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Parents stressed, worried about kids’ mental health: Poll

Pew Research polled 3,757 parents last year about their top concerns and aspirations for their children.

(CN) — It’s not a cliché but a fact, according to parents polled by Pew Research Center — parenting is stressful but worth it.

A survey published Tuesday by the research firm analyzed answers from 3,575 parents with children under 18 on their top concerns and aspirations.

“Sixty-two percent of parents think parenting is harder than they expected, yet it's so central to who they are as people and a majority still rate the job they're doing as excellent or very good,” said Rachel Minkin, a research associate at Pew Research Center who worked on the study.

Nearly a third of mothers polled (30%) said parenting was a lot harder than they expected, compared with 20% of fathers. Still, two-thirds of parents rate themselves as doing an excellent or very good job.

“A lot has happened in the country and in the world since our 2015 survey of parents. This was our opportunity to see how parents are thinking about some of these big topics that have come up over the last few years and their approach to parenting,” Minkin explained. “In 2015, some of the worries parents had were bullying and mental health, which are still at the top of the list.”

Today, most parents in the United States worry about mental health and bullying. Forty percent of parents worry their children struggle with anxiety or depression, while 35% listed bullying as a top concern. A little more than 20% of parents say they’re not at all worried about either of those issues.

Teen pregnancy and getting in trouble with the police are at the bottom of concerns, but still on parents' radar. Roughly one in four Black or Hispanic parents worry their children might get in trouble with police, along with one in ten white or Asian parents.

Four in 10 lower-income parents reported worrying about their children getting shot compared to one in 10 upper-income parents. More than 40% of lower-income parents said they worry about their kid getting kidnapped or beaten up, compared to just 10% of upper-income parents.

The study found mothers worry more than fathers, and Hispanic mothers worry the most.

Groups with higher rates of worries also report parenting as rewarding or enjoyable at higher rates. Thirty-eight percent of lower-income parents say parenting is enjoyable all of the time, compared to 14% of upper-income and 21% of middle-income earners. A vast majority of parents consider raising kids enjoyable or rewarding “most of the time.”

Looking to the future, 88% percent of parents say they want their children to be financially independent and have jobs they enjoy when they grow up. Less than half of parents care whether their children obtain college degrees on average.

But Asian parents are much more likely to place importance on a college degree compared to other races. Seventy-percent of Asian parents prioritize their child getting a college degree, compared to 57% of Hispanic parents, 51% of Black parents and 29% of White parents. More than half of upper-income earners consider it important for their offspring to earn a college degree, compared to 35% of middle-income and 46% of low-income earners.

Only one in five parents are concerned about their children getting married or providing grandchildren.

Not only did the survey find mothers carry out more parenting duties than fathers, but mothers are also likely to perceive they are carrying more of the work. This trend remains consistent with Pew’s past parenting surveys.

“Mothers tend to say they do more than their spouse or partner, while fathers tend to say they share responsibilities about equally,” the researchers said in the report.

Per survey results, mothers say they do the most when it comes to managing children’s schedule, providing comfort, helping with homework and caring for young children’s basic needs. About half of parents say both discipline the children equally, although the largest share of fathers, 31%, said they did more than mothers in this regard.

Fathers also reported stepping up when it comes to helping with homework. Nearly a quarter (24%) of fathers said they helped with homework more than mothers, though only 6% of mothers agreed fathers helped with homework more than they do. Two-thirds of mothers — and more than a third of fathers — reported doing the lion’s share of helping children with their homework.

Parental concerns and aspirations reported in this survey largely cut across political affiliations. In separate analysis, Pew identified political affiliation as an important driver of parents views on school curriculum and discussion of current events.

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