Paranoid parents

You know I’m a sucker for variations on the “myths and realities” theme.  I particularly enjoyed this NPR story about what parents are scared of versus what they should be scared of.  Not really all that many surprises, but interesting nonetheless.  Here’s the list:

Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:

  1. Kidnapping
  2. School snipers
  3. Terrorists
  4. Dangerous strangers
  5. Drugs

But how do children really get hurt or killed?

  1. Car accidents
  2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
  3. Abuse
  4. Suicide
  5. Drowning

I think the first 4 fears could basically be summed up as “fear a bad person who is a stranger is going to hurt your child.”  Why such a prevalent fear?  Seems pretty obvious… A kid harmed by a sniper or “dangerous stranger” gets all over the news; the kid who drowns or commits suicide– not so much.   I wonder if parents with attractive, white daughters are more afraid of a stranger kidnapping or murder, as they are the ones who get wall-to-wall coverage on cable news.   I think it’s also similar to the idea that most people are much more afraid of plane crashes than car crashes.

Personally, when I start to worry about any stranger danger in regards to my own kids, I remind myself that in the 10+ years I’ve been a parent, there’s never been a story about a stranger murder or kidnapping in the local area (i.e., media market) where I live.  The simple truth is my kids are surely at much more risk from me driving them to a park, than from some bad person harming them when I turn my back for a minute at the park.  Of course, though, I actually need to remind myself of that fact.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Paranoid parents

  1. Kim says:

    My biggest fears involve cars: 1) one of my kids running out in the street in front of a car and 2) when they are older, them driving or riding in the car with other teenagers. I think mine are more realistic — what do you think?

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