Parents need to be educated about child development

Laura Mappas
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Image: Getty

Parenting potholes
Pregnant women are given a plethora of advice — But surprisingly, as soon as the bundle of joy arrives, the army of helpers and advice-givers seems to disappear.

"There are numerous parenting books telling people what to expect when they're pregnant, but once a baby is born, an astonishing number of parents are unsure of what to anticipate as their child develops," says Dr Heather Paradis from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

And we're not just talking about what to do when infants get nappy rash or a fever. The study also showed that one-third of parents are also clueless about how to help and encourage their child's development.

"[They] are uncertain of when, how or how much they are to help their babies reach various milestones, such as talking, grabbing, discerning right from wrong, or even potty-training," Dr Paradis says.

Do you pass the test?
Dr Paradis and her team surveyed a sample group of parents. The 11-question survey, designed to see whether or not these new mums and dads were well-prepared for parenting, contained questions such as, ‘should a one-year-old child be able to tell between right and wrong?’ and ‘should a one-year-old child be ready to begin toilet-training?’

In case you're wondering, the answer to both is no, and parents who fumbled seven or more were considered to have "low parenting knowledge".

Child's play
The study found that a staggering 31.2 percent of the parents surveyed fell into this "low parenting knowledge" category and, according to Dr Paradis, as a result this group also had "less quality interaction with their kids".

"The fact that almost a third of the parents could only answer four out of 11 questions correctly was very surprising to us," says Dr Paradis, whose research also strongly linked poor parental education and lower incomes with a lack of parenting knowledge.

Practical parenting
Unfortunately, babies don't come with a rule book or a user guide, so what can be done to help flailing parents find their feet? Dr Paradis says one solution would be to encourage pediatricians to play a bigger role in parental education.

"My hope for paediatricians is that we're able to come up with some novel approaches to educating parents," Dr Paradis says.

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