Survey offers perspectives on family life

Other findings from the Better Homes and Gardens survey include the following: Eighty-seven percent of respondents say it is important to their families to eat at least one meal together each day. They point out the benefits of daily dinnertime conversations for both parents and children. Sixty-nine percent think it is important to maintain close contact with relatives, and even more think is important for families to pass on old photos, letters, and keepsakes from generation to generation.

Forty-one percent think America is a worse place to raise children than it was five years ago (15 percent think it is better; 43 percent see no change). One reader wrote: ''On television and in movies and junk literature, the self-life, with little or no moral restraint, is consistently shown as the happy and fulfilling life. From our experience, we would say that quite the contrary is true. And unselfish love for spouse and family and high moral standards bring fulfillment.''

Another cited drugs as ''every parent's nightmare.'' Still another wrote: ''Parents don't even take their children to church anymore. Children grow up without anything spiritual to hang onto when times get rough. If God were put first, fewer problems would be encountered in our lives. It would help give meaning and direction to family life.''

Home is where 83 percent of the respondents spend their free time, and they say that is where they feel happiest. Sixty-five percent say they are spending more time at home now than they did five years ago. Sixty percent report that they rarely or never think of their house as a burden, but are very happy with it. One woman commented, however: ''Our present home is not big enough, but the mortgage is. No way for us to move now, so we'll make do for the time being.''

When asked if spouses equitably share the burden of household chores, 57 percent said ''Yes.'' There was little comment about spouses who don't. In nearly half of the respondents' households, the woman is primarily responsible for budgeting and managing the majority of the family finances. ''Despite rising prices, higher taxes, and a depressed economy, they're doing all right financially,'' the editor comments. In a third of the households, husband and wife share the responsibility; in one-fifth, the man of the house is responsible.

One respondent summed up her beliefs: ''To have a strong and nurturing family life and to instill moral values in our children today requires the same effort it always has - hard work. It requires self-discipline and maturity on the part of parents.''

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