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Parents are at the heart of young child development

ZAGREB, 25 April 2013 - Today UNICEF in Croatia launched the biggest survey of parental practices and needs during in the pre-school period. The survey shed light on breastfeeding, positive and negative interactions between parents and children, community based services that parents use and that need to develop to address their needs.

More than 1700 parents of children aged 0-6 years have participated in the survey, commissioned by UNICEF to inform the new National Strategy and Plan for Children.

The survey shows great inequalities in financing community-based services for parents and children. While some regions and local communities offer plethora of services, including a reach out programmes for the most vulnerable, other communities do not have any. Access to services fully depends on local budgets therefore one of the points in call to action is to find ways to fund those services centrally, rather than locally.

Parents of children with disabilities are under greater life stress due to underdevelopment of early intervention support for their children. Although they earn the same as other parents, their life and needs are more expensive as they are forced to finance additional services that support development of their children.

Particularly vulnerable are parents living in risk of poverty and rural areas. They do not have access to most services and they receive very little or none support from informal social networks.

One of the key insights of the survey is the need to strengthen support to breastfeeding mothers between 2nd and 4th month of their babies lives as this is the period in which exclusive breastfeeding drops dramatically.

Around 20% of parents surveyed stated that they barely make ends meet and that they would need more understanding and support from their employers to balance their work life with their parental duties.

Housework is predominantly a female job, as well a child-rearing, as 75% of mothers indicated that they do most or all housework and more than 60% of mothers stated that they fully manage child-rearing.

The results indicate that thousands of young children experience violence in their homes, as 12% of parents believe in the effectiveness of corporal punishment, and more than 30% of parents of 3-year olds indicated that in the week prior to participating in the survey they have smacked or  pulled hair of their children. Every second parent also believes that they need advice on how to raise children without smacking.

Most parents of young children prefer to get advice from parents themselves. While they see the experts’ advice useful, they do not use it as often. One reason is that experts are not available and also, parents and children who seek advice are subject to stigma in their communities as they are seen as “problematic”. Parents also would prefer to receive advice about parenting through mass media.

“This survey brings the comprehensive picture about how parents of young children live in Croatia but also which services they find useful and which they would like to see in their communities. We believe that the data and the insights brought in the publication “How parents and communities take care of youngest children in Croatia” come at the right time and that they will be fully used in preparation of the National Strategy and Plan of Action for Children. We would also like for the survey to support the local decision making and turn the insights into action points benefiting all parents and children, with particular focus on the most vulnerable” Đurđica Ivković stated during the launch of the survey.

Survey was led by the University of Zagreb professor Ninoslava Pecnik, a local expert that contributed to the Council of Europe‘s policies promoting and advocating positive parenting.

Survey insights point towards the need to invest more in quality early childhood and parenting programmes that would support the needs of all parents, but with additional efforts into reaching out towards the most vulnerable.



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