Parents have the primary role of guiding and nurturing their child, ensuring all the child’s physical, social and emotional needs are met, enabling them to develop and become an important part of the community in which they live. The challenge is to effectively support parents to be able to undertake this vital role in a manner that provides the best outcomes for the child, the family and the community as a whole. This Policy Brief explores the factors that influence parenting practices and the impact of these factors on a child’s development. The features of effective parental support are also examined.
Why is this issue important?
Scientific evidence shows that parenting plays a central role in the cognitive, language, social and emotional development of children (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000), and is 'probably the most important public health issue facing our society' (Hoghughi, 1998). Surveys of parents in Australia and overseas show that parents view the task of parenting as critically important and personally rewarding; they also report that being a parent is demanding and can be stressful (Sanders et al, 1999; Oldershaw, 2002). Of particular concern is that many parents feel unsupported (Oldershaw, 2002) and relatively few participate in formal parenting education (Sanders et al, 1999).