- Pressure – both internal pressures put on themselves and external pressures from the world around them – is found to be the biggest universal challenge facing new parents today
- New parents report feeling less societal pressure and greater mutual support during COVID-19 pandemic
- Sweden, Chile and Germany found to be amongst the easiest places to raise a baby today
The Parenting Index, a first-of-its-kind study into global parenting experiences, reveals that a third of new parents globally feel lonely, despite living in a hyper-connected world.
The Parenting Index (pdf, 2Mb) – commissioned by Nestlé as part of its ongoing commitment to support families in the first 1,000 days of life – identifies for the first time eight universal factors that impact parenting across the world. It is another aspect of The Nestlé Parenting Initiative – a strategy of change the company is developing to help make parents’ lives easier.
Based on the views of over 8,000 moms and dads of babies aged 0-12 months in 16 countries, it is a unique new way of benchmarking and understanding the experiences of parents across the world today.
In this first edition, it shows that the most significant universal factor is pressure. It is something new parents have little control over but has the biggest impact: contributing 23% of the overall Parenting Index score.
In every country surveyed, new parents feel some form of internal and external pressure. For a third of new parents this materializes as loneliness, but pressure also shows up as judgement from others (including via social media), the unexpected realities of parenting and guilt caused by self-criticism.
- Loneliness in a hyper-connected world: 32% of new parents say that, despite living in a world where friends and family are only a text away, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely with a baby in their arms.
- Social shaming: globally half (51%) of new parents surveyed feel intense social pressure on how to raise their children, and today this often comes from social media.
- Parenting guilt: 45% surveyed agreed new parents take on a lot of guilt, which can have a long-lasting impact.
- The unexpected realities of parenthood: nearly a third (31%) report feeling unprepared for the realities of becoming a parent, and 53% had to make more compromises than expected.
- Unsolicited advice, or the 'voice of the village': 60% of respondents report feeling everyone has a view on how to raise their child, whether they want to hear it or not.
The Index shows that Sweden, Germany and Chile offer the easiest environments in which to be a new parent today. But while the level of difficulty varies by country, there is no perfect place to raise a family, and even in Sweden – which ranks highest with an Index score of 75/100 – new parents face challenges, with a lack of parenting confidence being Swedish parents' biggest concern.
The Parenting Index methodology and findings have been reviewed by Dr Ming Cui, M.S. in Statistics and Ph.D. in Sociology, Fulbright U.S.. Scholar and Professor of Family and Child Sciences at Florida State University (USA). Professor Cui has expertise in parenting and child development across cultures and research methodology.
Commenting on the report, Professor Cui says: "Today's parents are increasingly parenting in a state of anxiety (which can be reflected from findings in this report, such as external/internal pressure, lack of confidence, financial demands). Influenced by popular media along with technology advances, many parents from different cultures and socio-economic classes feel pressured to do it all."
She continues: "Although the emphasis often lies on being responsive and responsible as parents of babies, moms and dads should also realize that their own well-being matters in the process of parenting. Parenting babies, with the elevated demands and stress, can take a toll on parents themselves financially, emotionally, and physically. To promote positive parenting and ultimately children's healthy development, parents should not overlook their own well-being and should take good care of themselves, such as leaving empty spaces on their calendar and taking a break."
Pressure across the world
Whilst pressure is felt by new parents across the world, those living in Sweden, Germany and Israel report the lowest levels of pressure amongst the countries surveyed.
As part of the study, Nestlé also brought together six parents from the U.K., the U.S., the Philippines, Brazil, Sweden and Nigeria to discuss the impact of these pressures on their lives. Speaking about parenting guilt, Diunte, a single father of four from Texas, USA, said: "Being a single parent, I do worry at night, am I doing the right thing for them? Because they’re missing out on having two parents in the home every day."
Ulysses from Brazil, a new dad to his first child, experienced particular pressure via social media: "It's good for our parents and our friends who live far away to see some pictures of our little daughter. Normally people comment really positive things, but sometimes they start to criticize us and try to push us down."
Speaking about 'mom-splaining' in her home country, Cynthia, a mom of three from Nigeria said: "We are the kings and queens of not minding our own business. It’s very normal to be on the street walking with your kid and if people feel like maybe you're not holding your kid well, or there’s something wrong, whether you like it or not – they will tell you!"
Minneth, a mom of two from the Philippines agreed: "I believe that my mom taught me everything and of course, sometimes you have to hear them out. But it doesn’t mean that you have to apply it to your children."
Societal pressure eased during COVID-19
While new parents might be expected to feel more pressure as a result of COVID-19, analysis looking at the U.S., Spain and China when the pandemic first hit in July 2020, shows parents with young babies reported feeling less societal pressure on how to raise their children during this period. Instead, new parents reported feeling more mutual support at this time – including increased social cohesion and a sense of belonging.
Thierry Philardeau, Head of Nestlé Nutrition, said: "We founded the Nestlé Parenting Initiative to help make parents' lives easier – so that we can better support them in the decisions they make during the first crucial 1,000 days of their child’s life. And in doing so, we can strengthen our 2016 commitment to help 50 million children lead healthier and happier lives by 2030. The Parenting Index is an important first step in enriching our understanding of the complexities of parenting today – and what can be done to help.
"When a child is born, so is a parent. And we know that for all its joys, parenting is not always easy. We believe all moms and dads should feel informed, respected and supported with the choices they make for both themselves and their babies. Through The Parenting Index, we can create a roadmap for change and, for the first time, measure it – today and in the years to come. We have already started this journey by updating our global Parenting Support Policy (pdf, 3Mb) and expanding Nestlé Baby & me – our educational online service for moms and dads – to ensure we are addressing the findings of our study and providing broader support for parents. But we cannot create measurable change alone, we must collaborate and work together. We are calling on those who share in our vision to join us in making this world an easier place to be a parent and raise healthier, happier future generations."
Nestlé will be commissioning The Parenting Index every two to three years, in order to reflect and chart the landscape of the parenting experience. As part of its goal to work together with others to help make parents' lives easier, Nestlé also plans to collaborate with like-minded partners and host roundtable discussions to establish an actionable roadmap on how to address the universal challenges of 21st-century parenting as revealed by the Index insights.