U.S. Ranks Fifth in Best Places to Raise a Child, New Global Parenting Index Finds

  • Nestlé launches The Parenting Index, a first-of-its-kind study examining global parenting experiences
  • Sweden, Chile, and Germany are the top three countries to raise children
  • Parents in the U.S. want longer parental leave and feel parenting could be shared more equally but report good access to health and well-being resources
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Nestlé today announced the results of The Parenting Index, a first-of-its-kind study examining global parenting experiences. The Index revealed that while there is no perfect place to have a family, the U.S. ranks fifth in best places to raise a child, with Sweden, Chile, Germany, and Mexico rounding out the top five countries to be a parent today.

The Parenting Index is a unique new tool measuring the “ease of parenting” around the world, reflecting the views of more than 8,000 moms and dads of children ages 0-12 months in 16 countries. The Index identified eight universal factors that impact parenting across the world – and the most significant of these is pressure.

Man holding dollar reading 81%, text reads: "81% of parents say raising child has a strong impact on family finances"

In the U.S., parents want their child to “have it all,” which can manifest as stress and anxiety, further compounded by pressure from others, which 49% of U.S. parents report experiencing. The prevalence of “helicopter” parenting, especially among higher-income families, demonstrates how American parents will do whatever it takes to help their child succeed.

“At Nestlé, we are always challenging ourselves to better understand the complexities of the parenting journey,” said Thierry Philardeau, Head of Nestlé Nutrition. “We believe finding solutions to the universal pressures faced by parents today will help them feel better supported in the decisions they make during the first crucial 1,000 days of a child’s life. And in doing so, we can strengthen our commitment to help 50 million children lead healthier and happier lives by 2020.”

In the U.S., parents feel generally positive. While they report feeling more pressure than parents in Sweden, they recognize that they have good access to health and well-being resources. Their reported areas for improvement include shared parenting responsibilities and confidence as parents, along with the desire for paid parental leave. Other notable U.S. findings include:

  • Social shaming: In the U.S., nearly half (46%) of parents surveyed feel intense social pressure on how to raise their children, often stemming from social media.
  • Loneliness in a hyper-connected world: 30% of American parents say, despite living in a world where friends and family are only a text away, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely with a baby in their arms.
  • Baby blues: 45% of new American moms surveyed suffer from postpartum depression, with the U.S. ranking second behind China (47%) in most respondents reportedly experiencing baby blues.
  • The unexpected realities of parenthood: Nearly a third (29%) of American parents report feeling unprepared for the realities of becoming a parent.
  • Desire for more shared parenting responsibilities: Just over half (51%) of U.S. parents agree childcare responsibilities are equally shared in their household, showcasing a desire for improvement when it comes to shared parenting.

The Parenting Index methodology and findings were reviewed by Dr. Ming Cui, Professor of Family and Child Sciences at Florida State University and M.S. in Statistics and Ph.D. in Sociology, Fulbright U.S. Scholar. Professor Cui has expertise in parenting and child development across cultures, and research methodologies.

“Today’s parents are increasingly parenting in a state of anxiety, which can be reflected from findings in this report, such as the external/internal pressure, lack of confidence and financial demands they say they are experiencing,” said Professor Cui. “Influenced by popular media along with technology advances, many parents from different cultures and socio-economic classes feel pressured to do it all.”

While parents might be expected to feel more pressure as a result of COVID-19, analysis looking at the U.S., Spain and China during the pandemic in July 2020 showed otherwise. Parents with young babies reported feeling less societal pressure on how to raise their children during this period and reported feeling more mutual support during this time – including increased social cohesion and sense of belonging.

Animation reading "29% of parents say becoming a parent was harder than they expected"

“To promote positive parenting and ultimately children’s healthy development, parents should not overlook their own well-being and should take good care of themselves, such as leaving empty spaces on their calendar and taking a break,” suggested Cui.

Nestlé has strengthened its support of its employees who are parents by internally updating its Parenting Support Policy in the U.S. Introduced in late 2020, enhanced benefits for employees in the U.S. under the gender-neutral policy include:

  • Expanded parent support leave for primary caregivers from 14 to 18 fully-paid weeks, with a maximum total leave of 26 weeks
  • Extended leave for the parent who is not designated as the primary caregiver from one week to up to four fully-paid weeks
  • Increased leave eligibility for adoptive parents of a minor child from under one year previously, to age eighteen.

In addition to the enhanced benefits, the policy reinforces employment protections, non-discrimination, health protection and the availability of flexible working options, as well as breastfeeding support. Nestlé recognizes that individual journeys to parenthood are very different, which is why its benefits include helping eligible employees pay for adoption expenses, and medical and prescription drug coverage for infertility treatments.

The Parenting Index will be revisited and updated every two years to track how the parenting experience evolves over time. To download a copy of the report, visit: www.theparentingindex.com.