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What Scientists Discovered About American Families In 2018

In 2018, scientists published study after study throwing long-held beliefs about the nature of relationships into question.

In 2018, parents were, as ever, busy. Scientists were busy too—studying child development, marriage, and how our bodies and minds fit into the intergenerational puzzle that is family. This past year we learned that guns send 8,000 kids to the ER, that helicopter parenting can harm child development, that screen time isn’t so bad, and that parents engage in 2,184 arguments with their kids annually. In short, we learned a lot. Here are the discoveries that parents need to know about. 

Child Development and Health

  • Children in the U.S. are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries, a January study found. Researchers estimate that 600,000 child deaths would not have happened, had those kids lived outside of the U.S.
  • Gun-related injuries sent more than 8,000 children to the emergency room, according to an October study. “I don’t know what more we need to see in the world to be able to come together and tackle this problem,” the authors said.
  • Scientists are dialing back warnings about the negative impacts of screen time on child development. One January study of 20,000 families called current guidelines into question. “Our findings suggest that there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological well being,” the authors said.
  • Sociologists sounded the alarm over the increase in active shooter drills in schools. While it’s a good idea in theory, scientists now suspect that active shooter drills traumatize children without actually making them safer.
  • Children as young as five years old care about social status and how they are viewed by their peers, a March study confirmed. It was once thought that complex reputational behavior could not emerge in children until age nine.
  • YouTube isn’t ruining toddlers, but it isn’t teaching them anything either, according to a March study. Researchers confirmed that, while toddlers engage with the characters on the screen, they fail to absorb any beneficial information.
  • You can determine a child’s sex from his or her speech as early as age five, a June study suggests. There’s likely no physiological reason for this. Rather, scientists suspect that young kids pick up on gender norms and mimic accordingly.


  • A massive British study of 70,000 children that has been in progress since 1946 concluded in October that the key to raising happy, successful children is being an engaged parent, taking a hardline stance on bedtime, and reading to them.
  • Your terrible boss and unbearable coworkers may have a negative impact on your parenting, an August study found. The authors caution that parents with micromanaging bosses may revert to less healthy authoritarian parenting styles.
  • Childcare costs were at an all-time high in 2018, according to a July study. Researchers found that 20 percent of U.S. families are losing at least one-fourth of their income to childcare costs, which include nannies, babysitters, and daycare.
  • The majority of parents are using carseats incorrectly, a June study reports. Scientists randomly pulled over 3,000 cars, and found that 36 percent of parents had messed up the straps, while 33 percent had placed their kids in ill-fitting carseats.
  • Helicopter parenting could have long-term negative effects on your child’s well-being, a June study found. Researchers studied 400 children, and found that those with overbearing parents are ill-prepared to cope with stress and anger.
  • Giving your kids a sip of alcohol does not make them any less likely to become problem drinkers, a February study confirmed. “There is no study which supports the view that parents giving alcohol to their kids reduces, moderates, or positively influences their drinking habits — quite the reverse,” authors said.

Marriage And Relationships

  • Married men make significantly more money than single guys, according to a September study. Although wages are roughly the same for 20-somethings, scientists found that, by age 40, married men were making an average of $30,000 more per year than unmarried men.
  • Families spend nearly 50 minutes each day arguing, a July study estimates. The researchers suspect that the average American parent engages in 2,184 arguments with their kids each year.
  • Men are still more likely to cheat than women, a January study found. But the new research suggests that women are slightly more likely to cheat in the first few years of marriage.
  • Two April studies from the Council on Contemporary Families report that men are doing more work around the house and welcoming gender equality within their marriages. Men still aren’t as egalitarian as women, researchers found, but the disparity between the sexes is shrinking.
  • Men who check their email late at night experience more stress, an August study found. Researchers say this stress often translates to hostile interactions with family members.