Monday, June 11, 2007

Plummeting Rates Of Crime Against Children

Some positive news for a change. Today's Wall Street Journal has an op-ed piece by Harvard psychology professor Richard J. McNally that discusses a welcome trend that perhaps cuts against conventional wisdom. According to McNally, since the 1990s, violent crime against children and adolescents has sharply declined. For example, since 1993, the juvenile homicide rate dropped by 50%, with an even steeper decline for children between the ages of 14 and 17.

Professor McNally attributes this trend to a constellation of factors:

For one thing, more criminals are behind bars, and more police officers are on the streets. Also, there are more social workers, child-welfare advocates and others dedicated to improving the lives of children than there were 15 years ago. Increased funding for programs designed to curb domestic violence likely played a role, and heightened public awareness about sexual abuse would have made it harder for perpetrators to elude detection.

Psychiatric medications have also played a role in the safety trend. Family physicians now prescribe more medication for psychiatric and behavioral problems, thereby alleviating child maltreatment indirectly. A hyperactive child receiving Ritalin is less likely to be impulsive and get in harm's way. Meanwhile, depressed, irritable adults taking Prozac may be less likely to strike their children. Finally, increasing prosperity during the 1990s brightened the prospects of many people, easing family tensions and reducing problems for kids.

I suspect that Mike will take heart from McNally's emphasis on the positive role played by psychiatric medication.

1 comment:

JSN said...

Between 1993 and 1999 the number of juvenile homicides did decline but since then the decline is hardly noticeable. Some of the other crimes with juvenile victims also declined at about the same time.

"Plummeting Rates of Crime Against Children" what hogwash the WSJ editors should be ashamed of themselves. A quick look the paper they reviewed suggests that it is a solid piece of research but the reporters obviously were not interested in facts.