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Lisa Belkin

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Parenting Satire With Ring Of Truth

Posted: 10/31/2011 11:05 am

Humor works best when it contains a wide thread of truth. Sometimes, though, that makes it hard to tell the difference between real life and satire. This seems to be what happened with a short article in the Onion last week, which was widely quoted on Facebook and Twitter.

The original read:

SANTA ROSA, CA--A study released by the California Parenting Institute Tuesday shows that every style of parenting inevitably causes children to grow into profoundly unhappy adults. "Our research suggests that while overprotective parenting ultimately produces adults unprepared to contend with life's difficulties, highly permissive parenting leads to feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood," lead researcher Daniel Porter said. "And, interestingly, we found that anything between those two extremes is equally damaging, always resulting in an adult who suffers from some debilitating combination of unpreparedness and isolation. Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being." The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery.

There was no such study -- that part is a joke -- but there really is a California Parenting Institute in Santa Rosa, and they report (for real) that their phone and email have been getting a workout since the piece appeared. The local newspaper in town, the Press Democrat, ran an article this weekend (for real) that quotes the group's executive director, Robin Bowen saying "We even had parent educators who work here say, 'When did we do a study?"

So many people appeared confused, that the Institute (the actual one) issued a press release that said "The falsified study quoted in The Onion states that all parenting styles lead to the same outcome -- unhappy, miserable adults. We have been around a long time because we know that parent education does work."

And who were some of these callers, to whom the conclusion rang true? One call, Bowen says, was from a woman who "said she was writing a book or something and she really wanted a copy of the research and it supported some ofher thoughts."

So, the study was a satire, but there really might be an author out there who believes that any which way you raise children will lead to an unhappy adulthood. Which would be depressing. If it weren't so funny.

Some days does it feel like everything you are doing is simply material for their therapist when they grow up? Talk to me. Tell me how that feels.