Monday, May 19, 2014

The overprotected child

This study indicates that parents overprotect their children while simultaneously recognizing that it is probably ill-equipping  them for adulthood.
...[N]early all respondents remember childhoods of nearly unlimited freedom, when they could ride bicycles and wander through woods, streets, and parks unmonitored by their parents. Many parents remember being instructed to “come home when the street lights go on.” ....

The geographic space in which children are permitted to travel free of adult supervision also appears to be shrinking. One report from the United Kingdom followed four generations of one family in one town, and demonstrated a contracting radius of freedom from the great-grandfather—who as an 8-year-old in 1926 was permitted to walk six miles to a favorite fishing hole—to the 8-year-old son in 2007 who was only allowed to walk by himself to the end of his street, about 300 yards. ....

Why can’t parents imagine giving their own children the kind of freedom they experienced as kids?

For one, parents today perceive the world to be much more dangerous than it was thirty or forty years ago. .... But these media-induced perceptions do not always match reality.

.... Crimes against children are...difficult to measure. Incidents of “substantiated child maltreatment” are declining. Between 1992 and 2010, the prevalence of sexual abuse fell by 62 percent, physical abuse fell 56 percent and neglect fell 10 percent. Although child abduction rates are complex and difficult to track, they also appear to be in decline in recent decades.

Nevertheless, the human imagination is a powerful force, and perceptions have a way of structuring the parameters of social life and interactions. ....

...[A]t the same time parents significantly limit the freedom and autonomy of their kids, they also want their kids to “think for themselves” and be independent. The same parents that won’t let their child out of their sight want her to be independent, make her own decisions, and think for herself. Parents value autonomy and independence, but they’re reluctant and frightened to give much of it. .... [more]