Global study reveals how Kiwi children differ from their parents' generation: more peer pressure, celebrity influence and stress.

Tuesday 22 October 2013, 5:35PM
By Lily&Louis

(But we’re also reading to and cooking with our kids more,
and they still believe in Santa.)

A recent global study commissioned by childrenswear retailer Pumpkin Patch has revealed that three quarters of New Zealand parents believe that the innocence of childhood is being lost a lot earlier by our younger generation.

Over 3,500 parents in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and America were surveyed about the biggest changes and challenges facing their own children, compared with when they were growing up.

New Zealand parents identified the greatest changes for their children as being:

1. More pressure to follow trends/brands (80% of Kiwi respondents)
2. More peer pressure (79%)
3. Losing childhood innocence sooner (76%)
4. Awareness of celebrities much sooner (73%)
5. Feeling more stress about the world (62%)

New Zealand ranks highest across the four countries for children suffering greater peer pressure than their parents’ generation. Yet the study also shows we rank lowest for kids feeling more stress at school – 56% compared with 65% in Australia, 66% in the UK and 59% in the USA.

The rise of technology and the celebrity culture were highlighted as two significant factors in the differences between the generations.

Two thirds of parents agree that technology makes our children more informed than they were, and over 60 percent say it helps with literacy skills. Conversely, 50% think that the use of technology stops children developing their own creativity, and 43% feel that it diminishes their children’s social skills.

New Zealand parents say that, when they were kids, imaginative play carried on until they were almost 11, longer than any other country. Today, parents think their children will have left the land of make believe by the age of 9. Games involving make believe and imagination only rank as sixth favourite with our pre school kids, and this drops to a lowly tenth once they reach school – watching TV and movies is their most preferred activity.

Another significant shift has come about with the era of the celebrity. Parents remember starting to recognise brands and celebrities aged 11, while today this starts as young as 8.

The greatest issue worrying parents from all countries is that “the streets don’t feel safe like they used to”. This is followed by concerns about bullying, and mixing with the wrong kids.

“Children do seem to be maturing at a faster rate than in days gone by,” observes Kiwi psychologist Sara Chatwin. “The research suggests that children's fantasy and imaginative play has diminished over the years and whilst this may be sad news for some parents, many families still encourage this kind of fun time. The research also points out the stress and pressure that children feel, sometimes to conform to the peer group (often to reduce bullying), sometimes to fit in and to increase self-esteem. Children are enormously influenced by their peer group, particularly as they get older, and by what they see around them - much of that input is geared towards technology.”
The survey also discovered a number of ways in which kids today are enjoying a better childhood.

New Zealand parents say they spend more time with their kids baking, cooking and reading stories than they ever did with their own parents (stats?). Birthday parties are a big event: 65% of Kiwi parents organise a birthday party for their children every year, compared to just 56% in Australia.

And Kiwi children still believe in Santa, although they tend to stop when they’re aged 8 (as opposed to their parents, who believed in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny until they were 9).

“We conducted this global study to understand what’s keeping parents awake at night, what is filling them with joy and importantly what they think about raising their children in today’s fast changing world,” comments Di Humphries, CEO of Pumpkin Patch. 

Notes to Editors:
Research fieldwork conducted by IPSOS on behalf of Pumpkin Patch in September 2013. The sample was 3,581 parents who were interviewed online from New Zealand, Australia, USA and UK.