Our research has shown that family bonds are tight and communication is flowing … but how meaningful is it? How much do kids share about their lives? And do their parents really listen?

The following analysis is from The Global Family, a study conducted by Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS, an ongoing research effort in the U.S. and internationally with multiple local, regional and international research projects feeding into the global expertise on the changing face and role of the family. Here are some key findings:

Family communication doesn’t extend into every corner of life – though Mom tends to know more about everything than Dad.

  • Academic performance tops the list, likely because it’s more formally monitored
  • Mom is also aware of what’s going on around the house and what kids are watching on TV
  • Moms believe they know a lot about children’s emotional health in general, but fewer understand their kids’ specific hopes and fears
  • Dads tend to know about the same kinds of things as moms, but at a lower level – they know the most about academic performance but are less connected with habits of everyday life (what kids are doing at home, watching on TV, etc.)

Moms know more about their daughters than sons – but less as their daughters get older.

  • The biggest gap in mothers’ knowledge about sons and daughters is in the more subtle emotional areas like hopes and fears, and what’s important to them – though they also know a little less about their sons’ social lives (who they hang out with and what they do out of the house)
  • Moms know less about what’s happening in 12- to-15-year-olds’ lives than in 8- to-11-year-olds’ lives, especially socially

Kids think their moms know less about everything they claim to know.

  • The gap between moms’ and kids’ perceptions is widest when it comes to online activity, but kids also feel their mothers know less about their emotional health (hopes and fears)
  • Kids believe moms knows the most about academic performance, purchases, activity at home, and what they watch on TV – the same areas moms claim to be most familiar with

Kids think Mom knows a lot more than Dad.

  • The gap between what kids think Dad and Mom know is widest for everyday things like what they buy and what they do at home – but it’s high in all areas, including their social and emotional lives
  • Boys think their dads knows a little more than girls about their emotional lives, but they still think their moms know more

Above all other areas, moms want to understand more about their kids’ emotional experience – their fears and worries, hopes and dreams.

  • As kids get older, moms also want to know more about what kids are doing outside the house and when they’re online
  • Dads want to know more than moms about concrete experiences like academic performance, friends, and online activity

Single parents know less about their kids’ emotional lives than kids in two-parent homes.

  • Single parents think they know as much about their kids’ lives as partnered parents – but they wish they knew more about what their kids were doing when not at home (possibly out of curiosity about what happens during visits with the other parent)
  • At least in part because of absentee fathers, kids in single-parent families think their dads know a lot less than their moms about most things
  • Kids of single parents think their moms know less about their emotional lives – hopes and dreams, fears and worries

Carlos Garcia is Sr. Director of Research & Insights for Nickelodeon International. Follow Carlos at @CGarciaConnect