Parenting in the 1970s and 80s was ‘Life on Mars’ compared to the modern age

There has been a sea change in attitudes to pregnancy and early parenting over the past few decades, with parental behaviour shifting in most aspects: from dieting, discipline, breast feeding, returning to work and the role of the partner. These are the findings of a survey commissioned for Practical Parenting & Pregnancy Magazine, celebrating its 25th anniversary in its April 2012 issue.

The comprehensive survey questioned over eight hundred women who became parents over the past few decades to look at how attitudes had changed. Some of the main findings were:

Drinking alcohol and pregnancy

· In the 1970s, 49% of mothers said they drank alcohol during pregnancy. This was down to 33% for those who had a baby born in between 2000-2010.

· Of those mothers who did drink, 23% would consume more than 6 units per week (equivalent to 3 glasses of wine). This was still 21% in the 1980s, but by 2000-2010 had dramatically fallen to just 4%.

Giving birth

· The time mums spend in hospital after giving birth has plummeted. In the 1970s, 37% of mums stayed in hospital for over a week after giving birth. This had fallen to just 3% by 2010, with 26% of mums going home the same day or just staying overnight.

· In the 1970s, 36% of women would stop working more than two months before the birth, a figure that had dropped to just 10% by 2010, with 14% still working a week before and less.


· The amount of time mums stick with breastfeeding has altered over the past few decades. In the 1970s 45% of mums breastfed for six months or more, this rocketed to 68% in the eighties, but had fallen back to 56% by the noughties.


· A generation ago the vast majority of parents smacked their child – 77% in the 1970s. This was still at 67% in the 1990s, but dramatically fell to 36% of children born in the 2000s.

Dad involvement

· 94% of dads are present at the birth these days, compared to just 58% in the 1970s.

· 98% changed nappies in the noughties compared to just 68% in the 1970s.

· 89% bathed their baby in the 2000’s compared to just 62% in the 1970s.

· 91% put their baby to bed, compared to 70% in the 1970s.

However, it is not all change. The trusty buggy remains the nation’s most recommended piece of equipment through the decades, recommended by 23% of respondents in the 70s and 26% today.

According to Practical Parenting & Pregnancy editor Daniella Delaney: “It’s fascinating to see how pregnancy, birth and bringing up children have reflected the social changes in our society and changing health information. It’s incredibly encouraging to see mums-to-be cutting back on their pregnancy drinking and to see how much more involved fathers are. But clearly more work needs to be done to support mums with breastfeeding.”

In this month’s Practical Parenting & Pregnancy magazine there is a comparison between parenting 25 years ago and today, the secret to a well behaved baby and a guide to a happy pregnancy.

The online survey of 834 mothers across the UK, who are readers of Immediate Media Co magazines, took place in February 2012.

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