- Grandparents, teachers, and older siblings play the biggest roles, alongside parents
- Nearly a quarter of parents in the region believe it takes as many as 10 people to properly raise a child
- The most important attribute needed to raise a child is love, according to parents and children
It takes an average of 6.5 adults to raise a single child in the East of England, with teachers (40 percent), grandmothers (37 percent), older siblings (26 percent), and grandfathers (23 percent) all playing key roles alongside parents, according to the results of a study amongst British parents and children.
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed believe it takes as many as 10 people to bring up a child, highlighting the extent of those involved in raising a family in modern Britain.
Almost three quarters of parents in the region agree that the main attribute needed to raise a child is love, with this ranking higher than being related to the child or regularly looking after them.
The survey, commissioned by My Nametags (https://www.mynametags.com), a leading name label manufacturer, suggests that the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ rings true for families across the East, with members of the wider family and community playing important roles in a child’s upbringing. For instance, great reliance is placed on grandmothers (45 percent) and grandfathers (27 percent) for childcare whilst parents are at work. Children’s older siblings (27 percent), friends (18 percent), and uncles (18 percent) are also amongst those who are regularly called upon for childcare. This contrasts with other regions, such as Northern Ireland, where parents are more reliant on their friends.
Parents across the region agree that older siblings and teachers have the biggest impact on a child’s personality. Almost a quarter also believe their child’s teacher has the closest rapport with them, while their older siblings are considered the most likely to influence bad habits.
The influence of older siblings is also felt by children themselves, with 18 percent agreeing that they have the most fun with their big brothers and sisters, as well as their cousins.
A grandmothers’ guidance is also important, with 15 percent of children suggesting that they are the ones they look up to the most. In addition, Grandmothers are considered to teach children the most out of anyone in the family.
Interestingly, despite this village mentality, teachers are often the only adults outside the immediate family that parents in the East of England are happy to let discipline their child (33 percent), with parents putting much less trust in their friends, sports coaches, after school staff, and nannies.
According to the study, there are several reasons why parents choose to involve their wider social networks when raising children, with almost a third agreeing that it is an essential part of modern parenting. In addition to practical reasons, parents suggest that it improves children’s social skills (30 percent) and helps them build strong relationships (27 percent).
Commenting on the findings, Bea Marshall, Parenting Expert and Founder of Yes Parenting, said: “Humans are generally social creatures who thrive in communal and cooperative environments. Nowadays it is common for families to live away from their extended families and without the day to day support of their immediate neighbours. However, it is still so important for families to create a network of support as they raise their children.
“When other people help care for children, it provides parents with the opportunity to recharge, work or play. Those other people also give children a secure set of relationships in which their needs for connection, safety and belonging are met. Children have an opportunity to learn from the different people around them and they receive different things from each person – one may be more playful, another more nurturing, for example. Each person in a child’s life contributes something unique that helps them to grow into a well-rounded individual, while offering crucial support to their parents.”
With everyday life in Britain still affected by lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19, parents’ usual reliance on the wider community has never been more apparent, with many families losing over two-thirds of their support network. Whilst many schools, childminders, workplaces, and public spaces remain closed, parents are required to fulfil the role of teacher, sports coach, friend, scout leader and everything in-between.
Caroline Lamb, mother to Daisy, aged 13, is one of many parents who has found this a challenge. Commenting on her situation, Caroline said: “It’s amazing how you don’t realise all of the influences on your child until they aren’t there. For Daisy, her school plays a profound role in her life, particularly her Special Educational Needs Coordinator who acts as a mentor for her.
“The lockdown measures have brought a double-edged sword. On one hand, Daisy is thriving with her education, being able to take part in Zoom lessons and handing in great projects, but equally, she misses her friends terribly.
“I think as parents we crave routine and normality. For me, I’m studying a lot at the moment so with living together and now being together all the time, things can get a little fraught, and you wish there was an escape route to go out for a bit. However, without that option at the moment we just have to make the best of it.”
Alan Draper, father to daughter aged 7, and twin boys aged 4, has shared a similar experience. Commenting on this time, he said: “Usually, childcare is a group effort in our home. I run my own business and my wife works too, so we have a part-time nanny three days a week.
“For the first few weeks, my daughter in particular thought that this was great. She had loads of time to play with her younger brothers and didn’t have to go to school, but now the novelty is wearing off and she’s missing her friends.
“As a parent, I’ve certainly had moments when I’ve wished I could have a break. I got a call about a work emergency a couple of weeks ago and was actually chuffed to be able to leave the house for a few hours. Our way of working has completely changed, and we try to create a plan each morning, but you just have to take each day as it comes.”
Commenting on the research, Lars B. Andersen, Managing Director at My Nametags, said: “After noticing a range of family members ordering name labels for children in recent years, we were interested to discover more about the varying roles that family members and friends take on when raising a child.
“Although every household will have their own approach to parenting, it is interesting to see the importance of the wider community when raising children in the UK, and how each individual helps to shape a child’s life.
“With the impact of COVID-19 continuing to affect the way families across the UK are operating, it was particularly interesting to speak to parents about how being cut off from their usual support network has affected them during this crisis. We found that, on the whole, although families have adapted the best they can, they want to get back to their normal routine, suggesting that this unusual period has only reinforced the importance of including a range of people in the upbringing of a child.”
The research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of My Nametags surveying 2,000 UK parents and children aged 16 and under. Survey conducted March 2020.