Competitive parents pile on the pressure for UK mums and dads

Article date: 7 July 2011

  • Parents spend £1.5 billion a year to keep up with tiger mums

UK parents are being put under pressure by a growing trend of tiger mums and competitive dads, according to new research from Aviva.

In a study of 2,000 parents of children under 18, two thirds (63%) say they regularly encounter competition from other mums and dads, with boasts ranging from breastfeeding, to sporting talents, to physical appearance.

Parents are also finding there’s a price tag that comes with this trend to out-do others. One in four (24%) UK parents admit to splashing the cash in a bid to keep up with Mummy and Daddy Jones, spending on average £463 per child per year. This adds up to an annual total of more than £1.5 billion nationally.*

But while material goods prompt boastful debates, it’s parenting styles and children’s successes that really bring out mums’ and dads’ competitive streaks. Baby milestones such as walking and talking are the topics where parents are most likely to show off, closely followed by academic achievements.

The top 10 causes for competition were revealed as:

  1. Crawling / walking milestones
  2. Sleeping habits (eg through the night)
  3. Reading / mathematical ability
  4. Speech development
  5. Good behaviour
  6. Exam results / university acceptance
  7. Dancing / sporting ability
  8. Breastfeeding / organic food
  9. Buying the most expensive buggy / car seat etc
  10. Weaning / eating habits

And it seems mums are far more competitive than dads. Female friends are revealed as the most likely to brag, according to 64% of parents. There’s also evidence of sibling rivalry with 21% of respondents pointing the finger at female relatives. 

But the effects of this boastful behaviour are also counter-productive: Six in 10 (58%) respondents say they try to avoid contact with these ambitious people and one in seven (15%) even try to stop their own children being friends with the pushy parents’ offspring.

Interestingly however, only one in five parents will admit to showing off about their own children’s achievements.

Louise Colley, head of protection for Aviva says: “It’s only natural that proud parents want to share their children’s achievements from time to time, but there’s a worry that people are focusing on relatively trivial things, or even worse, wasting money in order to compete with others.

“Even though mums and dads say financial security for their children is important, it’s rarely a subject even discussed with other parents, let alone boasted about – but it probably should be. Aviva research shows that fewer than one in 10 families feel adequately protected, so if there’s one thing we’d encourage people to get competitive about, this is it!” 

Allison Mitchell, author of Time Management for Manic Mums and The Manic Mums Guide to Magnificent Parenting says: "It's interesting to note that while most of us see competitiveness in others, few of us see it in ourselves. This is possibly either because we don't realise we're doing it, or because what we class as just sharing information, others view as showing off.

“While it's great to encourage our children to be the best they can be, it's important not to put too much pressure on them - after all they're probably a lot more laid back about their own achievements than a lot of parents are!" 

The research was revealed to coincide with the second anniversary of Aviva’s "new parents" life insurance offer. Aviva offers £10,000 worth of free life cover to new parents, per parent, per child up to their first birthday.

Parents must register within the first six months of their children’s birth. To find out more about the Aviva life cover for new parents initiative and to register, call 0800 4046465 or visit www.aviva.co.uk/life.

Regional variations

Competitive parents by region are revealed as:

  • East Midlands (77%)
  • Scotland (74%)
  • South East (71%)
  • Yorkshire (65%)
  • Wales (63%)
  • Northern Ireland (63%)
  • London (62%)
  • North West (61%)
  • East Anglia (60%)
  • West Midlands (59%)
  • North East (58%)
  • South West (56%)

-ends-

*Based on 24% of UK residents under the age of 18 (100% UK under 18s = 13,947,500; 24% UK under 18s = 3,347,400 based on latest data mid-year 2010 according to ONS), multiplied by £463 per child. This equates to £1,549,846,200.

** The Aviva offer provides £10,000 of life cover per parent, making up to £20,000 of cover per child (£40,000 for twins or £60,000 for triplets).

If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Sarah Poulter : Aviva Press Office 
01904 452828 / 07800 691569 
sarah.poulter@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market. Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at www.aviva.com/2010cr.

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at www.aviva.co.uk/street-to-school.

The Aviva media centre at www.aviva.com/media includes images, company and product information and a news release archive.

For broadcast-standard video, please visit www.aviva.com/media/video/.

Follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc

* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009.
** at 31 December 2010.

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