sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

June 1997

Less noise at home makes for better-adjusted kids

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Parents wanting to help their children adjust to life's stresses may want to turn down the noise in their home, says a Purdue University professor of psychological sciences.

"Kids who come from highly noisy or chaotic homes experience less cognitive growth, delayed language skills, have trouble mastering their environments and have increased anxiety," says Theodore Wachs.

Wachs studies environmental influences on early childhood development. He helped create a questionnaire for parents to fill out to measure the level of physical disorganization in the home. The "chaos" questionnaire assesses what he calls "the noise confusion of the home."

He says a chaotic home is one factor associated with adjustment problems in children. For example, in a study of preschool children's reaction to caregiver turnover in day care centers, those from more disorganized homes had more trouble adapting and functioning during the time of change.

"The effects vary with the temperament and sex of the child," he says. "Those who have the most trouble associated with a chaotic home life are boys who are intense, fussy or negative."

Wachs offers these suggestions for toning down "noise confusion" in the home:

CONTACT: Wachs, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

Internet makes vacationing a virtual reality

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's time for the family vacation, and cruising down the highway has never been like this before.

"For planning a vacation there's nothing better than the Internet, the information highway," says Alastair Morrison, Purdue University professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management.

"The Internet can be more up-to-date than any brochure, and you can virtually visit many destinations just by surfing their Web sites."

Morrison, director of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, advises the tourism industry on just what to put on those Web sites.

He says the best sites have links to as many possible services as a potential traveler could want. "A theme park may have links to other parks around the world. A sporting event could be linked to sports schedules, souvenir shops and players' home pages," he says.

Among the travel services on the Internet are currency converters, weather forecasts, customs information, lists of restaurants and accommodations and ticket-ordering sites. "There are even sites that will send postcards to your friends," Morrison says.

He says if all you need is a plane ticket, the Internet has some of the cheapest fares to be found. "You can deal directly with the airlines or book flights with 'consolidators,' which are electronic travel agencies that buy bulk airfares and sell them over the Internet," he says.

When it comes to mapping out the itinerary, Morrison says the Internet can do that, too. Map sites such as Mapquest or AutoPilot can plot out the journey with ease.

However, as with anything, let the buyer beware. "Ask for references. Check with the Better Business Bureau. And look to see if the agent is sanctioned either by the International Air Transport Association or the American Society of Travel Agents," Morrison advises.

Among Internet travel sites are:

CONTACT: Morrison, (765) 494-7905; e-mail,; Web page,

Study: Few churches equipped for role in welfare

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the study "Through the Eye of a Needle: Social Ministry in Affluent Churches" is available from James Davidson at (765) 494-4688.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As government moves out of the welfare business, who's going to pick up the slack? Some political leaders hope it will be churches. But a Purdue University sociologist says that most churches are not in any position to take on the needs of the poor.

"Most churches simply aren't equipped to meet the needs that the federal government wants to shift to the local level," says James B. Davidson, professor of sociology who studies religion.

He says most churches don't have a full-time staff person in social outreach ministry. Most sponsor a couple of social outreach programs, spending 4 percent to 5 percent of their annual budgets on these efforts. And relatively few church members are involved in church programs to help the poor.

In a recent study of affluent churches, Davidson and two colleagues found that some congregations are more equipped for social welfare than others. Of the 31 congregations studied in two Indiana communities, some gave between 10 percent and 13 percent of their budgets to outreach.

Characteristics of these socially active churches included belonging to denominations with liberal theologies, having women in leadership positions, and having leaders who saw a close connection between faith and social ministry.

"Denominations with liberal theologies emphasize the importance of social programs, partly as a way of expressing faith and partly as a way of promoting faith among socially concerned church members," he says.

Having women on church boards and social concerns committees is important because women are more likely to identify with the needs of low-income persons, Davidson says. "Men have more interest in protecting the status quo because it works to their benefit. They are less compassionate toward the poor," he says.

The leaders' commitment to social ministry may be especially important in affluent churches where there is likely to be considerable opposition from persons in the pews to social ministry. Other studies have shown that members of affluent churches tend to hold the poor accountable for their plight, Davidson says.

"Our findings show the poor just who their friends are at the top," he says. "If churches are to become more involved in helping the poor, it will be a case where the right people need to be in the right places."

Davidson conducted his study with Alan Mock of Lakeland College and C. Lincoln Johnson of the University of Notre Dame. The study was published in the March edition of the Review of Religious Research.

CONTACT: Davidson, (765) 494-4688; e-mail,

Dual-career couples find support on college campuses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Academia is taking a lesson from corporate America as competition for faculty and staff increases.

Universities are setting up special assistance programs for dual-career couples to help the accompanying spouses find work and adjust to the new community. Purdue University is one example.

Purdue's program, now a year old, has aided 42 dual-career couples and helped 30 spouses find employment. It's one of seven such programs in the Big 10, and its personalized approach is one others want to model.

"There are just a few other universities that offer this kind of assistance," says counselor Betsy Brewer, who created the Purdue Relocation Assistance Program. "We've had a dozen calls since getting it started. It really is a model program that other schools are interested in duplicating on their campuses."

Brewer says it's individual contact and personal facilitating that make Purdue's program different.

"Not only do we provide job-search strategies and guidance, but we can also do career counseling for people who are thinking about making a change," Brewer says. "We also work on a lot of the adjustment issues connected to a relocation. Other programs tend to focus on serving as a clearinghouse for information."

Relocation specialist Tari Alper took over the program at the beginning of this year when Brewer left Purdue to operate a private consulting service. Both she and Brewer say they believe the program gives Purdue an extra edge in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.

"A new hire will be much more focused on the job if his or her spouse is getting the kind of help they need to get settled," Alper says. "And the Purdue employee is more likely to stay put if the spouse is happily employed as well."

But she is quick to emphasize that the Relocation Assistance Program is not a job placement service.

"We certainly don't guarantee employment," Alper says. "We do, however, assist the client in becoming oriented and self-sufficient in this new location as quickly as possible."

CONTACTS: Alper, (765) 494-6366; e-mail,
Brewer, (765) 497-3755; e-mail

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page