Survey Respondents Reveal Parenting Purposes

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Last week, we discussed the purpose of being a parent. I promised to share with you the results of a survey where I asked one hundred people about their parenting purposes. Today we will analyze the survey responses, which range from serious to humorous, touching to cynical, and earnest to flippant.

The Survey

The survey was administered online through SurveyMonkey® in November, 2016. Respondents were both male and female residents from all regions of the continental United States aged 18-65, in various stages of their parenting journeys, including non-parents. The exact wording of the survey prompt was as follows:

The primary purpose of being a parent is to… (Complete the sentence.)

Respondents participated for charity, and for a chance to win a sweepstakes prize.

Types of Responses

Because respondents could fill out a text field, each response was unique. The various responses were categorized by themes to facilitate interpretation of the results. The chart below shows how the themes break down.

 Figure 1. Count of Major Parenting Purpose Themes in 100 Survey Responses

Figure 1. Count of Major Parenting Purpose Themes in 100 Survey Responses

Category assignments were subjective, and made by my own assessment. Some were rather straightforward. For example, the response “learn to love” was classified as ‘love.’ However, many responses fell into multiple categories. As a result, the count of theme occurrences adds up to more than one hundred. There is a total of 159. Here is a response that managed to cover six categories: “Nurture, protect, love, coach, provide for and have fun with their children. And help them become independent adults.” This response was included in the categories of caregiving, safety, love, guidance, providing, and delivery to adulthood.

The Top Five Categories

Ethics – Ethics was the top theme in all the responses. Eighteen out of one-hundred people mentioned ethics, values, morals, or referred in some way to having good behavior, or simply to being good. Some were rather general, such as the first two examples below. Other mentioned specific values, such as with the third example below.

  • Raise a good human being
  • Instill morals and values I believe are important to maintain and grown today's generations and to pass to future generations
  • Create healthy, respectful, responsible individuals

Delivery to adulthood – With fifteen mentions, delivery to adulthood tied with three other themes right behind the category of ethics. Responses in this category mentioned adulthood, pointed to some form of independence or self-sufficiency, or referred to preparation for the world. Representative examples are below.

  • get my children safely to a state of independence
  • raise a human capable of self-support
  • Make them successful adults.

Society – Assimilating a child into society was a popular theme. Fifteen responses either used the word society, or referred in some way to bettering the world.

  • Teach my child how to be a good and productive member of society
  • raise/develop offspring into positive contributing members to society
  • nurture your child and help them prepare to contribute and thrive in a world that they can help make better

Guidance – Notions of guidance include references to teaching a child something. Examples of parenting purposes incorporating this theme are:

  • Teach, care,and [sic] groom a child to be there [sic] best
  • Guide the development of a child so that he or she becomes a good member of society
  • teach your children to be good adults

Competence – There was a lot of overlap with the theme of competence and the theme of society. Notions of success, productivity, and contributions are included in this theme, and are often paired with a mention of society.

  • raise competent, capable, well-behaved, and independent children
  • Raise a child that will be better than I and change the world for the better
  • raise fully functional adults who can take care of themselves and make a positive contribution to society

The Next Five Categories

Love – Twelve respondents used the word “love” to describe the purpose of parenting. I found these to be the most heartwarming of all the responses.

  • To love unconditionally
  • unconditionally love, and care for another living being
  • Have someone to love and to love me back

Caregiving – This theme is all about care and nurturing. Eleven responses fell into this category.

  • bring new life and nuture [sic] the new life
  • Raise a child, nurture them and watch them grow and experience new things, support and encourage them
  • Nurture, protect, love, coach, provide for and have fun with their children. And help them become independent adults

Personal development – The nine people who incorporated this theme recognized that parenting is about growth for the parent as well as for the child.

  • be the best parent you can be
  • Continue the family tree and help develop a child as well as myself/husband
  • be the best dad ever

Definitional – This theme, which appeared nine times, was usually used in a matter-of-fact manner.

  • bring children into the world
  • be family
  • procreate

Continuity – Continuity involves passing something along to the future, and may imply leaving a legacy.

  • continue on the human race an [sic] your ancestory [sic]
  • Pass along good values
  • recapitulate phylogeny

The Other Categories

Five respondents alluded to safety, as in “Keep children safe and well informed in life,” and “Protect and guide your children in the right direction and to show them unconditional love.” One respondent simply wrote “Survive,” although we can only speculate whether this referred to the child or the parent.

Four respondents referenced their responsibility to provide for their children, as in “nurture care and provide for my children,” and “provide, teach and send off to the armed forces.”

The concept of ‘being there’ was reflected in the availability category. Four responses were classified in this category. Two examples are “Be there for my children as much as possible,” and “Be helpful if they need or just being a good friend or counsel.”

There were four cynical responses, including “Selfishly overpopulate the planet for your own happiness,” “Spend money on the stupid brats,” and “train minions to do your bidding.” You may be comforted to know that these responses were all submitted by non-parents, as was the suggestion that the purpose of being a parent was to “not be a parent.”

There were three references to reaching potential, as in “to love your child(ren) and help them grow into the person they can be.” There were two references to being happy, including “Raise happy adults.” Two responses were religious in nature, including “Raise God believing, strong, compassionate children with Biblical morals.” One response – “letting my kids grow” – was centered on growth.

Seven respondents declined to give a response, and two respondents reported that they did not know what the primary purpose of parenting is.

The Raw Data

Here are all one hundred responses. The color coding indicates which stage of their parenting journey each respondent was in.

 Figure 2. One Hundred Survey Responses Revealing Parenting Purposes

Figure 2. One Hundred Survey Responses Revealing Parenting Purposes

How would you interpret these results? Would you categorize themes differently? Which response is your favorite?

The Length of Responses

Responses ranged from one word to thirty-four-words long.

The one-word responses were sometimes perplexing, as in “good” and “parent.” The “Sacrifice” response from one non-parent perhaps signaled apprehension.

The thirty-four-word response, submitted by a grandparent, was “Raise your children and teach them along their way to adulthood, to have high morals and ethics and respect for themselves and others and set and achieve their goals. And of course BE HAPPY!

The average response was eight words long, and the median was at seven words. Excluded from this part of the analysis were the six non-responses and the two reports of not knowing.

 Figure 3. Length of Parenting Purposes by Number of Words

Figure 3. Length of Parenting Purposes by Number of Words

The majority of responses were brief. They are distributed rather evenly between one to ten words, and then trail off thereafter. Eighty-two percent of the responses were ten words or less.

There is wisdom in these numbers. A parenting purpose helps bring order to the chaos of everyday life. If you want to use your purpose as a guiding light when emotions are running high, then it needs to be succinct. Ten words or less is short enough to serve as a reminder when you are under stress, and to clarify what is truly important to you.

Can you express your parenting purpose in ten words or less?

How to Properly Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “Survey Respondents Reveal Parenting Purposes”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date],