Being a parent in today's world is no easy task. Gone are the days of rigid gender roles and traditional family structures. Modern parents are faced with ever-changing social norms and the constant presence of technology. They not only prioritize raising children but also juggle demanding professional careers. And, not surprisingly, they have unique needs and lifestyles that extend beyond their roles at home.
This article provides some key facts and figures about this crucial consumer segment: parents of children under 18. This data sheds light on who these parents are, what motivates them, and how they spend their time and money. Let's dig into the numbers that define the modern parent.
For additional detail, and for a full list of sources, please make sure to download the full report: Modern Parenting: Navigating and Engaging the Active Family Unit.
/// Demographics: The Real Face of Modern Families
The average age of a parent with children under 18 is 41, with the majority (33%) falling between 35-44 years of age. Millennials make up more than half of young parents at 51%, followed by Generation X at 34%. The parent population is becoming increasingly diverse, with 60% identifying as White, 20% as Hispanic, and 14% as Black.
Most of these parents (43%) have college degrees and work full-time jobs (55%), with incomes in line with national averages. They have invested in their education and careers, proving that being a parent does not require sacrificing professional success. While 58% own their homes, more than one-third are renters, highlighting that the experience of parenthood differs across economic backgrounds. However, financial security remains a top priority for all.
Although the majority of parents of children under 18 are married (67%) and live with their partners and children, there is also a significant portion of single parents (23%) and multi-generational households. Family structures have become more diverse, reflecting a range of unique situations and living arrangements for today’s parents.
These numbers clearly illustrate that families today come in various shapes and sizes. Millennial parents are driving this change, bringing with them increasingly progressive beliefs. Fathers are taking on more active roles in parenting, and households are made up of not just traditional nuclear units but also single parents, cohabitating partners, LGBTQ parents, and grandparents as primary caregivers, for example.
This increasing diversity requires that marketers must appeal to various cultures and backgrounds. Yet, what remains consistent is parents' focus on stability and security. Most parents strive for homeownership, steady careers, and financial stability. Providing for their households outweighs any other desires or needs.
/// Psychographics: What Motivates Modern Parents?
Understanding the values that guide parents' decisions reveals a unique blend of priorities. Parents of children under 18 place great importance on family security and preserving traditions. They emphasize authority, safety, and achievement. However, they also seek a balance between stability and adventure, with more than a quarter considering "living an exciting life" as a core motivation. Their lifestyles reflect this duality, as they value everyday family time while embracing spontaneity and playfulness. Approximately 20% actively participate in sports and classes, ensuring that they prioritize their own hobbies and interests for personal balance.
This balance is evident in their purchasing habits, as they choose products and experiences that are both family-friendly and fun and exciting. They strive to spend quality time with their loved ones while expressing their own style and preferences. In doing so, modern parents move beyond societal expectations and redefine their roles, indicating a shift in priorities. As custodians of the next generation, shaping their values and choices, modern parents' influence extends across various industries.
Fun and excitement are not secondary considerations but rather important factors in their purchasing decisions and media preferences. This highlights their commitment to self-expression even after becoming parents. However, family remains central to their daily lives. Their daily routines revolve around activities such as shared meals, classes, trips, and other experiences that strengthen family bonds. Before any product enters their homes, it must meet the "family-friendly" criteria. Brands that want to resonate with this group should prioritize understanding their point of view and tailor their offerings to meet their diverse needs and values.
/// Media Habits: Where to Find Today's Parents
Almost all parents are active internet users. In addition to using the internet for practical purposes, one-fourth of them watch beauty, fitness, and educational videos during their limited personal time. They also visit parenting, family, sports, and dating websites that provide both support and moments of respite.
On social media, parents tend to use visually driven apps like TikTok and Snapchat. These platforms offer bite-sized entertainment and communities in the midst of their busy schedules. However, television remains popular, with streaming services like Disney+, ESPN+, and Discovery+, as well as cable channels like Nickelodeon and Disney, capturing a wide viewership.
Four out of 5 parents engage in binge-watching when they can, carving out pockets of "me time" after their children go to bed. The content they consume varies, from reality TV to travel programming, and thrillers – anything that brings them joy and provides an escape.
On radio and streaming audio, parents enjoy urban music, alternative rock, and pop. They read advice columns in print magazines and listen to podcasts related to music, advice, and business. Their daily lives encompass a pursuit of entertainment, personal growth, and professional development.
There is no one-size-fits-all media diet for these parents. The outlets they engage with reflect their diverse interests and identities. Despite their busy schedules, modern parents are heavily engaged in digital media. They spend a significant amount of time watching television and using social media apps, but their overall media consumption is diverse and includes other channels like radio, music streaming, and magazines. The content they consume covers a wide range of topics, from reality shows to children’s programming.
/// Shopping Behaviors: Key Purchasing Insights
When it comes to shopping, modern parents tend to favor family-oriented brands such as Nike, Carter's, Gap, and Old Navy for their apparel. They also look for value-driven retailers like Ross and Burlington Coat Factory, as they seek quality goods at affordable prices. Budget and quality go hand-in-hand for purchases made for their dependents, and convenience is a top priority for this busy demographic. Many parents take advantage of the option to buy online and pick up in-store to save time and effort. Streamlining the shopping process is a must for them.
When parents shop for personal needs, other factors come into play. While price remains important, 11% value reputation and 17% value customer service. Brand loyalty is significant when it comes to indulgent categories like hotels and air travel, with Holiday Inn, Southwest, and Delta being preferred choices.
In summary, the needs of their kids come first for most parents' purchases. Apparel and supplies must meet the criteria of affordability, quality, and convenience. However, parents also refuse to completely sacrifice their individuality. They are willing to splurge on brands that reflect their own identities, especially in categories like hospitality and experiences.
/// Key Takeaways
In summary, marketing to today's parents requires recognizing their unique power while avoiding stereotypes. Parents come from diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, culture, economic backgrounds, and more. Their values and behaviors are also highly varied. However, there are common threads. Family is central to parents' lives, and they're often short on time, so convenience is a top priority. They also value their individuality even while raising children, and self-expression is important to them.
Brands need to strike a balance between addressing the responsibilities of parenthood and acknowledging parents' personal passions that go beyond their role as caregivers. Brands that embrace and celebrate parents' multifaceted identities have the opportunity to gain loyal customers throughout their entire parenting journey.
When engaging with this unique audience, it's important to let the numbers guide your strategy. Parenting has changed, and brands need to change with it to stay relevant.
Amplify your brand's resonance with modern parents. Reach out to Media Culture to craft personalized approaches that resonate with and motivate this dynamic consumer group.