ZERO TO THREE Survey Finds Surprises From Millennials, Gen X Parents

Jun 7, 2016

Parents speak out on range of topics; findings from fathers intriguing.

WASHINGTON, D.C.A comprehensive parent survey – comprised of mixed gender, socio-economic and age ranges – reveals brand new data about some of today’s most heated conversations about raising young children.

Half of parents are not getting the support they need when they feel overwhelmed or stressed – the time when help is most important, according to the survey from ZERO TO THREE and the Bezos Family Foundation. Millennial and Generation X parents were polled on their understanding of what early development entails, discipline practices and other hot button issues they face on a daily basis.

“In order to ensure a child’s success, we must help parents understand the importance of the earliest years,” said Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE. “The brain grows most rapidly in the first few years of a baby’s life, and early interactions and connections with caregivers can shape a child’s future. Nurturing babies and toddlers means we need to care about, listen to and meet the needs of their parents.”

ZERO TO THREE undertook this large-scale research effort to gain a clear and in-depth understanding about the challenges that parents face, the help they seek, and how satisfied they are with the support and information they receive. Results show parents across the board experience similar challenges and joys of parenthood.

One surprising finding – many parents don’t realize just how young babies and toddlers are when they can begin to feel complex emotions. Nor do they realize how deeply infants can be affected by the way parents interact with them in the first months of life. The result is a “missing year” of important opportunities to support early childhood development.

“Research on early childhood development shows that the most important factor in stimulating healthy brain development is the quality of interactions between young children and the people around them,” said Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation. “These survey findings show that there’s tremendous opportunity to find simple ways to help parents and caregivers understand the powerful potential that exists in every moment they already share with their child. Beginning at birth, these moments help build the foundation for lifelong learning.”

Another top finding: Results show dads love being involved fathers, and want – and deserve – more credit. Dads are more than just babysitters; they want to be more involved in parenting their children and often feel shut out. Many want to raise their children differently from how they were raised.

Parents face a discipline dilemma. Although they try different forms of discipline, including harsh strategies like spanking and yelling, they find many are not effective. They’re looking for better ways to effectively discipline their children.

Other key survey findings include:

  • When it comes to attitudes, aspirations and parenting challenges, there is more that unites than divides.
  • There is an expectation gap; about half of parents believe that children are capable of self-control and other developmental milestones much earlier than they actually are.
  • Many parents feel they are more positive and present and use fewer harsh disciplinary tactics than their own parents did with them.
  • There is a trust gap; parents want advice, but are overwhelmed by sources of help and underwhelmed by the quality of what they’re getting.
  • Almost all parents feel judged, almost all the time.
  • Parents believe parenting can be learned and want help to be the best parents they can be.

“In addition to helping parents, we hope these findings will inform the professionals who support young children and families as well as the policymakers whose decisions affect those responsible for raising our next generation,” said Melmed.

Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know and Need, was conducted by ZERO TO THREE in October 2015 with the support from the Bezos Family Foundation.

For more in-depth findings, parent voices and recommendations from Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know and Need, visit Visit to discover Vroom, an early learning initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, which provides free tools and resources that highlight the science behind early brain development and help parents and caregivers turn everyday moments, like bathtime and mealtime, into brain-building moments.