20 Telling Stats on Parenting Today


Many different parenting styles exist today, and although we all have our own practices and beliefs in raising children, statistics reveal that we’re not all that different. Women are waiting longer to get pregnant and are going back to work before kids go to school. Single and divorced parents make family life work, and same sex parents do a good job, too. Although some of these statistics may be shocking, they all offer an interesting look at the state of parenting in the US today.

  1. Women are waiting longer to have babies

    In 2006 and 2007, the average age of women giving birth for the first time was 25, which rose to 25.1 in 2008. This is up significantly from 21.4 in 1970. Experts believe this is largely due to more women entering the workforce, taking time to establish careers before beginning a family. The phenomenon can also be explained by the increasing number of births to women aged 35 and older, thanks to advances in reproductive medicine.

  2. Single mothers are doing okay

    Despite the stereotype, single moms manage to make things work, according to the statistics. Just over 79% of single mothers are gainfully employed, with most of those mothers working full time year round. Only 27% of single mothers and their children live in poverty; a significant number to be sure, but certainly not all. Single mothers also do not typically receive public assistance, with only 22% receiving Medicaid and 23.5% on food stamps.

  3. One in four US kids is being raised by a single parent

    Almost 26% percent of children in the US are being raised by a single parent, which is significantly higher than the average of 14.9% across other industrialized countries. Experts believe this is due to a greater acceptance of single parenting. Duke University professor Christina Gibson Davis believes that changing gender roles and even high incarceration rates in some communities have contributed to the rise of single parenting.

  4. The US is the only major developed country without a paid parental leave policy

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied 27 industrialized countries, and found that of those countries, the US was the only one that does not offer any paid parental leave. The FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parents under certain conditions, but it does not apply to everyone, nor does it require payment during the leave. This lack of paid parental leave puts many families in a bind when they need money the most, and can cause serious stress in a time that should be otherwise blissful. Single mothers are hit particularly hard by the lack of paid leave, as they may not be able to take time off to recover from birth and spend quality time bonding with their new baby.

  5. Parents aren’t saving enough for college

    College costs are skyrocketing, and parents can’t seem to keep up. On average, families save $2,676 each year for their children’s education, with a total savings of about $14,000. At the same time, public four-year colleges typically cost about $7,605 each year, meaning parental funds will be tapped out before the end of sophomore year. And forget about private colleges: they cost an average of $27,293 per year, almost doubling in one year what most parents have saved for an entire four years. Looking at these facts, it’s not surprising that many students turn to scholarships and student loans, as parents are either unwilling or unable to save enough to send their kids to college without assistance. Approximately two-thirds of all college students will graduate with a student loan, with the average college student graduating with $25,000 in debt.

  1. Child care providers are supportive of breastfeeding

    Although many babies in childcare are fed formula, child care providers are open to the support of breastfeeding. 56.7% of child care providers will feed a mother’s pumped breastmilk to her baby, compared with 27% who would not, and the majority will also allow mothers to come in for breastfeeding visits before and after work as well as during lunch breaks. This support is significant, as mothers who go back to work and use childcare often face difficulties with breastfeeding.

  2. Most babies do not breastfeed up to one year of age

    Although 73.9% of babies start out breastfeeding, only 43.4% still breastfeed at six months, and just 22.7% are still breastfeeding at one year. Even among those who are breastfeeding, it’s not likely to be exclusive, as only 33.1% of all babies are exclusively breastfed through three months of age. Breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers, babies, and society, fighting disease, saving money, and lowering health risks for mothers and babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.

  3. Families are having fewer children

    Parents in the US today typically have two children and no more. In the late 1950s after World War II, the total fertility rate peaked with 3.8 children per woman. It is from this total fertility rate that the Baby Boomer generation was created. But in 1999, the fertility level in the US was about 2.1 children per woman, which is about the replacement level. Among specific groups, the fertility level is higher in first generation immigrant families, typically those who come from countries with higher fertility rates. Native born Americans have a lower fertility level, as do second generation immigrants, which is believed to be due to improved education and income, and may also be a result of increased initial maternal age.

  4. Parents still spank their children

    After Dr. Spock published Baby and Child Care in 1946, many parents changed their attitude toward spanking and corporal punishment. In fact, domestic corporal punishment of children has been outlawed in 29 countries since 1979. But in America, the social majority still believes in spanking, ranging from approximately 61% to 80% acceptability. Spanking is often considered by parents as a necessary part of raising a child, however, the practice is opposed by many researchers and child welfare organizations, citing problems including anxiety and alcohol abuse later in life.

  5. Almost 20% of children are cared for by stay-at-home dads

    Preschoolers with working moms require childcare in some form, and their care is pretty evenly divided between fathers, relatives, organized facilities, and nonrelative care. In 1999, fathers represented 18.5% of the caregivers for these particular children, up from 15.7% in 1985. This figure is expected to rise in response to changing gender roles, and as stay at home parenting for fathers becomes more widely accepted. Many men (as well as women) are also able to work at home by telecommuting.

  1. Babies without fathers are at risk for poor health

    Infants without fathers are 1.8 times more likely to die than those with married parents, and unmarried mothers are less likely to obtain prenatal care. Unmarried mothers are also more likely to have a low birth weight baby. Problems extend beyond the first year, with single parent (typically single mom) children suffering from a quadrupled risk of having an affective disorder in middle school, and a higher risk of being diagnosed with asthma. These statistics indicate that father involvement is very important to overall child health.

