Sunday, February 19, 2012

How Being a Parent can Land You in Jail

A major article on the growth of the overprotective parenting syndrome.  The start of the abstract:
In the last generation, American parenting norms have shifted strongly in favor of Intensive Parenting, placing particular emphasis on protecting children from risks of harm. Recently, a backlash to this trend has emerged. “Free Range” parenting is based on the concern that coddling children through overprotection inhibits the development of their independence and responsibility. Indeed, a growing body of literature suggests that parental overreaction to remote and even illusory risks of physical harm is exposing children to far more serious risks to their well-being and development. Consequently, individuals who do not buy into Intensive Parenting norms, including those from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, may be subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution for child neglect and endangerment.
La Ballona Creek seen from the Baldwin Hills
File this article away to read at leisure (It's 58 pages long, and written it the typically turgid academic style). Having witnessed the growth of this style of parenting (and indeed to having been a participant), this is quite interesting to me.  I cherish the memories of my youth when I was allowed to roam essentially at will when I was not in school or church, at least while the sun was up (and at least a while into the dark).  At age 6 or so, I was exploring the local drainage creek (La Ballona Creek), catching mosquito fish and tadpoles, looking for coins and other treasures washed off the landscape.  Did I get into trouble?  You bet!  Was it part of my formative history?  You bet!  I think it's sad that kids these days are not allowed their own experiences.

On second thought, my best guess is that this is largely a phenomenon of the urban and suburban middle and upper classes, and that, in fact, free range parenting is still largely practiced among the lower socioeconomic classes in the United States.  I recall sampling trips into to the Anacostia area of Washington D.C. on school days, and being appalled by the number of kids roaming the streets, clearly beyond supervision of parents and school.Unfortunately, in their environments, these kids are unlikely to learn useful skills and are more apt to learn undesirable things and fall into violence and crime.

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