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Law and Life

Parenting Trends

By the American Bar Endowment

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Parenting in American households has changed significantly over the past 50 years. These healthy living tips for lawyers explore a few of these changes and current trends regarding parenting. These tips are particularly meaningful for those with children under college age, but grandparents, teachers, aunts, uncles, and others should find this information interesting as well.

We begin with an update on modern parenting from Parenting in America (tinyurl.com/jasokez), a 2015 research study by the Pew Research Center:

Increasing family diversity and fluidity. In 2014, at a historic low, 62 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in a household with two married parents; the proportion of children living in a single-parent household was 26 percent. And while a majority of children do live in a traditional, two-parent household, less than half are living with two parents who are both in their first marriage.

Differing views on parental involvement. Surveyed parents with college degrees were more likely to hold the opinion that “too much parental involvement in a child’s education can be a bad thing,” while those with less education were more likely to feel that “parents could never be too involved.” Similarly, the majority of families with annual incomes of $75,000 or more felt that too much involvement could be harmful, while families with incomes under $30,000 were more likely to feel that parents could never be too involved.

However, these distinctions tended to disappear when parents were asked about how involved they are currently. About 85 percent said they have discussed their child’s progress with a teacher in the past 12 months, 64 percent said they have attended a PTA or other school meeting, and 60 percent said they have helped with a special project or class trip, regardless of education and income.

Importance of being a parent. While attitudes toward parental involvement varied significantly by education and income, almost all respondents felt that being a parent was important to their overall identity. Responses to this question were fairly consistent across gender, race, and marital/relationship status. Still, Millennials were somewhat more likely than Baby Boomers to say being a parent is extremely important (60 percent versus 51 percent), and parents whose youngest child was under age six were somewhat more likely than those whose youngest was a teenager to say being a parent is extremely important (60 percent versus 54 percent).

Finally, below are Care.com’s “5 Parenting Trend Predictions for 2017” (tinyurl.com/yc9rgzb2):

The importance of grit. Recent studies have shown that the characteristic of grit may be the most important key to long-term happiness and success. The ability to be self-directed and resilient, even in the face of failure and setbacks, are lessons that will go far for children in today’s world that values entrepreneurship and innovation.

Minimalism. Rather than surrounding children with multitudes of toys, clothes, and activities, parents are increasingly discarding “things” that children grow out of quickly and only save items that “spark joy.”

Challenging stereotypes. Parents are challenging gender stereotypes by welcoming a more gender-neutral approach to names, clothing, and especially activities—whether it be learning how to code, playing rugby, or performing ballet.

Workplace flexibility. Many parents fear that they may be penalized for having to care for their children while working full-time. Leading employers have taken notice of these feelings and have implemented a number of flexible work arrangements to better suit parents at the workplace, including flextime and work-from-home opportunities.

Alternative child care arrangements. With the rising cost of child care, parents have been looking for alternative arrangements such as teaming up with another family to split the cost of a nanny’s salary, better known as a “nanny share.”