.
"We were out there racking our shotgun shells," Matranga said. "We laughed. I thought it was hysterical."
Media contact: Paul Pfotenhauer, Police Information Officer, (530) 752-6397, email@example.com.