  2. More moms are working these days

    Seventy-two percent of moms with kids over one year old work, which is about the same rate as childless women. In 1976, that rate was only 39%, indicating that working mothers are on the rise. In addition to working, women average 2.2 hours a day on chores each day, and 2.7 hours each day on primary childcare. Working outside the home typically means less depression for mothers, but research indicates that it’s only if moms let go of the idea of being “supermom.” Experts suggest that having it all is too much to shoot for. Instead moms should be satisfied with knowing that you can almost have it all.

  3. Teen pregnancy is on the decline

    Over the last two decades, teen pregnancies have fallen, and fewer teens are having sex now than in the past. In 1991, 61.8 births per every 1,000 females was a teen pregnancy, but now, it’s 39.1 births. This drop is promising, and perhaps due to shows like “16 and Pregnant” bringing teen pregnancy into the forefront of families’ minds. However, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, asserts that “still far too many teens are having babies,” with about 1,100 teenage girls giving birth each day, costing taxpayers around $9 billion every year.

  4. Many grandparents raise their grandchildren

    The 2000 Census indicates that 5.7 million grandparents live with their grandchildren. These grandparents invariably play a role in raising their grandchildren, in whole or in part with the child’s parent(s). Of the grandparents living with grandchildren in 2000, 42% were responsible for them as a primary caregiver. Newer research indicates that grandparents raising grandchildren is becoming a more common family structure. Often, grandparents take over as caregivers in situations including unmarried teen mothers, divorce, HIV/AIDS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and illegal drug use. These unfortunate situations which might otherwise result in orphanage are made better by the availability of a grandparent, but at the same time, some grandparents may resent having to take on parental responsibilities during their golden years.

  5. Lesbians make good parents

    Although homophobes may have their doubts, research indicates that children in female same-sex households do just as well as children from traditional families. Teenage students from lesbian households maintain similar, and in some cases higher, grade point averages than students from heterosexual families, and the rate of delinquent activity is essentially the same, at a low 1.8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Researcher Judith Stacey at NYU believes that gender and sexual orientation have less of an impact on children than the number of parents available, asserting, “the family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting.” Unfortunately, study results for children raised in gay male households are not firm, as the phenomenon of male same sex parenting is still relatively new.

  1. Divorce is more disrupting to children than death

    Research indicates that children from divorced homes have more psychological problems than those who come from homes disrupted by death. This bothersome fact is made worse when you consider that half of all American children will witness their parents’ divorce, and of those children from divorced families, almost half of them will see a parent’s second marriage end in divorce as well. Children in divorced families are 50% more likely to develop health problems than two parent families, and are at greater risk of injury, asthma, headaches, and speech defects.

  2. Parents aren’t always happy

    Although many parents will personally tell you otherwise, little bundles of joy may not always bring happiness to families. Scholars indicate that parents often report lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, mental well-being and happiness in their marriage than adults without children. Evidence suggests that the strains of parenting persist even after children leave home as well. But as many parents will share, memories of negative experiences with children — such as juggling child care or dealing with a crying baby — tend to not stick around, instead replaced by happy, gratifying memories of milestones and positive interactions. It is for this reason that although parents may not actually be happier, they typically perceive that they are.

  3. Chores can be draining for moms (and dads)

    Although moms tend to bear the brunt of the household chores, with working women spending about twice as much time as working men on household chores and childcare, it affects everyone in the house. 63% of couples with children at home will argue over cleaning, causing friction and resentment. Women who do a disproportionate amount of housework are subject to higher levels of depression, worry, and anxiety, which clearly impacts moms themselves primarily, but can trickle down to the rest of the family. But when both moms and dads are working, why are moms taking on the lion’s share of housework? Cultural expectations from gender roles still persist, and husbands may still be the primary breadwinner. Some women also have trouble delegating work, and schedules that result in moms spending more time at home mean they’ll be the ones picking up the cleaning duties.

  4. People (even parents) still smoke around kids

    Secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone, but particularly for children, as it increases the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, lower respiratory tract infections, and other health problems. The CDC has studied blood cotinine levels in children from 1988-2008. Continine is a marker for recent secondhand smoke, and at high levels, indicates secondhand smoke exposure at home and other places. Although nearly all children were exposed to some sort of secondhand smoke in 1988-1994, with 87.7% of kids aged 4-11 having detectable cotinine, that number has gone down to 52.6% in 2007-2008. Still, half of children aged 4-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke in some form, whether it is sporadically in public places or regularly at home. In 2007-2008, 16.7% of children had higher levels of blood cotinine, indicating high levels of harmful secondhand smoke exposure, typically at home. Clearly, parents are still allowing their children to be exposed to secondhand smoke by others, and some possibly even smoking themselves around their children.

  5. To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate Your Child

    Although many believe that giving children vaccines can be dangerous, most parents still choose to fully vaccinate their children. In fact, in 2010, childhood vaccination reached a record high, with 95% of parents reporting that their children had received all vaccinations according to the recommended schedule, or they would in the future. Five percent of parents indicated that they would decline some vaccines, and only 2% would not vaccinate their child at all. But these statistics do not mean that parents aren’t concerned. Only 23% reported having no concerns, and most have one or more concerns, including injection pain and ingredient safety. But those that are hoping to avoid these concerns may be doing so at their child’s peril. Doctors indicate that deciding to vaccinate is not without risk, rather, it is a different kind of risk. Dr. Paul Offit of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reminds parents on not vaccinating: “It’s a choice to take a different and more serious risk.” He believes that if we see more outbreaks of preventable diseases, “we will get to a level where we will be scared enough of the diseases again that we will start to vaccinate again.”