State of Parenting
A Snapshot of Today's Families

Introduction

The "decline of the American family" is a narrative that has played out in magazines, newspapers and on our television sets for decades.

While it may be true that divorce rates are still high and Americans are delaying marriage, the idea that American families are worse off and continuing to decline is up for debate. The findings of this new NBC News State of Parenting Poll which was sponsored by Pearson, paint a different story. The results are based on telephone interviews in English and Spanish with 803 parents, guardians, or primary caregivers of children ages 3-18 in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted on both landline telephones and cell phones from October 28 to November 16, 2014. This survey shows that parents are generally positive about the future, spending more time with their children than their parents did with them, and having family dinners together regularly.

In fact, nearly four in five parents report having dinner as a family on most days of the week.Today’s parents also want to be more involved in their children’s education and are largely satisfied with the current state of their schools. While they all agree more than a high school diploma is needed to achieve the American Dream, they also say good social and communication skills can be more important than grades when it comes to their child’s success. But there are gaps in just how positive parents are, largely based on their income, race, level of education and marital status.

Today's Parents

Today's parents prioritize family dinners, spend more time with their children than their parents did with them, and want to be more involved in their children's education.
 

79% of parents have dinner together as a family on most nights


Research has found that teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, have high-quality relationships with their parents and be drug-free. Nearly four in five parents (79%) surveyed said their family has dinner at home together most days a week. Millennial parents, the youngest generation, are actually more likely than Baby Boomers to have meals with their families most of the time.

A Rainbow a Day

Why is it important for kids (and parents!) to eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables? This video answers that question and offers tips for picky eaters.

Family Dinners
by Parent Age
by Race
How often does your family eat dinner at home together?

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Parents today need a variety of skills and talents to effectively balance the demands of their own lives with the challenges of raising well-adjusted children. Parents are often the biggest influence in their child’s lives, and today’s parents believe they should be patient and understanding with their children, more so than setting rules and guidelines.

Important Skills for Parents
What is most important for parents to have?

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51% of parents say they spend more time with their children than their parents did with them.


Children with families who spend time together are often more successful in school, less likely to engage in violent behavior, and better able to adapt to life’s changes. Despite the 24/7 digital world today’s parents are raising their children in, 51% of parents say they spend more time with their children than their parents did with them. But for working parents, striking a balance between time at home and time away can be a struggle - only 46% of working parents spend more time with their children than their parents did with them, for non-working parents, that number is 63%. Time can also be an issue for parents who want to be more involved in their child’s education - 43% say they’re too busy.

by Race
by Income
by Education Level
How parents feel about their involvement in their child's education

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87% of parents believe a large part of their child’s academic success is based on their child’s natural abilities despite how much parents try to help. Despite prior research that shows parental involvement in a child’s education supports better outcomes for their child, including better academic performance, fewer behavior problems and higher graduation rates, parents believe that a large part of a child’s academic success is based on their own natural abilities, no matter how much a parent tries to help. Find ways you can help your child here.

High Marks for Education

America’s parents are quite happy with the quality of the education their children are getting, and think their children are all above average. But there’s an enthusiasm gap depending on the race, income, marital status and level of education of parents.
 

75% of parents rate the quality of their child's education positively.


Parents are pleased with their children’s schools, despite frequent news coverage on failing schools and political debate on the need for school reform. A full three-quarters of parents rate the overall quality of their children’s education as excellent or good, but higher earners and white families are more likely to say “excellent,” while lower earners and minority families are more likely to say “good.”

Nearly 9 in 10 parents rate their child's total academic experience - whether they like their teachers and peers, and going to school - positively. 

Quality of Schools
by Income
by Race
How parents rate their child's education

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88% of parents rate their children’s overall academic performance positively.


Parents also think their children are earning high marks. Despite the fact that the US ranks 27th in math and 17th in reading, two thirds of parents say their children’s overall academic performance is excellent or very good. They have similar positive views on their child’s grades, but the level of enthusiasm is different depending on the race, education and marital status of parents. Married, highly educated or white parents are more likely to rate their child’s grades as excellent.

