How do your biggest parenting fears compare to reality?
You’re a parent. You worry. It just comes with the territory. We surveyed hundreds of parents across the United States to learn more about their worst fears. In many cases your fears are absolutely founded. But are the things you’re worried about always the biggest threats to your kids? Find out what your fellow parents fear most and whether those fears line up with the real threats facing children today.
The 5 biggest fears of US parents
Our survey shows that parents around the country worry about a variety of different things.
- 30% of respondents fear their child will be hurt in an accident.
- 25% of respondents fear someone will hurt or attack their child.
- 23% of respondents fear their children won’t feel safe in the world.
- 14% of respondents fear their kids will be kidnapped or abducted.
- 8% of respondents fear their kids will be bullied.
US parents’ worst fears change from one generation to the next
All parents worry, but parents don’t always worry about the same things. Baby boomers worry about accidents, while the tail end of the millennial generation worries that their children will feel unsafe.
- Baby Boomer parents (ages 45–65) worry that their kids will be hurt in an accident.
- Gen X parents (ages 25–44) worry that their kids will be attacked.
- Millennial parents (ages 18–24) worry that their kids will feel unsafe in the world.
What do parents fear most in your state?
Parents’ fears vary from state to state. For example, Nevada is the only state where parents’ biggest concern is bullying. Check out our map to find out what parents in your state fear most.
Compare your biggest fears to the real threats facing US children
As a parent, you’re bound to worry about your kids—but are you worried about the right things? Find out how your biggest fears compare to reality.
#1 Fear: Accidents
Fear of accidents was the most common concern among the parents we surveyed—30% of parents said it was their top fear.
Reality: A valid fear
These parents are right to worry. Unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death among children ages one to 19 in 2015.1
If you look more closely at those unintentional injuries, you’ll see that motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of injury deaths for children ages five to 19 in that same year.2
#2 Fear: Violence
While accidents were the most commonly reported concern, fear that someone would hurt or attack their children was a close second—25% of the parents surveyed listed this as a top worry.
Reality: A valid fear
Sadly, this fear is also founded, especially for parents with teens. Among 10- to 24-year-olds, homicide accounted for more deaths than cancer, heart disease, birth defects, flu and pneumonia, respiratory diseases, strokes, and diabetes combined.5
Violence is a particularly serious issue in the United States. Guns kill or injure a child or teenager every half hour, and US children and teens have a much higher chance of being killed by gun violence than kids the same age in 25 other high-income countries. In fact, US children are 17 times more likely to die from gun violence than kids in those other countries.6
#3 Fear: Children feeling unsafe
Of the parents we surveyed, 23% said their top fear was that their children would feel unsafe.
Reality: There are bigger things to worry about
While this is an understandable concern, accidents and violence are much more serious threats to children, as seen in the stats in the previous section.
#4 Fear: Kidnapping
Approximately 14% of parents surveyed listed kidnapping or abduction as their biggest fear.
Reality: A very uncommon threat
Approximately 105 children were abducted in 2011.8 Any child going missing is a nightmare scenario, but you can take some comfort knowing that the chances of a child being kidnapped are very, very, very low. There were around 74 million children in the US in 2011, so that means kidnappings affected approximately only 0.0000000001417% of children.9
#5 Fear: Bullying
Bullying was the least commonly reported fear on our survey—it was the top concern of only 8% of surveyed parents.
Reality: Bullying is a serious problem with scary correlations
While parents are probably right to be more worried about accidents and violence, bullying is a very serious issue that affects many children.
National statistics show that 28% of US students in grades six through 12 experienced bullying, 30% of young people admit to bullying others, and 70.6% of young people say they’ve witnessed bullying in school.10
Studies show that bullying has lasting negative effects on kids who are bullied and kids who bully others. Negative outcomes of bullying can include depression, anxiety, violent behavior, substance abuse, and poor performance at school.11
While studies do not prove that bullying causes suicide, they have proven correlations between involvement with bullying and suicide-related behavior.12
Parents—Trust your instincts
While parents may sometimes worry about the wrong things, our research shows that parents’ fears are still often in line with the real threats their kids face. You’ve got a tough job, but understanding the dangers your kids are dealing with is the first step to keeping them safe.
What are your biggest parenting fears and how are you protecting your kids from those threats? We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
*Other common parent fears are health-related and were not included in this survey: child obesity, smoking, drug/alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, stress/anxiety and lack of physical activity.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States – 2015”
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths, United States – 2015”
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Road Traffic Safety”
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Road Traffic Safety”
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action”
6. Children’s Defense Fund, “The State of America’s Children”
7. World Health Organization, “Adolescents: Health Risks and Solutions”
8. Corrections.com, “Child Victims of Stereotypical Kidnappings Known to Law Enforcement in 2011”
9. Child Trends, “Number of Children”
10. StopBullying.gov, “Facts about Bullying”
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What It Means for Schools”
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What It Means for Schools”
13. StopBullying.gov, “Facts about Bullying”