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U.S. Children Experiencing Less Violence

School shootings, bullying make the headlines, but they're the exception, expert says

TUESDAY, April 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer American children have been exposed to violent acts such as assault, bullying, sexual victimization, and emotional abuse since 2003, according to a study published online April 28 in JAMA Pediatrics.

David Finkelhor, Ph.D., from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and colleagues collected data from three national telephone surveys of children and parents on children's exposure to violence in 2003, 2008, and 2011. Of the 50 specific types of violent and criminal acts that the investigators considered, 27 significantly declined and none significantly increased between 2003 and 2011.

Specifically, since 2003, the researchers found that assaults declined by 33 percent, physical intimidation and emotional victimization dropped by a third, sexual victimization declined by 25 percent, and emotional abuse fell by 26 percent. However, between 2003 and 2011, the amount of physical abuse suffered by children hasn't changed. The rate of violent delinquency was cut almost in half as was the rate of destruction of property. The rate at which children witnessed violence also dropped.

"It is easy to conclude from media coverage that things are getting worse," Finkelhor told HealthDay. Abductions, family homicides, and bullying suicides, however, need to be framed in the context that overall safety for children has increased. Finkelhor believes that these declines in violence are the result of prevention programs, new policing techniques, mental health treatment for aggressive behavior (specifically medication), and parenting education programs.

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