What are family dynamics like around the world today? As Millennials have children of their own, how do their parenting styles differ from Generation X?

And do generational changes mean that families’ habits are beginning to recalibrate as a result?

To find out, Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS commissioned online interviews of kids ages 8 to 14 and their parents, covering nearly 4,000 households in 19 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA.

Focusing on family closeness and parenting styles, here are some key findings from this project:

In recent years, families have grown closer—but there are signs that this closeness may have reached its apex.

  • Today, 96% of parents report being extremely or very close to their kids, 93% of kids report this level of closeness with their mothers, and 84% with their fathers
  • Millennial parents feel less close to their children than Gen X parents (93% vs. 97%)
  • Children of Millennial parents feel less close to their moms and dads than kids of Gen X parents (94% vs. 89% for moms, 84% vs. 80% for dads)

Parents in most countries feel they are more “friend” than “authority figure” to their kids.

  • Globally, 39% of parents want to be a friend and 31% an authority figure to their children
  • Parents in Brazil, China, Mexico, Philippines, and Malaysia are most likely to see themselves as friends to their children
  • In France, Japan, USA, and Canada, parents see themselves more as authority figures

Most parents encourage their kids to be independent. 

  • 94% of parents encourage their son/daughter to be independent
  • 83% of parents let their son/daughter make their own decisions
  • 42% of parents wish they had done more to make their son/daughter less dependent on them

Though parents promote independence and share some decision-making with kids, many parents want sole responsibility for deciding what kids do.

  • About 6 in 10 parents believe they should decide what websites kids view and what time kids go to bed
  • Around 4 in 10 parents want to decide what kids eat for dinner, what video games they can play, family activities, and what kids watch on TV
  • Just 14% want to choose their children’s friends
  • Kids are more likely to be allowed to stay home alone than (65%) than to have a Facebook account (45%)

A majority of parents snoop on their kids. 

  • 61% undertake some kind of snooping
  • Parents most commonly snoop on kids by looking through: their backpacks/pockets (40%), things in their room (40%), their social media profiles (32%)

Millennial parents are more controlling than Gen X parents. Anxiety drives their over-cautiousness.

  • Compared with Gen X parents, Millennial parents are more like friends to their kids (45% Millennial, 38% Gen X), less encouraging of their kids’ independence (87% vs. 95%), and less inclined to allow kids to make their own decisions (70% vs. 84%)
  • Millennial parents are more likely to decide the websites their kids see, the video games they play, the TV shows they watch, and their kids’ friends
  • Millennial parents are less likely to decide their kids’ bedtime and what they eat
  • Their tight grip may stem from anxiety—77% of Millennial parents (vs. 66% of Gen X) worry about their child being safe; 72% worry about being a good parent (vs. 57% Gen X)