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Old 23 August 2016, 09:49 AM
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Default Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived But Unreal Risk?

But consider: How much risk was there of some harm coming to the child while the parents were gone? And, more importantly, would you feel differently about this risk if the circumstances were otherwise the same, but the parents had left the child unattended by accident, or to go to work? In other words, would decreasing the moral outrage one feels toward the parents decrease the perception of risk to the child?

http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/201...ntent=20160822

And here is the journal article summarizing the research:

http://www.collabra.org/articles/10.1525/collabra.33/

I read the NPR article, don't have time for the other right now. But I have emailed myself a link so I can read it at work. This is fascinating and very pertinent to what I do. I am especially intrigued by how this interacts with the sex of the parent and would like to see more about that. I would also speculate that there would be differences based on sex of the child, and would like to see that explored.
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Old 23 August 2016, 12:04 PM
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wanderwoman, I was thinking of posting that article myself, but hadn't gotten around to it. Thanks for doing so.

It's easy for me, who has no children, to hold opinions about child raising, of course. But it does seem to me that many people have gone way overboard on this issue. And it also seems unlikely to me that people can magically, at 16 or 18 or 21, be able to take care of themselves unsupervised if they got no practice at younger ages.

I also wonder about damage done to those children who need time by themselves to think, or just to not have to deal with others continuously. Some people do well in constant company, and seem to crave it. Other people badly need alone time. Some of the people in the latter category are children.
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Old 23 August 2016, 01:39 PM
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I think along those lines anytime I see TV shows or magazines or whatever stressing the "open concept" house and having people talking about the vital necessity of always having your children in "line of sight". I get the concern with an infant or toddler but do these people genuinely believe that a 6 or 8 or 10 year old should never be out of their sight? Should never have a private moment unless they're in bed? I can only imagine that builders, one day, or going to make a fortune knocking up walls when today's parents become the parents of teenagers.

With regard to the article:
Quote:
It seems to be socially acceptable to harass parents (particularly mothers) who are "caught" leaving their child unattended for any time at all.
It's also socially acceptable to harass parents, almost invariably IME mothers, for doing just about anything that the viewer feels is wrong. Including the sin of allowing a baby to cry in public .

Last edited by Sue; 23 August 2016 at 01:56 PM.
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Old 23 August 2016, 01:45 PM
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It reminds me of a passage in The First Four Years where Laura and Almanzo decide to go horseback riding, leave a sleeping Rose home alone(I believe at one point, they swing back to peer in the window to check on her), and I remember sarcastically thinking "Call the Little CPS on the Prairie!"
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Old 23 August 2016, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue View Post
It's also socially acceptable to harass parents, almost invariably IME mothers, for doing just about anything that the viewer feels is wrong. Including the sin of allowing a baby to cry in public .
It's codified in some places. Just last year there was a flurry of articles where parents were charged for letting their children play unattended at a park, or walk a half mile home from school or sit in a McDonald's.

When the establishment is involved in the situation, it definitely becomes socially acceptable**.

**see the calling out stolen valor phenomenon when it comes to calling out actual veterans for proof. Just another example where it has become normal to do so.
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Old 23 August 2016, 02:57 PM
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I'm a little torn on the subject of leaving youngsters unattended in places like stores or libraries. I don't think it's because there is any great, or even small risk to the child, but I do think in many cases parents are using the staff in these places as unpaid babysitters. Certainly we had parents out and out tell us this (worded differently of course) when they would leave their children at the public library while they left and went about their business. Would it have bothered me less if they were going to work as opposed to going shopping or having a coffee sans enfant? I don't think so but the OP is certainly giving me food for thought!
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Old 23 August 2016, 03:02 PM
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There is definitely a difference between leaving a child in a place in lieu of a babysitter and having a child go to a place that is for children. Going to a park is different than going to a library in many ways.

And, as a librarian, you would have much better perspective on children being left alone.
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Old 23 August 2016, 05:23 PM
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I am getting reacquainted with raising children by doing so with my god-children. They are 3 and 5 and if I were to leave them for even 5 minutes, they are liable to either get into something and cause damages or hurt themselves. I know this from experience. They aren't rotten kids, but my house isn't child proofed either.

I think older kids should be given a lot more leeway and children should be eased into independence. As an example, the 5 year old will walk down the street, about five houses down, to his grand parents house. He's also been around the block, with a walkie talkie.

