What does millennial parenting look like?

In case you are not aware, Millennials… they’re everywhere.  Those born roughly between the mid-1980s and late-1990s are now the biggest generation in the US. From their influence on the workplace to their passion for premium coffee, research continues to emerge surrounding the impact that these key marketing targets  are having on all of our day-to-day lives.

As this generation enter their 30s and begin to have children of their own (already dubbed Generation Alpha), it’s becoming clear that they may also be about to revolutionise parenting.

For starters, the very way they identify themselves is somewhat unique. According to a 500-participant survey conducted by tech company Winnie, millennial parents are more likely than previous generations to say that parenthood is a major part of their identity, and have created numerous sub-parenting identities such as ‘free-range parenting’ and ‘attachment-Mums’ which often emanate deeper political and social ideologies.

In the same survey, when asked if they value ‘home ownership’ or ‘travel and experiences’ more, 56 per cent of millennial parents chose travel and experiences. Is this shift due to the ‘renting generation’ conceding to the certainty that home ownership is unlikely until their inheritance is due? Perhaps… Or is it that ownership and materialism that marked out previous generations are now less important than seeking out new experiences and seeing the world?

It also appears the way millennial parents reach out to others is also adapting. Community support has been a valued asset to any new mother or father for centuries, but Rebecca Parlakian, program director for Zero to Three, an organisation that has been studying new parents for three decades, suggests that, of late, Google has become “the new grandparent, neighbour and nanny”.  So, whenever there’s a suspicious rash or a desire for a toy recommendation, millennial parents will be highly likely to reach out to sites like Mumsnet for the answer.  Research by Google concurs, claiming that 86% of millennial dads use YouTube for guidance on key parenting topics.

Attitudes towards gender are also changing thanks to millennial parents. There’s been a recent surge in the number of gender neutral toys and clothing available to children, and this appears to have been largely influenced by the attitudes of millennial parents. With this age group growing up to witness significant positive changes to LGBTI+ rights, increasing numbers of non-binary celebrities on television, as well as a generally accepted rhetoric that gender is a social construct, there’s never been such a demand for non-gender-conformist products.  In fact, TIME Magazine conducted a survey in 2015 of 2000 parents with children under the age of 18 and discovered 50 per cent of millennial parents purposefully buy gender neutral toys for their children, compared to just 35 per cent of baby boomers.

Religion plays less of a role in the lives of millennials and their young families. In a recent UK government survey, 49 per cent of 25-34 year olds stated they had no religion, whereas only 27 per cent of 55-64 year olds and 20 per cent of 65-74 year olds stated the same. Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at New York University, suggests this could be due to recent scandals and an increased lack of trust in religious organisations, or perhaps it is the rise of the internet that has made way for more diverse views and challenges to the status quo. Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say millennial parents in both the UK and USA are less likely to take their children to religious institutions or formalise their kids’ religious status. Interestingly, 1 in 3 children in the 1980s were baptised, where as now that figure is 1 in 10.

Lastly, educational habits have altered somewhat from the ones that will have been experienced by millennials when they were at school. Homeschooling has doubled in the last six years, screen time is now the norm, and it is thought that Generation Alpha will be highly entrepreneurial thanks to their constant access to immediate information and ideas.

Understanding the ways in which the newest cohort of parents are tackling the age-old challenges of child-rearing will undoubtedly help brands stay more relevant and more useful, thus more profitable into the future. Those who continue to offer old world products and services are missing a really big opportunity.

To discuss more about this topic or to discuss our understanding of other types of audiences and consumers, please do drop me a line or book a call. 

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