Tag Archives: safety

FOR PARENTS: The Relationship of Teens to Violence

Brad-Pitt-fight-club-body2A WWII veteran beaten to death in a parking lot, a baby in Georgia shot in the face in his stroller, and an Australian exchange student shot dead by three “bored” teens. A sudden rash of seemingly senseless youth violence has turned up the volume on angst-ridden anchors and pundits who collectively scratch their heads. Under a chorus of televised “whys?” we seem eager to point fingers at video games, gangs, guns, and bad parenting, but are afraid to ask the uncomfortable question of “How have we failed with our youth?”

It’s important to know that teen homicides have been steadily declining since 1994, but the numbers belie the background stories of each crime, the metadata of motive that could explain what lies in the psyche of an aggressive American teenager. Are the crimes increasingly impulsive attacks against strangers? The media prefers to serve up this version of violence because it pushes our fear button to the point where we stay for the commercials. But no matter if the pattern is random or familial, teen killers should concern us anyway. Because they are our children.

I’ll go out on a limb and suggest here that anger is the motive. And children in America have a lot to be angry about. Our society does not support families.

When an idiot on twitter accuses me of being a socialist or asks why society should be responsible for my kids, I am quick to point out that society isn’t some bastion of law-abiding, tax paying, child free employees. Society is us. Imperfect people trying to do the best we can on an uneven playing field. Fourteen million single parents are raising one in four American children. Less than 30% of elementary school kids have a stay-at-home parent. Remember when one provider worked only a forty-hour week and supported a middle class home of five people? Today, struggling parents are working combined 100 hours just to maintain. And who’s raising the babies?

Psychologists know that early life consistent, loving attachments are a key to healthy personality development. Empathy is learned. How can we expect children who haven’t been given a consistent caring adult during the waking hours of their formative years, to give a damn about you. Teen violence is a problem that belongs to us all.

You have a choice, America. Pay for proven paths to success and good mental health, like loving daycare, stimulating preschools, and enriching afterschool programs. Or, you can pay for jail. In 2010 alone, Americans shelled out $39-billion to incarcerate people. The government’s current plan to provide early childhood education to every child in America would cost $75-billion spread over ten years. Even a third-grade math student can see that would be $7.5-billion per year (taken from alcohol and cigarette taxes,) and a savings of about thirty billion dollars.

Supporting families is the only way to have a healthy society. Families do the heavy lifting of creating good citizens, productive employees, great artists, well-trained athletes, and awesome entrepreneurs. Give moms and dads a chance to succeed, instead of forcing them on a labor treadmill, armed with poor education themselves, and then damn them for using video games as a babysitter and neighborhood gangs as surrogate parents. If I was a teen right now, I’d be madder than hell.

FOR PARENTS: Could Your Household Be Dangerous For Kids?

baby_proofHouseholds can take many shapes. Single parents, same-sex parents, blended families and multi-generational parents, to name a few. And research is revealing just which kinds of parents produce healthy kids. The results might surprise you.

Surprise, surprise. One of the major factors for a child’s overall well being, as it turns out, is the marital status of their parents. Research has found that children brought up by single parents or in blended families do not perform as well, academically, as their peers with married parents. Matthew DeBell, of Stanford University, published a piece in Social Indicators Research about children living without their fathers. DeBell found that if all socioeconomic factors were controlled the absence of a father would only give children a small deficiency. For most situations, the absence of a father creates a socioeconomic difference in the family life leading to worse health, academic achievements, educational experiences and less parental involvement in the child’s life. When there is an absent parent, or separated parents, many try to fill the void by bringing in a step-parent or co-parent. This may be more detrimental to the family environment than helpful.

The Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4)
found that children in blended families are more likely to suffer maltreatment and sexual abuse than children living with a single parent or married parents. Although single parenting may be a difficult task, in many cases it is better for the child, or children, present.

Another aspect of research that demonstrates the stable home environment marriage provides for children appears with same-sex marriages. Sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, of Stanford University, conducted a study to examine the educational achievements of children from same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. “The census data show that having parents who are the same gender is not in itself any disadvantage to children,” he said. “Parents’ income and education are the biggest indicators of a child’s success.” Rosenfeld specifically looked at the rates child of same-sex and heterosexual couples had to repeat a grade in school. He found there was little to no difference in children when it came to this educational achievement. The stable, nurturing environment that is healthy for childhood development is still present with married same-sex couples.

It’s not a perfect world, not every relationship or marriage will work out successfully. However, it is important to keep the well being of children involved in mind when it comes to making decisions about family structure.