If I asked you what worries today’s dads have for their children, what would you say? Go ahead. Write down your answer.
And if I asked you whether they worry as much as moms about the same things for their children, what would you say? Go ahead. Write down your answer.
If you said that dads are most worried about issues related to their children’s mental health but they’re not as worried as moms about the same things, give yourself a gold star.
Check your answers against the recently released Parenting in America Today report from the Pew Research Center. Late last year, Pew researchers surveyed a randomly selected, nationally-representative sample of nearly 3,800 parents with children under age 18. They sought to gauge parents’ top worries for their children. They found the following worries at the top of parents’ minds in descending order of importance:
- Anxiety and depression
- Being bullied
- Being kidnapped or abducted
- Getting beaten up or attacked
- Having problems with drugs or alcohol
- Getting shot
- Getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant
- Getting in trouble with the police
Dads and moms differ significantly in how much space those worries occupy in their minds. Dads spend much less time worrying about their children’s present and future.
What leads dads to worry less than moms?
The culprit might be the different parenting approaches of dads and moms. By their own admission, moms tend to be more overprotective than dads, a finding in this survey borne out by an earlier Pew study on parenting differences. About half of moms surveyed in the present study (51%) said they’re overprotective compared to slightly more than one-third of dads (38%). Being overprotective can lead to more and unnecessary worry, especially when many worries aren’t supported by evidence.
The survey also uncovered other significant differences in parenting approaches, namely that dads are:
- More likely to give their children too much freedom
- More likely to “stick to their guns” too much
- Less likely to give in too quickly to their children
Other factors may also contribute to the differences in dads’ and moms’ worries for their children. The survey found differences in their perceptions of:
- Whether parenting is the most important aspect of their identity as a person
- Whether parenting is harder than they expected
- Whether parenting is tiring and stressful
- Being judged for how they parent
- Division of labor in child care tasks
- The importance of specific qualities in their children when their children become adults (e.g., being accepting of people different from them)
Dare to guess at how dads and moms perceive those factors? (Okay, Chris. Stop asking me questions and get on with it! I’ve got more important things to do with my workday.)
When you talk with dads, do you discuss the worries they have for their children?
Are the worries of the dads (and moms) you serve reflected in this survey’s results? Are they different?