Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Are Children Safer or in Greater Danger than Ever?

Rogier van Bakel posts that in the UK, children are safer than ever by a substantial factor. Despite this, parents are more fretful and anxious than ever.

According to this site, American children are also a lot safer than in the past:

“Between 1980 and 2003, death rates dropped by 46 percent for infants, 51 percent for children ages 1 to 4, 44 percent for children ages 5 to 14, and 32 percent for teens ages 15 to 19.”

I don’t know how to measure the degree of parental fretfulness, but if the parents I know are typical it appears to be very high. Old timers often relate how much easier it was back in the day to raise children and how worried and protective the current crop of parents is.

One source of worry seems to be abduction. Nobody wants his kid’s picture to end up on a milk carton. I have never known anyone who was abducted or who had a child abducted, and I have never conversed with anyone who actually knows a family with an abducted child. On the internet, it is hard to sort out fact from fiction, hysteria and hyperbole from helpful information. The Attorney General of New York cites figures of 4,600 abductions in the US each year, about 300 of these by strangers (rather than family members in a custody dispute), with about 100 of these being murdered.

The White House, on the other hand, thinks there are 50,000 non-family abductions annually in the US.

This alarmist site claims that 800,000 American children are abducted every year, but this includes abduction by family members:

This report has conflicting numbers but suggests that stranger abductions used to run about 300 a year but have declined to 150 a year recently:

Chubb Insurance says that 58,000 children are abducted by other than family every year:

This company that profits from scared parents claims that 725,000 kids go missing every year and that this is getting worse all the time!
I don’t know what to make of these disparate numbers, but I am leery of the higher figures. I don’t know what counts as an “abduction” in these numbers, but if so many thousands were carried off each year, I’m pretty sure I’d know someone with an abducted child. You’d think the Poughkeepsie Journal would have an abducted kid story every day. There would be Amber Alerts every hour on the hour.

Who wants parents to believe that their children are in danger of being snatched by child molesters and white slavers? Why?

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