By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A majority of American parents believe their children will face a harsher coming-of-age than they did, according to a new survey – and no one feels this more acutely than Black parents.
In a recent NBC News State of Parenting Poll, 63 percent of parents felt their children would face more problems growing up than they did. For Black parents, the figure was 72 percent.
“That feeling is real…that children growing up today are growing up in a more complex society, with respect to issues like racism, institutional racism, structural racism, and the educational system, and growing inequality,” says George Garrow, executive director of Concerned Black Men National, which seeks to enrich the lives of Black children and parents through mentorship and community-building.
“We as adults are being affected by these things, and if we’re being affected then young people certainly are. Our kids are being raised in a time where…the kids are not going to have the opportunities that we had 25 years ago, 30 years ago.”
Parents who had little faith in today’s education system were likelier to foresee greater challenges for their children. These parents of little faith were in the minority, however. In the case of Black parents, 51 percent rated their child’s education as “good,” on a scale from “excellent” to “poor.”
Most of the parents who rated their children’s education experience as “fair” or “poor” also believed that their children would have a harder time growing up. Only 18 percent and 9 percent of Black parents gave “fair” and “poor” ratings, respectively, but Black parents made up the largest share of both ratings.
The outlook on growing up was bleak even among the satisfied parents, 57 percent of whom still felt their children would face more problems.
“I always thought…we’d be, now, in an era of better schools. But when you look at the terrain we’re not there yet…particularly with Black kids and the schools they are going to,” Garrow said. “While we may live in a society with greater options for some, those things haven’t necessarily materialized for Black children, and Black families.”
Interestingly, 51 percent of all parents felt that school would not prepare their children for the job market unless their child also went to college. Further, a sizeable 86 percent said their children would need more than a high school degree to achieve The American Dream.
Although many parents believed the journey to adulthood would be harder for their children, 53 percent also believed that their children would be the same or better off once they grew up. While Black parents were most likely to worry about their children’s present experiences, they were also more likely to be optimistic about their child’s future than White parents were—but not more optimistic than Hispanic parents. Additionally, younger, Democrat, and/or low-income parents were more optimistic than older, Republican, and/or higher-income parents; Black people tend to fall into the former categories. (Political independents are evenly split).
While the worry about modern childhood remains high, research suggests the sentiment is declining with each generation, as the standard of living gets better. In the 1998 results of this same survey, 78 percent of parents believed their children had more problems.
At the same time, outlook on the future of the next generation seems to have remained steady. Over the past few years the Pew Research Center has surveyed approximately 2,500 parents with similar questions. From 2008 to 2012, roughly half of parents believed their children would have it better off when they reached adulthood. Interestingly, roughly 60 percent of the same respondents believed that they had a better standard of living than their parents did at the same age.
At a time when the nation is rallying against unchecked police violence on Black people (among a host of chronic social and political problems), Garrow points out that Black families have to dig deep to find optimism for the future. But, he also believes that positive adult involvement and community building are the keys to helping children navigate an increasingly complex society.
“We can no longer live under the idyllic notion that kids—as long as they don’t get into trouble, as long as the ‘behave themselves’—that they’re going to grow up to be responsible citizens, be educated properly, and have opportunities in life. All of our kids are at risk,” Garrow says.
“[The finding] is really tragic because it should not be this way. Each society should be able to build upon the successes of the previous generation. …[W]e really need a reality check to determine what we need to do so we at least have a chance at offering our kids a better life.”