I am a big believer in privacy and solitude. I would go crazy if I had to be around people all the time.
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Old 23 August 2016, 08:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue View Post
I think along those lines anytime I see TV shows or magazines or whatever stressing the "open concept" house and having people talking about the vital necessity of always having your children in "line of sight".
I saw a woman on Love It or List It who resisted the idea of moving to a larger house from their (IMO) obviously overcrowded one, because she didn't like the idea of various family members going off to their own spaces to do things. She preferred the small house because "everyone's always together!" Um, yeah, they have no choice.
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Old 23 August 2016, 09:36 PM
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It's my impression that the local libraries encourage children to hang out there after school; possibly in the hope of forming a habit that continues into adulthood, possibly under the impression that it may be the best place for some of them to work on their schoolwork. But this is older children than most of those in the study examples -- it's generally middle school and high schoolers I see there without parents, at least that's what it looks like to me. I think there may be a policy of 'please don't leave children under the age of x unattended', but if so I don't know what age x is. -- one library's list of events for children (and they have a lot of them) specified on the events for children up to 8 "with a caregiver" but didn't mention that in listings for events for children 8 and older, for what that's worth.

The child I'd have been most concerned about in the study examples was the two and a half year old left alone at home with a snack watching a video -- not on the grounds that there's anything hazardous about that in itself, but on the grounds that two and a half is old enough to get into just about everything but too young to understand danger. However, I also didn't think enough information was given, at least in the study description, to really judge -- could the child get out of the room? out of the house? out into traffic? was anything in there that could fall over if climbed? were the electric outlets plugged? etcetera.

Plus which, I really don't understand how, as a sheer practical matter, parents can be expected to have a child of any age continuously in their conscious field of view every minute. Are parents expected never to sleep at the same time -- let alone have sex together -- until their first child is sixteen? What if there's only one parent -- is that person expected never to sleep at all? What if there's more than one child, and they run off in more than one direction? How is anything else supposed to get done around the house? Is the parent on duty never to read, or watch a video themselves, or cook supper, or answer the door, or feed the dog, or vacuum the house? Must all the children -- including the pubertal ones -- come into the bathroom with the parent, every time anyone in the family needs to use it?

So even if a parent is in the house, the child's not going to be continuously watched; except maybe in families rich enough to afford multiple nannies working in shifts.
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Old 23 August 2016, 09:49 PM
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I was so torn when my oldest started riding the bus in first grade. If I meet her at the bus do I wake up baby brother or leave him home. Would letting her walk up the street, a quiet cul-de-sac, past maybe 10 houses be better and/or safer. Often I would stand half way down the street, still within baby monitor range and try to see the bus stop.
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Old 24 August 2016, 12:09 AM
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What bothers me are the kids who rarely set foot outside and get driven from doorstep to doorstep. I'm well aware that many communities are planned that way, but it still blows my mind when people treat walking with kids (or letting them walk alone) as abuse. I'll try to find it, but I seem to remember reading that many children couldn't recognize features of their own neighbourhood because they only saw it through car windows.

I have a friend who lives in the inner city (which is a high income zone here), and has gotten into arguments about depriving her kids of a suburban lawn. They have amazing parks and public spaces within easy walking distance, and she's teaching her 7-year-old how to navigate the cycle tracks downtown on weekends when traffic is lighter.

So much of it depends a lot on the kid, too. I was an independent kid who liked alone time and followed rules. By the time I was nine, I'd walk to the library, pool, park, school, and anywhere else I wanted by myself. One of my favourite outings was to have my mom drop me off at the downtown library where I'd read for hours (I was a big reader and loved the library, so it wasn't just babysitting), then I'd leave and buy myself a hot chocolate from the local diner (feeling so mature), and meet my dad's city bus to go home with him. I have a feeling that would raise some eyebrows today.
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Old 24 August 2016, 03:23 AM
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The closest library would mean crossing a busy overpass over an even bigger interstate. Not gonna happen. In the town where I grew up the library was walkable. I would have similar adventures. There just isn't much to walk to around here expect my mom's house and a couple friends. (We do have an awesome little forest where they climb trees and build club houses and explore.)

Anyway, I decided to let the 10 year old walk to her friend's place today. At the bottom of our street she just had to cross one street and go into a condo complex. When I went to pick her up for dinner she ran off with her friend and I had to get the friend's sister to help find them. So grounded. But I am considering eventually letting her have use of a phone because it was really frustrating to not be able to reach her.
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Old 24 August 2016, 04:41 AM
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I think in most places people aren't even aware that there are such places where kids are allowed to be kids and play in the park by themselves all day, ride on the train or subway by themselves from their first year of elementary school, places where older boys and girls can take take public transportation or walk alone late at night, etc.
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Old 24 August 2016, 06:17 AM
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I have to say, the research article in the OP seems to be founded on a few faulty premises, and seems to have a pretty strong "free range kids" bias.

