Monday, May 05, 2003

The State of Parental (childhood) Angst

In a Washington Post book review, Reason's Editor-n-Chief, Nick Gillespie, looks at two recent books on the state of childhood and parenting and all the anxiety that entails.

The next time you start to worry about today's kids, hit the pause button the "Girls Gone Wild" video, turn down the Eminem CD and consider the following:

They have sex less than they used to, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation, with the percentage of high schoolers who have had intercourse declining from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001. The federally funded Monitoring the Future Study informs us that 12th graders are using fewer drugs than they did 25 years ago. Among the Class of 2002, 25.4 percent said they'd used an "illicit" drug in the previous 30 days, an accepted measure of casual use. While that figure is up a bit from lows reached in the early '90s, it's still far smaller than the 37.2 percent reported by those now middle-aged stoners in the classes of 1979 and 1980. They're less prone to violent crime, too, with rates for non-homicide offenses well below early '90s peaks. As Mike Males, a researcher for the Justice Policy Institute has shown, between the early '70s and 2000, the juvenile homicide arrest rate per 100,000 youths ages 10 to 17 dropped 46 percent.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids today are more likely to go on to college, with about 63 percent of graduating seniors enrolling in some form of post-secondary education, up more than 10 percent from three decades back. While the poverty rate for children under 18 has ranged around 16 percent for the past 30 years, there's every reason to believe that the overwhelming majority of kids are doing better than ever.

Yet we still worry about them, don't we? The Abandoned Generation, by Henry A. Giroux, and Raising America, by Ann Hulbert, deal with different aspects of child-related anxiety.

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