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CNN Today

Dr. Penelope Leach Talks About 'Your Baby and Child'

Aired June 5, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Helping newborns achieve a long and healthful life is, of course, the goal of most parents. While the significance of mothers is a matter of folklore, the crucial role of fathers in a newborn's live is only now becoming more appreciated.

Someone who knows a great deal about this is well-known child psychologist and parenting expert Penelope Leach, author of "Your Baby and Child." She's also affiliated with the Web site, Babycenter.com, which recently conducted a lengthy survey of current attitudes among modern fathers. She joins us from New York.

Hi, Dr. Leach.

PENELOPE LEACH, AUTHOR, "YOUR BABY AND CHILD": Hi, Kyra, it's good to be with you.

PHILLIPS: Thanks for being with us.

Now I always thought in this age of divorce and single- parenthood, kids were spending more time with mom. But actually you're saying just the opposite.

LEACH: The good news is that kids are spending more time with dads, that more dads want to be more involved with more children, and that it's good for children when they are. The bad news, of course is that as you rightly say there are a lot of couples where that isn't the case. And also, society isn't yet making it nearly as easy for fathers to be involved as it does for mothers. And that's not very easy either.

PHILLIPS: Well, how is that happening? And how should society make it easier?

LEACH: Well, I think the corporate world is still very much more unsympathetic to fatherhood than it is to motherhood. And some of the things that we're like doing that are supposed to be family friendly, you know, there are -- something like window dressing. I'm thinking of things like unpaid leave for fathers, unpaid paternity leave.

In the survey that babycenter.com underdid -- undertook, for example, most of the fathers who took time off when their babies were born had to take personal days or vacation time. And when you think about it, that means fewer personal days and less vacation time available later on in the year. So I think we need to be pushing for a right to some paternity leave so fathers can be around when their kids are very small, and we need to be pushing fathers to go looking to educate themselves and get involved from the beginning.

PHILLIPS: Now you say your survey says that men are shifting their focusing more to the family. How -- how are they doing that, and why do you think they're doing that?

LEACH: Well, I didn't exactly say that. What I said was that more than 50 percent of them are taking time out of the workplace to be with their babies and their partners in the first days after a baby's born. What happens after that is more variable. There are a majority of fathers try to cut back on working hours to have more time at home, but there are, of course, a few who say the opposite, who say, I have to work longer hours. I've got another mouth to feed.

PHILLIPS: OK, if dads can't take time off, Dr. Leach, then what can they do to begin that bond with the baby?

LEACH: They can be there at the very beginning. And when you say be there, it isn't a question of being there all the time, though that's ideal obviously. A "babymoon" is ideal. Just as a wedding -- a marriage starts off well with a honeymoon, so this new family starts off well with a babymoon, where you have at least a few days to concentrate on each other and being a family.

But after that, it's a question of being involved, of making the best use you can of any time you have got, of not resigning yourself and giving up because you can't spend much time and deciding its not worth spending any.

PHILLIPS: OK, just switching focus, final question here. one of your favorite studies about little boys being clingy to their moms. I laughed at this. I mean, usually you think, OK, oh, boy, he's going be a wimp. But actually, you're saying just the opposite.

LEACH: Kyra, I'm sure you will have gathered by now, but I've lost you.

PHILLIPS: Oh, you have you lost us? Can you hear me now? Oh, we've lost Penelope Leach. Hopefully we can get back to her. She had some good stuff to say about parenthood, didn't she?

Well, as we mentioned earlier, Dr. Leach can also be found on the Internet at www.babycenter.com. There she regularly chats online with parents about the full spectrum of child-rearing issues.

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