Too often, youth who most need access to medical care, counseling, and social support are the ones least likely to receive it. There is no single way to change this trend, but the more insight we have into what kids are experiencing (or not experiencing) the better equipped we are to help parents and schools meet those needs. Two seemingly-unrelated studies published recently shed light on the experiences that children are encountering and what parents can do to help.
Victimization is a large problem. A study of youth aged 0-17 (and their parents, for the younger kids) found that 58.3% of children experienced some form of victimization in the past year. This included bullying or abuse by peers or siblings, conventional crime, maltreatment, indirect exposure to violence, and sexual abuse. These experiences can be quite emotionally harmful, especially in more traumatic or repetitive cases. Victims of abuse (be it physical, verbal, or sexual) can go on to become extremely depressed and anxious. If not addressed through therapy or counseling in youth, problems can become long-term mental patterns that persist well into adulthood. The bright side of this survey is that 50% of these victimization incidents were reported to police or school officials, as opposed to 25% in 1992. From here, the study’s authors recommend outreach and awareness campaigns to emphasize the importance of reporting victimization so that perpetrators can be addressed and so victims can get help.
On a more positive note, a parent education program for at-risk families has found considerable success increasing well-being for infants. The program emphasized verbal parent-child interactions, a type of social stimulation that the study’s authors say is less frequent among families with low socioeconomic status. This type of interaction occurs through play and shared reading, which prepares the kids for social interaction and for success in school. Healthy social skills and good academic performance buffer against negative experiences, such as victimization, effectively helping the child lead a more balanced, confident, and resilient life.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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