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February 2019Vol. 20, No. 1Parenting Knowledge Among First-Time Parents of Young Children

When parents are more knowledgeable about child development, they tend to experience higher quality interactions with their children and are more likely to participate in more developmentally supportive activities. To that end, Child Trends published two reports that seek to understand what first-time parents know and want to know about parenting and childhood development, how they want to get that information, and how this information varies across different parent groups.

To gather this information, Child Trends conducted a comprehensive literature review of 260 sources on parenting knowledge. Some of the findings and recommendations include the following:

  • Parents lack the knowledge they want and need.
  • The amount of knowledge available is overwhelming and inconsistent in quality.
  • It is unclear which parenting interventions are most effective and why.
  • It is important to build a strong evidence base through rigorous methods to study how parenting knowledge varies and how interventions can be tailored.
  • Parents need guidance on how to evaluate sources and more effectively use the information.

In addition to reviewing research, Child Trends conducted focus groups with parents of young children across socioeconomic and cultural groups. These focus groups aimed to not only to see what parents in each group typically knew and wanted to know about child development but also to see how the knowledge may have differed. Some of the key findings include the following:

  • Parents generally do not feel uninformed but have many questions—especially related to social-emotional development and knowledge on how to specifically apply best practices.
  • Parents' research spikes during transition periods (e.g., when the child starts preschool), and they rely on the internet for information, generally using multiple sources to reach a consensus in information.

Professionals and programs can use the information and recommendations from these studies to inform their programs and practice.

The report, First-Time Parents' Knowledge of Infant and Toddler Development: A Review of the Literature, is available at (304 KB). The report, First-Time Parents' Knowledge of Early Child Development: Focus Group Report, is available at (484 KB).