First, it sets up the straw man that the only risk people are concerned about when they see unsupervised kids walking alone is stranger abduction. (And when the article quantifies that risk, it makes it very tiny indeed with a very restrictive definition). And it contrasts that strawman with the much larger risk of being killed in a car accident. But it ignores that there is, of course, a significant risk of being injured or killed as a pedestrian, and that for children that risk is much higher when there is no adult supervision. Cite: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3467946/. As this article mentions, pedestrian fatalities are the 3rd most common cause of injury-related death among children (I think 4 to 14?). And I suspect there is a bigger exposure to being a vehicle passenger than a pedestrian.

The article I cited goes through a lot of data about developmental factors that translate into pedestrian risk vs safety. It also mentions that parents usually overestimate their child's pedestrian safety abilities. Similarly, I don't think anyone thinks a small child is at great risk of harm from sitting alone in front of a TV. The issue is that a small child, completely unsupervised, can get into dangerous situations, and also will be unable to handle many unexpected dangers.

I may be wrong, but I recall some of the cases called out as examples in the article (like the Harrell case) being discussed in terms of the risks of walking through heavily trafficked areas, and in the other case, questions about whether a 9 or 10 year old can adequately supervise a 6 year old, and what would happen in an emergency, not an outcry over stranger danger.

I also wonder whether, at least for some people, the risk estimate was not just being influenced by the moral judgment, but also by an assessment of the person's relative prioritization of their child's safety. In other words, if you would leave your child alone in a car to have a trust, that child is at an absolute greater risk, because a parent who would do that might make other risky choices where their gratification is placed ahead of child safety.

I may have more to add later, but I need to get some sleep.

Last edited by erwins; 24 August 2016 at 06:41 AM.
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Old 24 August 2016, 06:52 AM
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Sorry for the second post, but I missed the edit window.

Finally, maybe this is not borne out by the risks people listed in that version of the experiment, but any scenario involving leaving a young kid in a car would get a high risk assessment from me. Weather can change, a parent can get distracted and forget to pay attention to the time, and kids who are big enough can shift a car into neutral or get out of the car and wander off, or be alone in a parking lot. It is an unreasonable risk in my view, until a kid is older.
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Old 24 August 2016, 10:03 AM
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I agree with your criticisms of this article and I think you stated them well. I think the general topic of conflating safety with morality is a valid question, and deserves to be looked at by somebody who does not have the obvious "free range kid" bias that these researchers clearly have. The research findings are interesting and I think they get at something important, but the discussion of the issues needs work.
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Old 24 August 2016, 10:22 AM
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I don't see that their supposed bias affected the way the experiment was set up or its results greatly. The purpose of the experiment is to see whether people's ratings of risk were affected by their feelings of morality in the situation. erwins, you seem to be suggesting that perhaps the respondents misunderstood the question and rated the risk for the child in general rather than for the specific situation, which was described in exactly the same way except for the extenuating circumstances. There's no ambiguity to the wording in the questions that I can see so...

I'm failing to see where any bias of the researchers would enter. That's not to say that it couldn't, of course; Maybe I'm missing something.
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Old 24 August 2016, 11:29 AM
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I thought erwins explained it well, particularly this part:

Quote:
I also wonder whether, at least for some people, the risk estimate was not just being influenced by the moral judgment, but also by an assessment of the person's relative prioritization of their child's safety. In other words, if you would leave your child alone in a car to have a trust, that child is at an absolute greater risk, because a parent who would do that might make other risky choices where their gratification is placed ahead of child safety.
Of course she meant "tryst" rather than "trust", but the point is valid. There's a difference between assessing a higher risk for moral reasons and doing so because you believe the decision speaks to the parent's overall judgement. I would assess a lower overall risk to the child if a parent is aware that there is a risk in leaving the child unsupervised and does so unintentionally, for instance because they experience a medical issue or an accident, vs a parent who minimizes the risks to pursue their own self-interest. Or even in a situation in which the parent must go to work or they will lose their job, and they can't find child care. Of course, I would also look at what the parent did to manage the risk and keep the unsupervised time to a minimum.
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Old 24 August 2016, 11:41 AM
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But the question was not about the parent's judgement or risk outside of the situation described. It was "what is the risk of some harm coming to the child during the time that the parent is gone?" Unless they misunderstood the question, what does "person's relative prioritization of their child's safety" have to do with it?
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