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Parents Express Concerns Over Young Children’s Behavior, Sleep Habits, And Separation Anxiety

Survey reveals majority of parents feel unprepared to address behavioral concerns in early childhood

An overwhelming majority of parents (83%) admit they have concerns about their young child’s behavior, according to new research.  

The survey of 2,000 parents of children ages 0-6 revealed that the most common concerns are about sleeping habits (48%), followed closely by aggression (46%) and separation anxiety (44%). Others are troubled by their child’s language behaviors (43%) as well as defiance (40%), and when it comes to addressing these concerns, more parents feel unprepared (44%) than prepared (37%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of The Goddard School, the survey asked parents about their concerns—whether it be behavioral, social-emotional, academic or safety—as well as what they seek in an early childhood education provider.

In general, most parents turn to their friends (57%), parents at their child’s school (56%) or the school and teachers themselves (56%) when looking for guidance to improve their child’s behavior.

Many also turn to their family (55%) and resources like their doctor (51%) and online forums (48%).

Similarly, 61% of parents say their child’s school helps them address their concerns, and the same amount (61%) expect that the school will help with those concerns.

And the worry doesn’t stop with just behavior. With nearly two-thirds (63%) sending their child to school or daycare, parents worry more about their child’s social-emotional growth (75%) than anything else.

This is followed by concerns about the quality of their education program (59%) and their academic improvement (55%) when sending their child to school this year.

Additionally, more than half (51%) are concerned about their child’s safety and security at school.

“It’s important for parents to be able to turn to their child’s school not just for education, but also for their social-emotional development and behavioral guidance,” said Dr. Lauren Starnes, senior vice president and chief academic officer at Goddard Systems, LLC, franchisor of The Goddard School. “More than half (54%) of parents say that support and education to help navigate their child’s behavioral concerns is one of the most important resources their school can provide. Schools can ensure they are meeting parents’ needs and supporting students and their families by offering actionable parenting insight and guidance.”

When selecting a daycare or preschool program, parents say the most important factors are a focus on social-emotional development (48%), safety and security (45%) and a focus on academic growth (43%).

When considering a provider’s academic program, parents look for cultivating curiosity and imagination (60%), mastering the basics like letters or numbers (56%) and opportunities for collaboration and teamwork (53%).      

Beyond the curriculum, parents look to their child’s school for support in understanding social cues and norms (59%), understanding their emotions (56%) and gaining independence (55%), all foundational social-emotional skills.

The continued focus on social-emotional development may stem from the fact that a little more than one-third (34%) of parents worry that their child is not developing socially and emotionally.

Although more parents believe their child is looking forward to going to school rather than dreading it (45% vs 36%), the prospect of being social is a polarizing element for children as the school year looms.

Being social is both the most common reason why children eagerly await (79%) and dread (65%) starting a new school year.

When asked to choose the area where their child needs the most support, the top choice from parents was learning social skills (25%).

“For parents concerned about their child’s social-emotional development, it’s important to be prudent and thoughtful when selecting a school,” said Dr. Starnes. “Three-quarters of parents say by attending school, their child benefits from learning social skills. Others see benefits in being exposed to new situations (57%) and gaining crucial social-emotional intelligence (56%). Many parents (60%) are looking for a place to cultivate their child’s curiosity and imagination — all skills that translate well beyond the classroom.”


  • Emotional Development – 52%
  • Manners and social norms – 51%
  • Basic education (reading, counting, etc.) – 45%

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 parents of children ages 0-6 was commissioned by The Goddard School between May 19 and May 25, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

Produced in association with SWNS Research

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