Good news, moms and dads! We really are becoming better parents. Debates rage on the finer points of breast vs. bottle, cosleeping vs. cribs and what preschool best prepares our little ones for their Harvard admissions interview.
But overall, this generation of American parents is getting the most important things right. Child abuse is down. Way down.
Crimes against children have been on a downward trend for 15 years. New data released by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire show that child abuse in all forms continues to decline nationwide, in spite of the recession.
Typically, times of economic strain are seen as high-risk periods for domestic abuse. Economic instability at home can lead to depression, marital strife and lack of food or resources. As the stress flows downhill, parents are more likely to lash out at their kids.
Researchers at UNH are cautiously optimistic at the continued drop in abuse cases. While they warn that economic strain may simply take more than one year to cause a spike in abuse and neglect cases, the steady fall is a sign of hope.
Possibly, they say, it’s a sign that a generation’s worth of public service education about child abuse prevention and reporting has paid off. Maybe we really are just better at caring for and protecting kids now than in the past. Sustained declines in child abuse cases during times of real social stress suggest the message is getting through. It may well be that parents today manage their anger, frustration and stress in ways that are less harmful to the kids.
That’s great news for our children.