Two thirds of mothers and fathers often worry about their parenting

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
August 13, 2018, 11:00 PM GMT+0

YouGov finds most mums and dads worry about their child-rearing skills, despite the fact they rate themselves highly as a parent

“They f*ck you up, your mum and dad,
they do not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had,
and add some extra, just for you.”

So wrote the poet Philip Larkin. Many parents will recognise their own fears reflected in those words: that, try as they might, over the course of raising their children they are going to give them negative complexes of one form or another.

Now a new YouGov Omnibus survey has asked more than a thousand parents whose children are all still under the age of 18 how good they think their parenting is – and how often they worry about how well they are raising their offspring.

Most mums and dads consider themselves good parents or better…

The majority of mums and dads (55%) consider themselves to be “good” parents. One in eight (13%) go even further, branding themselves “excellent” parents, while a quarter (26%) feel that they are “average” parents.

Only 2% consider themselves “bad” parents, while a statistical 0% consider themselves “terrible” parents. In all cases, there is essentially no difference between how good or bad men and women consider their parenting prowess to be.

…with those parents who rate their skills more highly worrying less often

Just over two thirds of parents say they worry about how well they are raising their children either “very often” (30%) or “quite often” (39%). A further one in five (21%) say they don’t worry very often, and only 5% say they rarely or never worry.

The more highly people rate their parenting skills, the less likely they are to worry. Six in ten (58%) of those who consider their parenting to be “excellent” say they worry very/quite often, rising to 71% among self-described “good” parents and 76% among those believing their child-rearing skills to be “average”.

Dads are also less likely to fret than mums. Among self-reported “excellent” fathers, 56% worry very or quite frequently, compared to 60% of “excellent” mothers. This gap widens to 62% of “good” dads vs 78% of “good” mums, and is 62% vs 87% respectively between men and women who rate themselves “average” parents.

Mums: we’re better parents. Dads: we know

The survey also asked parents who are raising their child with their partner whether they thought one of them was a better parent than the other. Around half felt that they and their co-parent were both equally good (54% of men, 53% of women).

However, a third of women (34%) consider themselves to be the better parent, a response that was mirrored by the 32% of men who considered their partner to be the better parent. Only 6% of men believe themselves a better parent than their partner, and likewise only 6% of women think their other half is doing a better job.