Culture AI Research: Early Childhood Parenting Concerns in the USA

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

What are the questions and conversations parents have about social and emotional development, especially diversity?

There’s no doubt that the US is going through an especially turbulent era. Political polarisation, racial tension and extremism are just one of the few aspects that make parents fear for their children, worrying about the world they’d have to navigate when they grow up.

More than ever before, parents are focused on equipping children with good social and emotional skills.

The Quilt.AI Methodology

Our researchers set out to understand the key conversations surrounding children’s social and emotional development.

We extracted 6183 posts, both from parenting forums and social media accounts of parents of 2–5 year olds from the US. Then, our proprietary Culture AI semiotically clustered the posts, which helped us identify various themes.

10 main themes became apparent across the three focus areas of emotional development, social dev, and diversity. To help us have an idea of the size and growth of each discourse theme (across a total of 2.29 million searches), we identified a list of 100 unique keywords.

Finally, we clustered the educational content parents engage with into 4 segments, which allowed us to evaluate children’s media brands and look into the communication cues for each consumer segment that brands can leverage on.

Concern #1: Building Good Emotional Regulation Skills

When it comes to emotional development, parents showed a significant interest (+42%) in nurturing their children’s emotional control skills. On the other hand, the concerns around more serious emotional issues (such as toddler anger and anxiety) see decreased interest (-35%).

Some parents hope that by teaching their young children emotional regulation, their children will be able to calm themselves down, avoiding the need for punitive measures in instructing and disciplining errant behavior.

Our research has also found that searches for alternatives to punitive measures are seeing high growth despite low initial search volume, representing an emerging need. (We’re really happy to see that it really seems like parents want their kids to take a step towards independence from an early age, starting with controlling their own behaviour.)

Concern #2: Worrying over decreased opportunities for building essential social skills

Concerns around social development are seeing high volume and high growth (in comparison to the same period last year). These searches occupy about 30% of searches by parents.

Considering the pandemic changed the lifestyle of kids, making them stay indoors for months, skipping out on play dates with friends and interactions at school, it’s no surprise that half of these searches concern over young children’s social skills during the pandemic.

In fact, the most popular topic on social development amongst American parents is the negative impact COVID-19 has had on their children’s social development skills.

Concern #3: Parents are in search of guidance to make thoughtful decisions

Another aspect brought up, related to social development, was the parents’ concern over sending their kids to school. There are various debates online about the pros and cons but the one consensus is that no one is completely satisfied about either option.

There are also parents who already made up their minds. They know whether to keep their kid at home or not. As they feel decisive about their choices, they share what their solutions are with other parents. Suggestions such as forming a playgroup with families who uphold the same COVID precautionary health standards is commonly shared.

Another issue of social development that parents discuss is the ideal age their child has to be to start learning certain skills. This ranges from learning to share and show empathy to doing household chores. They feel uncertain whether their child has the minimum age to learn these, especially life skills, and turn to forums for advice.

In scenarios such as these where there isn’t one fixed answer or one hard and fast way of approaching things, parents are searching both broad and specific, on generic search sites and niche forums and threads to gather information and situate their opinion against the wider conversation, figuring out for example if they’re ‘expecting too much out of [their] 2 year old’, or wondering at what age would it be appropriate to teach skills such as showing unsupervised, etc.

Concern #4: Parents are open to seek medical professional help

Parents also displayed a positive attitude to seeking medical help. Our research suggests that parents are highly aware of neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD and Autism.

When a parent described their kid displaying social issues, others identified these as potential tell-tale signs of neurodivergence, and suggested testing the child for autism. They share that they have themselves taken their child to a therapist, psychiatrist or paediatrician.

Concern #5: Raising Thoughtful, Aware Children

Diversity-related searches were the most popular (45%) among the main three focus areas, with searches from this category seeing high volume and high rates of growth, in part due to the recent Black Lives Matter movement and gender debates.

We see that these discussions have influenced how parents want to raise their kids: in a way that hopefully helps them become more sensitive and aware of the world. It is clear that parents want to teach these values while kids are still young, before they develop fixed, unpleasant beliefs on diversity.

Curious about what else we research on? Reach out at [email protected]

P.S. Why do we use Search as a data source in our research? Read more here.