What Keeps Parents Up at Night?

Mom and Dad looking at Baby
Is it the lack of affordable healthcare, the threat of sexual predators, and little faith in the government to make effective policy changes -- among other things? A recent conference entitled Parents 2008: Putting Children on the National Agenda, attended by a group of leading pediatricians, child development experts, and child advocates, kicked off Parents magazine and Parents.com's year-long initiative to raise the profile of issues that families care about most. How do we know what those issue are? We recently polled 1,006 parents with kids under 12 to find out. Here's what parents said:

Under Pressure

Today's fast-paced world has parents on edge. Fifty-one percent of all parents today believe they are under more pressure than their parents were. The following respondents said they were more stressed than their moms and dads:

-Dads: 45%
-Moms: 55%

-Married Parents: 48%
-Single Parents: 61%

-Working Parents: 51%
-Stay-at-Home Parents: 49%

-White: 51%

-African American: 57%

-Hispanic: 50%

-Major City: 57%
-Suburban: 48%
-Small Town: 52%
-Rural: 47%

Causes for Concern

Parents are most concerned about their children's safety and health. Respondents said they were "extremely worried" about each of the following topics:

-Sexual Predators in the Community: 50%
-Sexual Predators on the Internet: 49%
-Cost of Health Insurance: 47%
-Violence in Schools: 40%
-Cost of Raising Children: 40%
-Kids Growing Up Too Fast: 40%
-Quality of Education: 40%
-Media Influence on Children: 39%
-Peer Pressure on Children: 31%
-Lack of Role Models for Kids: 27%
-Bullying and Teasing at School: 25%
-Food Safety: 24%

Who Worries Most?

Moms and single parents worry more than dads and married parents. These groups said they were "extremely worried" about the following topics:

Sexual Predators in the Community
-Dads: 42%
-Moms: 56%
-Single Parents: 54%
-Married Parents: 49%

Sexual Predators on the Internet
-Dads: 42%
-Moms: 55%
-Single Parents: 55%
-Married Parents: 48%

Cost of Health Insurance
-Dads: 42%
-Moms: 51%
-Single Parents: 61%
-Married Parents: 43%

Cost of Raising Children
-Dads: 32%
-Moms: 46%
-Single Parents: 50%
-Married Parents: 37%

Kids Growing Up Too Fast
-Dads: 27%
-Moms: 49%
-Single Parents: 48%
-Married Parents: 38%

Violence in Schools
-Dads: 29%
-Moms: 47%
-Single Parents: 48%
-Married Parents: 37%

Lack of Role Models for Kids
-Dads: 20%
-Moms: 33%
-Single Parents: 35%
-Married Parents: 25%

Inconvenient Truths

When it comes to their kids' health, parents are most concerned about:

-Environmental Hazards (e.g. Pesticides and Pollution): 18%
-Childhood Obesity: 16%
-ADHD and Other Learning Challenges: 13%
-Childhood Cancer: 11%
-Allergies: 9%
-Asthma: 8%
-Autism: 5%

Is the Grass Greener?

The majority of parents are content with their choices to work or stay home.

When asked how much pressure they felt to stay home with their kids, the working parents responded:

-No pressure at all: 48%

-Not too much: 14%

-Some: 19%

-A lot: 17%

When asked how much pressure they felt to get a job, stay-at-home parents said:

-No pressure at all: 34%

-Not too much: 20%

-Some: 25%

-A lot: 20%

Time Is Tops

Today's parents love spending time with their kids. The majority would choose having more time (45%) over having more money (27%), and a larger percentage would rather take a family excursion (62%) than have more time to themselves (22%).

Nicholas Eveleigh
Nicholas Eveleigh

The Big Picture

The rising cost of higher education has left an impression on parents. They're more concerned about saving for college (57%) than saving for their golden years (22%).

But despite their monetary worries, parents prioritize their abilities to give their children emotional support (50%) over financial support (25%).

Peer Pressure

When asked whether they felt pressure to do the following, parents responded:

Work to Provide for Children

-Some pressure: 57%

-A lot of pressure: 31%

Be Involved in Children's School or PTA

-Some pressure: 43%

-A lot of pressure: 13%

Sign Children Up for Activities and Classes

-Some pressure: 37%

-A lot of pressure: 9%

Buy Organic or All-Natural Foods

-Some pressure: 22%

-A lot of pressure: 5%

Wake Up, Washington

The vast majority of parents believe the government is not doing enough to address their concerns.

Grading the Government

Parents are least pleased with the government's handling of the war in Iraq, the lack of affordable healthcare, and the less than dignified behavior of elected officials.

Spending Tax Dollars

In an ideal world, parents would allocate our tax dollars differently. Parents rated these spending issues as "extremely important" or "very important":

-Education: 90%

-Health Care: 80%

-Food Safety: 70%

-The Environment: 66%

-The War on Terror: 60%

-Child Care: 58%

-Product Safety: 58%

-The War in Iraq: 45%

Impact of No Child Left Behind

The following groups said that the No Child Left Behind Act has had no effect on their child's education:

-Total: 54%
-Dads: 61%
-Moms: 49%
-Married Parents: 56%
-Single Parents: 49%
-Working Parents: 56%
-Stay-at-Home Parents: 51%
-White: 54%
-African American: 53%
-Hispanic: 54%
-Democrat: 54%
-Independent: 54%
-Republican: 55%

The Upside of Worry

Parents believe that their concerns make a difference. 79 percent of parents believe they're able to give their kids better lives than they had; a mere 7 percent said their children have lower standards of living.

Most parents also spend more time with their kids than their parents spent with them. 71 percent of parents say they spend more time with their kids, while 12 percent say they spend less time with them.

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