As Crime Rates Continue Their Twenty-Year Decline, “Helicopter” Parenting Persists

led to a general erosion of trust and a desire to exert more control. Others opine that economic and social pressures require parents to be more involved in their children’s lives.

But perhaps the most common theory is that over-parenting is related to the 24-hour alarmist news cycle. The constant bombardment by the media of horrific crimes, abductions, rapes and other atrocities can lead people to perceive that crime is actually much higher than it is.

A 2014 Gallup poll noted that “[b]ecause Americans are more pessimistic about crime in the U.S. as a whole as opposed to their own localities, this could suggest that many base their views on what they hear about crimes that take place outside of their own hometowns. Some argue that consumption of news media plays a role in this by exposing Americans to crimes that they may perceive as more widespread than actually is the case.”

In fact, crime rates in general have fallen precipitously since their peak in the mid-1990s and are currently the lowest they have been since the late 1960s. Murder, rape, robbery and assault rates are all down. And the most recent federal data show that the number of children abducted by strangers in the “stereotypical” kidnapping situation is approximately 115 per year. (In reality, most abductions are by family members.) As Skenazy writes on her blog, “When spread across all the children in the United States, this means that my son, statistically speaking, would have to stand on the street corner alone for upwards of 600,000 years in order to be abducted.”

Yet, despite the data, close to 70 percent of Americans believe that crime has gotten worse.

While harm to children from crime is on the statistical wane, over-protective parents may be harming their children in less overt ways. Studies report that these overparented children are “more fearful” and have “increased levels of psychopathology,” decreased motor development, decreased constructive problem solving, creativity and critical thinking skills, and difficulty coping in the world after leaving the home.

Thus, paradoxically, American parents’ desire to keep their children safe from harm may actually do the opposite.

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