Survey: Few Americans Believe Christian Faith Necessary for Good Parenting

When it comes to good parenting, Americans rank "loving" as a top characteristic. Being a "committed Christian," meanwhile, is a much less desired trait, according to a new poll by LifeWay Research.

The online poll, which surveyed 1,054 adult Americans on March 25, 2013 and provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +3.1 percent, separated the results on the qualities needed for fathers and the qualities needed for mothers, as determined by the voters.

For mothers, 85 percent of respondents said that it was mandatory that they be "loving." "Supporting, " "protecting," "encouraging" and "understanding" made up the other top five choices, in that order. Fewer people chose "committed Christian" (26 percent) as a mandatory trait for good parenting than "religious" (35 percent).

For fathers, the results were similar. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that they needed to be "loving." "Protecting," "supporting," "providing" and "encouraging" also ranked high. Again, only a quarter (26 percent) chose being a "committed Christian" while 31 percent picked "religious. "

The exact question people were responding to was: "Which of the following characteristics would you consider mandatory to be a good father/mother?"

"The consistency of what Americans expect of fathers and mothers is a sharp contrast to many of the popular storylines in films and books," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research.

"Clearly Americans who are not Christians themselves would not be expected to value a Christian commitment among parents today," McConnell added. "However, 3 out of 4 Americans indicate their religious preference is Christian, Catholic or Protestant. This means only a third of these people appear to value parents modeling a commitment to Jesus Christ to their children.

"For many who indicate a Christian type religion, this preference simply reflects something they were born with rather than something they feel they must nurture in the next generation."
The survey results noted that respondents who identified as born-again evangelicals were less likely to select "involved" (60 percent vs. 68 percent) and "generous" (44 percent vs. 51 percent) and more likely to select "religious" (56 percent vs. 26 percent) as necessary traits to be a good mother.

"With such widespread expectations of parents today, the question rests less on what is expected than on how parents can live up to these expectations," McConnell concluded. "Clearly, parents today need some support and encouragement of their own to consistently provide love and support to their children."