Monday, March 17, 2014

Driving Children To School, Teaching Risk Aversion - Another harm to Children

15 March 2014

Parents are reticent to admit to harming their children and are less inclined to accept responsibility for doing such. While we possess an innate passion to protect our children the so-called rational mind often works studiously to defeat such an instinct. I have previously written about some of these in postings including Inducing premature puberty in girls - precocious puberty, Most Parents Encourage Sexual Abuse of Their Children , and Self-Imposed Parental Alienation.

In a more thorough paper that I plan to write I will be devoting a portion to parents inducing depression into their children. But for today, I write about the simple act of delivering children to school in a vehicle and the complex web of adversities that it produces.

In 1969, the year of my birth, the percent of children walking to school was forty-eight. By 2009 that had dropped to just thirteen. What I am going to propose here is not that this decline in children walking to school is the cause of the various adversities that I will explore here. Rather, I present this as one of the factors in an overarching shift in parenting attitudes and activities that are connected to childhood adversities through causation or correlation.

The issue I address, children being delivered to schools in vehicles, is only a symptom of the larger and broader series of parenting behaviours that are choking children's development. The results are immediately observable in some instances, such as obesity, while other effects may not present until adulthood. It in now established that internalising behaviours in children may be linked with parenting styles that might not have traditionally been assessed, such as overprotectiveness.[fn1] The rationalization for the detrimental actions which rest under the umbrella of overprotectiveness is that children are vulnerable. Use of the term ‘vulnerable’ can be a good way of denying children the opportunity to take risks.

Risk engagement is an important resource through which children also learn from their own mistakes. This is a necessary learning process when children engage with their personal health and safety.[fn2] However, as with the divorce industry which harms children for profit so does the industry of fear. When confronted by sensational calls to protect 'vulnerable' children from a myriad of 'dangers' look to the motivation of those making the claims. The connections may not be clear. Large media conglomerates that control television and magazines suppress holistic and natural medical practices to perpetuate harm. Their motivation? Flip through a magazine and look for full page advertisements for drugs. Pay attention while watching television if you choose to engage in that activity.

Not allowing children to take risks associated with walking to school is like not allowing them to be exposed to chicken-pox: when exposure doesn't come until adulthood it is much more likely to lead to death. Children must be provided with knowledge about reasonable dangers, learn to be observant, and given the opportunity to employ their skills rather than be ferried around everywhere in a 4x4 (because hey they're safer in that than in the small car) because of parents overwrought with anxiety and laziness. Suddenly chucking them out when they're 18 and finding they haven't a streetwise bone in their body is catastrophe waiting to happen.

Children need to be allowed to take risks in order to develop ‘risk competence’. Most fatal accidents to children result from them not having learned, or not being allowed to learn, how to look after themselves’.[fn3]

Current child abductions in the US annually are 17 per 100,000. Only about 100 children (a fraction of 1%) are kidnapped each year in the stereotypical stranger abductions you hear about in the news. About half of these 100 children come home.[fn4]

Moreover, only 40% of these stranger abductions take place on the street. The average annual stranger abductions was estimated to be 147 per year for the years 1976-1987[fn5]. So while the population has increased the unadjusted number has declined. In the United States during 2011, more than 650 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes,[fn6] and more than 148,000 were injured.[fn7] A staggering 67,000 children died on average from the years 2000-2005 from unintentional injuries.[fn8]

Clearly the real danger, unintentional injury, is being neglected while children are being placed at greater risk of death by motor vehicle than from the perceived risk – stranger abductions. Children need risk-taking. They need to have the opportunity to build risk competence. The prevalent concept of children as immature, needy, and dependent must change or we risk turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We already know that children under two years of age show that from their early tactile experiences that ‘risky’ activities is an integral part of their drive to extend their physical prowess and thus their independence.[fn9]So next time you pile the youngsters into the car to take them to school consider whether you are giving them the opportunity to develop risk competence, endangering them through the hazards of vehicular travel, and whether the expense of money and time is inducing stress in you and a subsequent hostile environment for your children.

[1] Hudson, J.L. and Rapee, R.M. (2002) ‘Parent–child interactions in clinically anxious children and their siblings’, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 548–55
[2]Christensen, P. & Mikkelsen, M.R. (2008). Jumping off and being careful: children's strategies of risk management in everyday life. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30(1), 112-130.
[3] Baillie, M. (2005). ... And by comparison. Cardiff: Adventure Activities Licensing Authority.
[4] National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children -- 2003 as cited by the Polly Claas Foundation
[5] Finkelhor, et al. The Abduction of Children by Strangers and non-Family Members, June 1992 Journal of Interpersonal Violence, p. 234
[6] CDC. Child Passenger Safety: Buckle Up Every Age, Every Trip Vital Signs. [2014 Feb 4].
[7] CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [2011 Sept 30].
[8] CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System
[9] Stephenson, A. (2003). Physical risk-taking – dangerous or endangered? Early Years, 23(8), 35-43.

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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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