Study Reveals Parents' Greatest Worries, Expectations for Schools: Bullying Tops List of Concerns

WATERTOWN, Mass., November 17, 2014 - A study of working parents in the U.S. has revealed that despite nationwide school efforts to address bullying and healthy lifestyles, they still have major concerns about their children’s school environments. The findings, which are the second part of the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index, a survey of 1,000 working parents across the U.S. that uncovers the unique challenges they face when it comes to balancing work and family, also showed that these parents who are already stressed about their ability to manage work and home responsibilities, believe it is critical their children are very involved in extracurricular activities and sports, despite the additional logistical challenges that poses for the family.

"Our earlier survey findings showed that when employers can eliminate sources of distraction for employees, they benefit from engaged and committed workers. Employers who do this best are those that recognize their employees’ obligations both in and out of work and help them to fulfill those commitments, including helping their children succeed in school and be prepared to pursue their higher education goals," said Dave Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions. "These new results show that there are many school-related issues on top of work-related issues causing stress for parents. They have serious concerns about their children’s school environments and are anxious to ensure that their children are involved in after-school activities. These issues along with workplace obligations are all competing for time and mindshare and ultimately can sap a person’s productivity and creativity if they don’t have the supports to make it all happen."

Sounding the Alarm on School Health and Safety

According to the Modern Family Index, bullying remains the top overall school-based concern for today’s working parents with nearly eight in 10 saying it worries them. It remains the top concern regardless of the parents’ geographic location, income, or whether they live in a rural (84 percent), urban (78 percent) or suburban (77 percent) community. It was also the top concern for both moms (83 percent) and dads (75 percent). Younger working parents, those between the ages of 18 and 49, are more likely to be concerned about bullying (81 percent) than those 50+ (71 percent).

In addition to safety issues, parents are concerned about whether schools, which are in a unique position to play a role in the fight against childhood obesity, are doing all they can to keep kids healthy. Nearly six in ten (58 percent) working moms and dads report being concerned about the lack of nutritious food options in their children’s school. Parents are most concerned about nutrition in the Southern and Western portions of the U.S. (both at 63 percent).

Roughly the same amount of parents (57 percent) are concerned with the lack of physical activity available to their children at school. Younger parents between the ages of 18-49 (58 percent) are more likely to be concerned about physical activity than parents who are 50 or older (48 percent). The same goes for nutritious food options, where 60 percent of younger parents versus 46 percent of older parents are concerned.

College Readiness: What Parents Need from Schools

With parents becoming increasingly focused on higher education, ensuring their children are not just well-educated but also well-rounded continues to be extremely important. Ninety percent of parents say it is vital their children get into a good college. But many parents feel school learning environments and curricula may not be ideal for academic success. More than two-thirds of working parents (67 percent) report they are concerned about overcrowded classrooms. Additionally, nearly seven in 10 parents (65 percent) say they are concerned about the implementation of Common Core Standards in their children’s schools.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, more than three-fourths (76 percent) say it’s important their children participate in school sports, with 92 percent saying it’s important their children find hobbies or interests outside of school, as colleges look to admit students who can prove success beyond academic accomplishments.

"Making sure today’s youth grow into well-adjusted, happy and healthy adults requires a significant commitment from parents, early educators and, of course, schools," said Rachel Robertson, senior director of education and development at Bright Horizons. "We know that the best way to promote kindness and acceptance and to encourage healthy habits is to teach children these lessons at an early age."


More about the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index

The Modern Family Index is an Internet-based survey conducted by Kelton from April 29 – May 6, 2014. The sample size of 1,005 American respondents, ages 18 and over who work at least part time and have at least one child under age 18 in the home, at the 95 percent confidence level would equate to + or – 3.1 percent margin of error had this been a random sample. Read the findings from part one of the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.

*Note: Please refer to the survey as the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.