US & World

For American parents, lots of confidence — and divergent concerns

More than 90 percent of American parents think they are doing a good or very good job raising their kids, according to a Pew poll.
More than 90 percent of American parents think they are doing a good or very good job raising their kids, according to a Pew poll.
/iStockphoto

Forget the debate over participation trophies. The starkest divides in American parenting have less to do with warring philosophies and more to do with money, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The poll of more than 1,807 parents finds that income and family structure powerfully shape parents' concerns and children's opportunities.

But first, some bright spots:

Mothers between 18 and 34 are more likely than any other group to give themselves the highest rating for their parenting: 57 percent say they are doing a "very good job as a parent." (Fathers in that age range, as well as parents in older age groups, rank themselves as "very good" less than half of the time.)

Parents of young kids are more likely than parents of teenagers to think they are doing well, Pew finds, but researchers say that the confidence of millennial moms stood out even after controlling for the age of their children.

Pew researchers note that the percentage of children living in a two-parent household, including cohabitating couples and same-sex couples, is at the lowest point in more than half a century.

Married and partnered parents say they feel more support in raising their children, and married parents are more likely to feel satisfied with their involvement in their children's education.

The organization also finds that parents' income affects their experiences in ways that aren't necessarily surprising, but are nonetheless striking.

Wealthier families (with incomes above $75,000) feel far more positive about their neighborhoods than middle-income or low-income families, for instance, and rate available after-school programs much higher. Children in wealthier families are more likely to do after-school enrichment programs.

Income is also linked to different concerns, Pew finds.

Among families earning less than $30,000, 59 percent of parents say they worry their child will be kidnapped, and more than half worry their kid will be beaten up; wealthy parents are far less concerned about those risks. Lower-income parents are also more concerned about teen pregnancy and far more concerned about legal trouble.

Yet some parental worries are shared across the economic spectrum: "At least half of all parents, regardless of income, worry that their children might be bullied or struggle with anxiety or depression at some point," Pew finds.

Here are a few other highlights from the survey:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.