Objective: To document the child-rearing needs and pediatric health care experiences of parents with children from birth to 3 years old.
Design: A nationally representatives sample of 2017 parents with children younger than 3 years using a 25-minute structured telephone questionnaire. Interviews were completed by 68% of the screened eligible respondents. The margin of sampling error for results at the 95% confidence level was +/- 3 percentage points.
Results: Seventy-six percent of children younger than 3 years were reported by parents to be in excellent health; 88% had a regular source of pediatric health care. Seventy-one percent of parents who received special pediatric services rated their child's physician as excellent in providing good health care. Seventy-nine percent of parents reported they could use more information in at least 1 of 6 areas of child rearing, and 53% wanted information in at least 3 areas. Forty-two percent had talked with their child's physician about "nonmedical" concerns; 39% of parents read to or looked at a picture book with their child on a daily basis; 51% of parents set daily routines for meals, naps, and bedtime. Breast-feeding and reading to the child on a daily basis were much more likely if a physician encouraged parents to do so.
Conclusions: Most parents view the pediatric health care system as meeting the physical health needs of their young children. Parents want more information and support on child-rearing concerns, yet pediatric clinicians often fail to discuss nonmedical questions with them. The interventions of pediatric clinicians can positively affect parental behavior. Pediatric practices should consider creative ways to reconstitute and augment their current services and systems of care.