The Top 5 Fears of US Parents: Do Your Biggest Parenting Fears Match Reality?

parenting fears

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.

American Parents' Worst Fears Infographic

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.

parenting fears by state

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.

the top 5 parenting fears accident

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

What you can do to protect your kids

Accidents happen, but there are lots of things you can do to prevent them or to reduce the impact when they do occur.

In the car

  • Make sure car seats are installed and used correctly. Car seats have weight and height limits, but in general, children under two years old should sit in rear-facing car seats, children ages two through five should sit in forward-facing car seats, and children who are over five years old but shorter than 57 inches should sit in booster seats.3
  • Children under 12 who don’t need a car seat or booster seat should sit in the back of the car.4
  • Set a good example when you drive. Always wear your seat belt, never use your phone while you drive, and don’t drive if you’re too tired or under the influence of alcohol.
  • Make sure your teenage kids know they can call you for help if they don’t feel safe riding home with their friends.

In the home

  • Anchor heavy furniture and appliances to your walls so they can’t tip over on children.
  • Keep all chemicals, medicine, and alcohol locked away and out of reach.
  • Add indoor security cameras with motion detectors to keep an eye on your kids when you’re gone and to make sure they don’t go into areas of the home that might be dangerous, like a storage area or garage.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

#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.

parenting fears violence

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

What you can do to protect your kids

You can’t always control the things your children face outside your home, but you do have a lot of say over what happens inside your house.

According to the World Health Organization, one of the most effective things you can do to protect your kids from gun violence is to prevent access to firearms and alcohol.7

#3 Fear: Children feeling unsafe

Of the parents we surveyed, 23% said their top fear was that their children would feel unsafe.

parenting fears feeling 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.

What you can do to protect your kids

You can’t prevent your children from being nervous when they see scary things in the world—and honestly, your kids might be right to worry sometimes. That’s okay.

However, you can help by answering their questions about the things they see. As long as your kids are old enough to understand, you’re usually best off being honest and clear about what is going on. That way they’ll know they can trust you and depend on you when they’re worried and scared.

#4 Fear: Kidnapping

Approximately 14% of parents surveyed listed kidnapping or abduction as their biggest fear.

parenting fears kidnapping

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

What you can do to protect your kids

Statistics show that kidnapping is not a real threat to most children in the US, but as a parent, it doesn’t matter that the risk is minuscule—you still want to protect your kids against every threat.

Even if you aren’t particularly worried about kidnapping, it is smart to teach your kids about interacting with strangers.

But it isn’t as simple as teaching them all strangers are scary. Instead, teach them to recognize strangers who can help them stay safe if they’re lost or scared when you aren’t around. Talk to your kids about looking for police officers, firefighters, teachers, security guards in stores, librarians, and adults who have children with them.

Teach your children to avoid strangers who ask them to disobey their parents, ask them to keep secrets, or ask them for help.

#5 Fear: Bullying

Bullying was the least commonly reported fear on our survey—it was the top concern of only 8% of surveyed parents.

parenting fears bullying

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

What you can do to protect your kids

This is another tricky one. You can’t control how people treat your kids when they’re away from home.

However, you can teach your kids to be kind to others and intervene when other kids are being bullied. Studies show that if someone intervenes, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.13

Aside from teaching them to help others, you can help your children by talking to them often, listening to them when they express concerns, meeting their friends, and modeling good behavior.

For more resources about preventing bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.

Parents—Trust your instincts

parenting fears 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

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About Brianna Jensen

Brianna is an experienced copywriter and editor who has written about home security, personal safety, insurance, and much more. She loves doing thorough research, finding objective ways to evaluate options, and sharing what she’s learned with others who are interested in new technology and home security.

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  • Virginia Keith

    I feel as being a parent wr have to over come or fears abd leery or children exile the world