Parents: Be strict, but not too strict

May 18, 2015, 3:55 PM UTC

Americans overwhelmingly agree that parents should be strict with their children  but permissive parenting is on the rise

Parenting has always been a hot-button issue, but in recent years a contentious dispute has been taking places in the media between advocates of letting kids run a little wild, so called 'free range parenting', and the heavily involved, strict 'helicopter parents' perhaps best personified by Tiger Mom Amy Chua. In Maryland one family which follows the 'free range' style of parenting has faced investigation by child services and the police, most recently for letting their kids walk home alone from a local playground.

YouGov's latest research shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree that parents should be at least a little strict with their children. 74% of the public believe that parents should be 'fairly strict', while only 10% say they should be 'very strict'. 12% think parents shouldn't be very strict, while only 1% think it's best to avoid strictness altogether as a parent. Americans under the age of 30 (28%) are much more likely than other age groups to say that parents shouldn't be very strict, though 62% still say that parents should be 'fairly strict'. There is little difference in attitude between those who do and do not have children. 

When it comes to how strict parents actually were with their children two trends can be seen. First, roughly a quarter of all children regardless of age group were raised by 'very strict' parents. Secondly, younger Americans are more likely than their elders to have been raised by 'not very strict' or 'not at all strict' parents. 39% of under-30s say that their parents weren't very strict or not strict at all, compared to only 15% of over-65s. 

Black Americans (41%) and people who say that religion is very important in their life (33%) are the most likely to say that their parents were 'very strict'. Hispanics (33%) and people for whome religion is not at all important (37%) are the most likely to say that their parents were 'not very strict' or 'not at all strict'. 

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.