Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Survey Results on Parenting Infants and Toddlers

The organization Zero to Three just released results from it's latest survey of parents. This is a wonderful large-scale survey of over 1,600 parents of children age birth to 3 years. The goal of the study was to find out what challenges parents today face, what influences their parenting, and what possible gaps in information exist in their knowledge of child development. Being the geek that I am, I find these types of surveys interesting and insightful. It's great to have sort of a national "picture" of what's going on with parenting today. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

--The vast majority of parents (70-90%) understand the importance of activities like reading, talking, and singing for babies and young children's brain development

--Fewer parents (less than half) understand when babies start to experience emotions and how parents' emotions can affect them
-for example, most babies are able to experience emotions such as fear and sadness around 6 months but most parents (70%) thought this occurred later
-most babies can also sense emotions in parents (like anger or sadness) around 6 months but 65% of parents thought this occurred later

--Quite a few parents (about 20%) thought that a child can control their emotions (e.g., not have a tantrum when frustrated) by age 2.
-most children do not have this ability until closer to 3-5 years of age

I found these particular findings interesting because it seems that we, as a country, are good about educating parents on the educational or intellectual development of children, but maybe less effective in educating parents on the social and emotional development of children. Most people know it's good to read to their children and there are all sorts of educational toys on the market. I think it's easier to forget about the emotions of babies and young children. Since they cannot express their emotions verbally yet, I think sometimes we forget they aren't just little adults but they have a lot of emotion they don't have the ability to handle quite yet. If nothing else, I think studies like these help us remember to keep realistic expectations regarding what very young children can do and what's going on in those little brains of theirs.

There are also some interesting findings about how family members and faith traditions influence parenting, as well as how the economic downturn has affected parents. The full findings and reports can be found here. Thanks to Zero to Three for continuing to promote a broader understanding of child development and helping us all be better parents.
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