Advice From Parents Like You: Choose a Community that Values Children

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Despite a majority of U.S. parents believing their neighborhoods are excellent or very good places to raise children, a recent Pew Research Center survey revealed 14% of parents gave a fair or poor rating to their community. These same parents expressed higher levels of worry for the well-being of their children, highlighting the importance of making sure all children can grow up in supportive, nurturing environments. It is essential that communities work together to ensure a positive quality of life and safety for families so that all kids can thrive.

In many areas, parental worries about their children being affected by gun violence have risen as parents of school-aged children worry about their safety. The impact of a neighborhood’s environment significantly affects how worried these parents are; 46% of parents who rate their neighborhood as fair or poor indicate extreme or very high levels of concern regarding the likelihood of their child getting shot, compared to just 18% of those living in good, very good or excellent areas.

Similarly, when it comes to K-12 schools, the numbers are even more skewed: 53% living in lower-rated areas express extreme or very high levels of worry over a shooting situation occurring at their child’s school compared with 28% living in better-rated neighborhoods. Worrying about gun violence and its effects is quickly becoming an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Parental Perception and Physical Dangers

Every parent wants what’s best for their children, and that means a safe environment in which to grow up. But the research has shown that a community’s perceived safety may have even more of an effect on parental worries than the actual physical dangers that exist. Let’s take a look at the data to better understand this relationship.

The Data Showing Relationship Between Perceived and Actual Safety

The research showed that 44% of parents who rate their community more negatively are also more likely to be worried about other physical dangers facing their kids. This is far higher than the share of parents who say they live in a good, very good, or excellent place to raise their children. This statistic suggests that how parents view their area can have just as much of an effect on how concerned they are for their children’s safety as any actual physical danger.

What Factors Affect Parental Perception?

So, what factors affect parental perception? It could be anything from crime rates or employment opportunities in the area to the quality of schools or even friends and family living nearby providing support systems. Parents rely on all kinds of information when forming opinions about the places where they live, so it’s important for them to stay informed when making decisions about where to settle down with their families.

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– Protect Your Child’s Mental Health During Turbulent Times

Parents who don’t feel their neighborhoods are particularly supportive have a greater level of anxiety regarding their children’s mental health. According to research, these ‘non-supportive neighborhoods’ pose the strongest risk for mental illness due to a lack of community support and oversight. Consequently, it is unsurprising that 51% of parents who rate their area as fair or poor expressed higher levels of concern over their kids’ potential struggle with anxiety or depression and/or being bullied, compared to 38% and 33%, respectively, from more positively rated locales. While further research is needed concerning how this data might impact areas across the country, one conclusion should be immediately obvious: those living in these areas must take proactive steps to develop a stronger sense of community involvement if they wish to prevent a potentially catastrophic future for our youth.

– Tap Into the Power of K-12 Education for Your Family

Parents of school-aged children typically make decisions based on the effects it has on their future. It appears that the quality of life in one’s neighborhood is inextricably tied to how satisfied they are with the education their children receive. The data suggests that parents who rate their neighborhood as being only fair or poor are far less likely to be extremely or very satisfied (38% compared with 60%). This discrepancy indicates that neighborhoods can have a significant bearing on the quality of education parents feel their children receive, and points towards an issue that needs greater attention from educators, advocates, and communities alike.

Improve Your Child’s Mental Health: Learn How Their Neighborhood Affects Them

Additionally, research from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University has illustrated a possible connection between mental health issues in children and their environment. The results have shown that those kids that live in communities deemed “non-supportive,” meaning no help or protection is present to keep everyone safe, have a higher likelihood of developing mental health disorders. This reveals the importance of understanding how living circumstances can greatly affect our mental well-being, leading researchers to conclude that initiatives should be made at a neighborhood level in order to alleviate this mental health burden.

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Results from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health examined the mental health conditions and adverse childhood experiences of 65,680 American children aged 6 to 17. The nationwide telephone survey assessed more than just the child’s mental health, however – it also addressed neighborhood amenities (e.g. playgrounds and libraries), detracting elements (e.g. rundown housing and excess litter), neighborhood support (i.e., helping each other and watching each other’s children) as well as perceptions of safety in their neighborhoods and schools. This holistic assessment of American children’s upbringing sets an important precedent for future studies looking at the well-being of young people growing up in a district or city, providing important data to inform decisions about where to focus critical resources for protecting vulnerable members in a community.

The publication of the study, “Association between neighborhood conditions and mental disorders among children in the US: Evidence from the National Survey of Children’s Health 2011/12”, presented in Psychiatry Journal, showcased the combined effort of Sushma Dahal (MPH ’17), a consultant with Nepal Health Research Council, and co-authors Dr. Monica Swahn and Dr. Matthew Hayat of Georgia State. This study found compelling evidence that mental health issues among children are linked to their neighborhoods’ conditions as well as economic disadvantages. As this study contributes greatly to our understanding of child mental health, it is exemplary of how an individual background can be combined with a greater research effort to make lasting change for those involved.

The prevalence of mental health disorders is sadly quite high among children and adolescents, with nearly 9,000 of the children studied having one form or another. It can be tough to recognize warning signs of these conditions, particularly in younger kids, but understanding what’s normal versus abnormal behavior will ultimately help parents identify if something is wrong with their child. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral or conduct problems, anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder are the five most common mental health disorders found among minors; however, this study questions traditional theories by suggesting that living in a supportive environment may not contribute to lower prevalence rates. In fact, 18 percent of children living in non-supportive areas had a diagnosable disorder as opposed to 13 percent of those living in positive conditions. This was unexpected as research has previously shown fewer neighborhood amenities are associated with increased cases of anxiety and depression.

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Results from the study have illuminated the connection between adverse childhood experiences, parental mental health, and mental health disorders in children. An alarming number of those studied revealed that those who had experienced five to nine traumatic events were almost five times as likely to have a mental health condition; this number is far too high when one considers how many chances a child should be given to developing without distractions or setbacks. Furthermore, the children whose mothers had fair or poor mental health were more than twice as likely to have such a disorder than those with moms whose mental health was rated good to excellent. Acknowledging the wide-reaching impact of adverse experiences and parental well-being on our youth opens up conversations for ways we can better support them in the future.

Discover the Real Danger Factors Facing Your Kids

It’s clear from the research that there is a strong link between how parents perceive their communities and how worried they are about the physical dangers facing their kids. Although some physical dangers (such as violent crime) have little correlation with whether or not parents rate their communities positively, there are still plenty of factors that could influence parental perception – such as access to quality education, job opportunities, and access to support systems like friends and family nearby – which can help reduce worry among parents regarding physical harms facing their children. By staying informed about these factors, parents can make more informed decisions when it comes to deciding where they want to raise their families.

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This article is intended for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as advice, guidance or counsel. It is provided without warranty of any kind.