Mental health among top hopes for their children

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A new survey assesses parents’ top concerns about their children. juanma chopped/Getty Images
  • A new survey sheds light on parents’ concerns and hopes for their children as they grow up.
  • In the report, parents were most concerned about their children’s mental health, financial stability and job satisfaction.
  • Things like marriage, having kids, and going to college weren’t as high on parents’ wish list.

Parents are concerned about their children’s mental health, financial stability and job satisfaction, but they are less concerned about other markers of success in life such as marriage, having children or going to college , according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

In the survey of 3,700 parents, 4 in 10 said they were extremely or very worried about their children suffering from anxiety or depression, with their children being bullied being their second biggest concern.

On the other side of the spectrum, parents were the least concerned about their children getting into trouble with the police – 67% said they were ‘not too much’ or ‘not at all’ worried – while that 54% said they did not worry about their children. get pregnant or get pregnant as a teenager.

Given the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on mental health in this survey is not shocking, said Joseph Galasso, PsyD, clinical psychologist and chief executive of Baker Street Behavioral Health.

“We just went through an unprecedented shift in the way we live our daily lives and the level of control we felt we had over them over the past few years,” Galasso told Healthline. “As such, I think this level of concern is likely an upward trend from historical data. However, it is clearly correlated to the pandemic we are experiencing. We have seen a very real increase in our physical practice in recent years in the use of services by children and adolescents.

Courtney Conley, EdD, parenting coach in Maryland, agreed.

“Studies have shown that the prevalence of mental health problems in adolescents is increasing, with rates of depression and anxiety in adolescents increasing at a faster rate than in adults,” she told Healthline. “Given the increase in mental health problems among young people, it makes sense that this is of increasing concern to parents.”

Given that mental health was such a top concern among parents, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a large majority of parents (88%) say their children’s financial stability and job satisfaction at home adulthood are very or extremely important to them, depending on the survey.

This compares to 21% and 20%, respectively, who say it is essential for their children to marry or have children when they grow up.

“I think it speaks to changes in societal expectations and values, which I attribute in part to the pandemic,” Conley said. “Being forced to slow down and pivot as a society has created a mental shift for people. Once people were removed from stressful, demanding and unfulfilling work environments, it was hard for them to come back. We are starting to move away from the ‘hustle’ culture and put more emphasis on wellness and balance.

“This is a positive change considering the impact stress has on our well-being and mental health,” she added. “It’s good that people want stability and satisfaction for their children. Having one without the other will create an imbalance that leads to discontent.

Among other values, parents also rated their children’s honesty and ethics the most (94% said it was extremely or very important) compared to other factors such as sharing the same religious beliefs ( 35%) or political (16%).

While professional and financial success was a strong hope for parents, ensuring their children get a college degree was much less so.

Only 4 in 10 parents said getting a college degree for their children was very important to them.

“It’s no surprise that parents are thinking outside of the college degree, as more and more young people are increasingly skeptical of the high school-to-college path and want more flexible post-secondary education pathways,” said said Jean Eddy, chief executive of the nonprofit career planning firm American Student Assistance.

“In the spring of 2022, there were 662,000 fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs compared to the previous year, and a recent study found that only 53% of high school students today say they are likely to go to college,” Eddy told Healthline.

And where college was once seen as a primary route to career success, there are signs that thinking is also changing.

“A recent study commissioned by American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future and conducted by Morning Consult found that 81% of employers now believe they should look at skills rather than credentials when hiring,” said she noted.

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