How Parents Rate Their Child's Grades
by Race
by Education Level
by Marital Status
How parents rate their child's grades

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Bare majority (50%) of parents favor the Common Core State Standards


When it comes to standards in education, overall, parents are equally satisfied with the current academic standards in their schools. Traditionally, across the country each state set their own set of academic standards. Since 2010, many states across the country have adopted a common set of standards, called the Common Core. While the bare majority of parents surveyed support the Common Core, there is a substantial group who are opposed with support more likely to be found among Democrats and Independents, and opposition found largely among Republicans.

56% of parents believe that the academic standards in their child’s school should stay the same

37% of parents believe that current academic standards need to be raised.        

2% of parents believe that the current academic standards at their child’s school should be lowered.

Parents above the age of 40 are more likely to favor raising the academic standards at their child’s school than younger parents.

Common Core
by Party Affiliation
by Education Level
by Race
How do parents view the Common Core?

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What is Common Core?

 

The Road Ahead

Parents today see a tougher road ahead for their children than they faced, but they are still optimistic for their child’s future. When looking at the future, there is a gap in optimism among races and party affiliations.
 

63% of parents believe their children will face more problems growing up than they did.


Today’s parents are more optimistic than parents were 17 years ago. In 1998, when parents were asked if they believed their children will face more problems growing up than they did, 78% said their children will have more problems. That was before 9/11, before the dot-com bubble burst, and before the Great Recession. Now, 63% of parents believe their children will face more problems growing up than they did.

75% of parents who rate their child's education as "Fair" or "Poor" think that their child is going to encounter more problems growing up.

57% of parents who rate their child's education as "Excellent" or "Very Good" think that their child is going to face more problems growing up.

68% of parents who believe that their child's school is not preparing them to enter the job market also believe that their child will face more problems growing up.

Tougher Road
by Gender
by Race
Do children face more problems than their parents did when they were young?

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Parents are divided about their child's future.


When asked the historic question of whether today’s children will be better or worse off than they are, parents are divided. The gaps in optimism vary by a parent’s age, income, race and party affiliation. Parents who are lower income and younger have a brighter view of their child’s future, while older, white and Republican parents seem to be less optimistic.

The Future
by Race
by Age
by Income
by Party Affiliation
Will children be better off or worse off than their parents?

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51% of parents believe that schools are not preparing kids to enter the job market if they do not choose to go on to college.

Bright Futures

To be successful in the future, parents believe their children need to have a career they enjoy. To get there, parents believe children need to achieve post-secondary education, have good social and communication skills, and respect others.”
 

86% of parents say children need more than a high school degree to achieve the American Dream.


By and large, parents want the same thing for their children-- success. But what success looks like is different for many parents. While 46% of parents say their children will be successful in the future if they have a career they enjoy, 23% say the metric for success is financial security and 12% say having a family of their own is success. No matter their race, the vast majority of parents believe their children need more than a high school diploma in order to achieve the American Dream.

Achieving the American Dream
What level of education do children need to achieve the American Dream?

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54% of parents believe good social and communication skills are more important than grades for future success.


Emotional intelligence, or the ability to read others and respond accordingly, is at the core of social and communication skills. Research has shown that those with high emotional intelligence have better attention skills and fewer learning problems, and are generally more successful in academic and workplace settings. When it comes to skills children need to achieve success, parents don’t rank grades as number 1. In fact, 54% of parents said good social and communication skills are more important to a child’s future success than grades. However, the emphasis on grades is different based on a parent’s race and level of education.

Thinking about the most important quality that children should have, 50% of parents say respecting others is at the top.

Mothers are more likely to think that the most important quality for kids to have is respect for others. While fathers are more likely to think that determination and strong work ethic is more important.

54% of white parents prioritize determination and strong as one of the most important qualities for children to have. Only 38% of minorities agree.

55% of Hispanic parents think responsibility is one of the most important quality for children to have as they grow up.

Skills for Success
by Race
by Education Level
What skills are most important for future success?

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Social & Emotional Development

These growth charts can help you support your child’s social and emotional development, and reflect on your own skills in the process.

Visit Parent Toolkit

Download & Share

Use the links below to download the full report or a one-page summary of the findings. You can also help spread the word by sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or via email.

Download Full Report     Download Summary



NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis and Parenting Expert Michele Borba discussed the findings of the poll in a series of webinars.

Watch Them Now


Produced By:
NBC Education Nation
Supported By:
Pearson

What is Common Core?

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A Rainbow a Day

Why is it important for kids (and parents!) to eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables? This video answers that question and offers tips for picky eaters.

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