A national survey of parents of children under six

      In January 1999 Invest in Kids sponsored a national survey, conducted by Market Facts Canada, of 1,645 households with at least one child under six. This included equivalent numbers of fathers and mothers, and a separate group of single mothers. The survey is representative of Canada by region, language groups and income groups. The results are accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points 95% of the time.

      The purpose of the survey was to determine whether parents know about the importance of the first five years of life, the pivotal role parents play during that period and whether parents are confident of their ability to care for their young children.

      The first set of survey results show 92% of parents think "Being a parent is the most important thing I can do."

However, parents' knowledge about child development appears to be "a mile wide and an inch deep."
      Thus, while 85% of parents are certain babies are learning from the moment they are born, only about half of parents are certain the stimulation and nurturing they provide influences how babies and young children grow and learn socially, emotionally and intellectually. And very few parents are certain about brain development and its relationship to the mental health and intellectual development of very young children.
While parents recognize the importance of their role, they don't really know what to do.
      Parents are not sure what signs to look for to tell them their child is healthy or about right for his/her age. Their knowledge about physical development is low, and social/emotional development even lower. Parents feel they have the most influence over emotional development, but this is the area where they have the least knowledge. Parents are unsure of their skills, their children's feelings and how to handle difficult situations. Parents feel especially insecure around the birth of their first child.

      Finally parents did not feel they had enough emotional or practical support when their first baby arrived. Even more important, only 40% of parents fully agree that Canada values its young children.

      This is a preliminary summary of a very comprehensive survey. Additional analysis will be undertaken to determine whether there are any differences by income group, region or language group, as well as an in-depth examination of how parents obtain information on parenting, their discipline and parenting styles and their parenting activities.

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