Why Being on Time is Important
Although the United States is not the only society that places a high regard on being on time, Americans in particular it would seem have been criticized in the past for being a highly time-oriented people, and some other cultures may not place the same level of importance on being punctual as exists in the United States today. This sense of being tied to a clock may strike some observers from other cultures as being downright psychotic, but the fact remains that the importance of being on time is an enormously important part of the American value system and it would be reasonable to suggest that this will not change anytime soon. Therefore, it is also reasonable to suggest that young people learn as soon as possible in their lives that others expect them to be on time for a variety of reasons, which are discussed further below, followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.
Most Americans are busy people and a great number of them schedule their daily routines down to the minute. For instance, Doob (1990) emphasizes that, "The mandatory requirement of language is evident in modern societies which stress the importance of punctuality. ‘Let us meet at two o'clock today': we immediately know that reference is being made to time as measured by clocks in accordance with a system of the particular time zone in which we live" (p. 48). This emphasis on punctuality originated in some part in response to the Industrial Revolution when the need for factory workers to arrive at work on time became more important than in previous years. For example, according to Mulkey (1997), during the 19th century, "Schools emphasized the same values as factories when they instilled the importance of being on time, which was an effort to solve the problem of irregular and tardy attendance" (p. 35).
A modern society's sense of time, though, varies from country to country and such rigorous observations of schedules may not characterize