In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid reports of a growing youth mental health crisis, four-in-ten U.S. parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point. In fact, mental health concerns top the list of parental worries, followed by 35% who are similarly concerned about their children being bullied, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. These items trump parents’ concerns about certain physical threats to their children, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy and getting in trouble with the police.
By significant margins, mothers are more likely than fathers to worry about most of these things. There are also differences by income and by race and ethnicity, with lower-income and Hispanic parents generally more likely than other parents to worry about their children’s physical safety, teen pregnancy and problems with drugs and alcohol. Black and Hispanic parents are more likely than White and Asian parents to say they are extremely or very worried about their children getting shot or getting in trouble with the police.
(Differences in parental worries, approaches to parenting, and parents’ goals and aspirations are explored in more depth later in this report. The chapters focus on distinctions by gender, race and ethnicity, and income level.)
In thinking about the kind of people they hope their children will be as adults, parents place the most emphasis on their children being honest and ethical. About two-thirds of parents (66%) say it’s extremely important to them that their children grow up to be honest and ethical adults. About half (48%) say the same about their children being hardworking, while about four-in-ten say it’s extremely important to them that their children become the kind of people who are accepting of people who are different from them (42%) and who help others in need (40%). A smaller share (27%) place this level of importance on their children being ambitious as adults. Majorities ranging from 65% to 94% say it is at least very important that their children have each of these traits as adults.
Parents place less importance on their children growing up to have religious or political beliefs that are similar to their own. About a third (35%) say it is extremely or very important to them that their children share their religious beliefs, and 16% say the same about their children’s political beliefs. Republican and Democratic parents are about equally likely to say it’s at least very important to them that their children share their political beliefs.
About four-in-ten Black (40%) and Hispanic (39%) parents say it’s extremely or very important to them that their children share their religious beliefs; 32% each among White and Asian parents say the same. White evangelical Protestant parents (70%) are more likely than White non-evangelical Protestant (29%) and Black Protestant parents (53%) to say it’s very or extremely important to them that their children have religious beliefs that are similar to their own as adults. About a third (35%) of Catholic parents and just 8% of those who are religiously unaffiliated say this.
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Source: Pew Research