June 28 (UPI) -- Roughly one in four parents in the United States believes their children are lagging in developmental milestones, according to the findings of a national survey released Monday by the University of Michigan.
Not all of the parents who expressed concern about their child's development consulted with medical professionals, with about 18% reporting that they rely on the Internet, family and friends and social media for information and guidance, the data showed.
"Parents may be unsure whether their child is progressing appropriately for their age and are on track with peers," co-poll director Dr. Gary L. Freed said in a press release.
"While most do seek a professional's advice, some parents may turn to potentially less reliable sources, like friends or online content," said Freed, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
The findings are based on responses from 779 parents with at least one child age 5 or younger who participated in the University of Michigan's National Poll on Children's Health.
Although the majority of responding parents felt confident knowing when children should achieve most of their developmental milestones, nearly 25% said they suspect their child might be developmentally delayed.
More than 80% of those who suspected their child was behind asked for advice from either healthcare providers or childcare providers. Some 18% only looked up information online, asked family or friends or sought advice on social media.
Parents who have worried their child might be delayed are also more likely to learn about milestones from the Internet than those who haven't had these concerns, the researchers said.
One in three parents indicated that they have compared their children to a friend's child and a similar number said they compared siblings -- working out to about 41% of dads comparing their child to friends' children and 28% of moms doing so.
Nine percent of parents said other family members were first to express concerns that their children may be behind developmentally, while a similar percentage first learn about these issues from healthcare providers, and 4% cited comments from friends.
Up to 15% of children in the United States lag in developmental milestones, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
While most milestones typically take place during predictable windows, there is a range of normal for gaining certain skills such as walking, talking or laughing, according to Freed.
If parents are concerned about a child's physical, social and emotional, communication and cognitive skills, they should ask an expert, he said.
"When parents seek advice from friends, family or social media, they may hear inaccurate or outdated information about what's expected during different stages of development," Freed said.
"It's important for parents to keep in mind that child development is a process that unfolds over time [and that] each child is unique," he said.