Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Judgment of parents makes us scared to leave kids alone

Despite the occasional scare headlines of kidnappings and snatches, kids are safer than ever--yet many parents refuse to let them walk six blocks home from school or take a subway.

As kids, in the Wayback, we ran free as feral cats from after school until dinner.

A University of California Irvine study shows that we are now reluctant to let kids stretch their wings because this has become socially unacceptable.

In other words, said the author of the study, we have exaggerated the danger kids are in to justify our moral disapproval we feel for parents who violate this new norm.

As published in Collabra, the survey-based study showed that children whose parents left them alone on purpose--to work, help out a charity, relax, or meet a lover--were perceived to be in greater danger than kids whose parents were involuntarily separated from them,

 They set up five scenarios--from a 10-month-old child left asleep for 15 mins in a cool car in a gym underground garage to an 8-year-old reading a book in a coffee shop a block from home.

For each scenario, the reason for the parent's absence was controlling. One was an involuntary absence--mom hit by a car. The others were voluntary--work, charity, relaxing, meeting a lover.

Then they participants were asked how much danger the child was in--from 1-10.

Overall, they thought all the scenarios were quite dangerous--6.99 on average.

Those left alone on purpose were judged in more danger. This, despite the fact that the child left alone on purpose was probably in less danger because the parent probably took steps to give the child a phone or go over safety rules.

The parent meeting the lover was thought to have put the child in worse danger than the one who went to work.

In other words, moral judgments entered in to jack up the perception of risk.

The researchers said, at very least, those who enforce the law should not let this bias creep into the situation and invest it with the force of law.

Food for thought, anyway.

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