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1250 people responded to the August/September survey on parenting on the Relationships Australia website. Seventy-one percent of respondents identified as women, twenty-five percent were men and a further four percent did not state their gender or chose ‘other’ (figure 1). As with past surveys, the majority of respondents were aged 30-49 years (60%). The demographic profile of survey respondents remains consistent with our experience of the groups of people that would be accessing the Relationships Australia website.

This month’s survey found that a slight majority (53%) of parents had difficulty knowing how their child was feeling (figure 2). There was a weak correlation between these variables, suggesting that despite gendered understandings of emotional intelligence, a parent’s gender has little effect on their ability to know how their child is feeling. Despite some apparent difficulty understanding feelings, a strong majority (80%) felt comfortable comforting and being warm with their children (figure 3). This suggests that even if parents have difficulty understanding exactly how their child is feeling, they can provide a warm and comfortable presence.

Similarly, most (73%) found is easy to support the activities and interests of their child (figure 4). Across several questions, sixty-six percent of parents felt capable of providing support and comfort to their children (figures 3 & 4). Similarly, only seven percent found it difficult to either comfort their child or support them in their interests. Together, these results suggest that most respondents feel capable of providing support and comfort, however many respondents struggle with interpreting their child’s feelings.

When it came to disciplining problem behaviour, many parents found it difficult to set limits and discipline effectively (49%) (figure 5). Despite the majority (51%) of respondents suggesting they had no difficulty dealing with problem behaviour, thirty percent of these respondents felt they had to discipline their children more than they intended to or wanted to. This suggests that while parents are capable of disciplining their children, they sometimes feel uncomfortable doing so or wish they did not have to. Across both questions, thirty-nine percent had some difficulty with discipline (either in their feelings towards it or their ability to discipline effectively), while fifty-five percent recorded no difficulties in either circumstance.

Overall, these results suggest great things about the abilities of parents. Most feel comfortable and capable in their roles supporting, caring for and disciplining their children. Even if they do not always understand how their child is feeling, by providing boundaries, support and encouragement, they play key roles in their children’s development.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites