When was the last time you heard good news about violence? Can’t remember? Researchers have some surprising, feel-good news today: Fewer and fewer kids are exposed to violence, according to a study published in the most recent JAMA Pediatrics.
Over the course of three surveys between 2003 and 2011 reaching 10,183 kids between the ages of 2 and 17, researchers found declines in 27 areas of violence — and stagnancy in the rest.
The researchers looked at a wide variety of violence, from assaults with weapons to bullying to sexual abuse. Even when controlled for demographic shifts, declines were especially significant for rates of physical assault, physical intimidation and sexual victimization. The researchers were surprised to note that violence continued going down or staying the same during the recession — previous research has pointed to an uptick in violence during times of economic hardship.
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What might cause a drop in violence among children? It’s hard to say, although the researchers have some ideas.
“Disentangling all the variables associated with declining violence trends is a daunting task,” John R. Lutzker, Ph.D., and colleagues at Georgia State University in Atlanta, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “What matters is that the declining trends have been so durable. Essentially, through the variety of concerted efforts, we are ‘throwing the book’ at these problems, and something seems to be working.”
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Apart from concerted efforts and programming, researchers noted that the use of psychiatric medication among youth and adults has increased, as has time spent using electronic technology.
Kids “may also be doing more of their risk taking and independence testing online, which may provide some safeguards against immediate physical exposure to violence,” the authors wrote. “The engrossing quality of the Internet may also have undercut some of the boredom and alienation among youth that have in the past been associated with delinquency and criminal pursuits.”