Parents Fear Abductions More than Kids’ Actual Health

Hi Readers — Here’s a study done in England that says 30% of parents fear for their kids being kidnapped — a 1 in 1 million chance — versus the tiny number (1 in 20) who fear “severe health problems” for their kids in the future, brought on by a sedentary and possibly overweight life. A life that begins in childhood, with the kids driven to school and stowed indoors the rest of the time, out of…fear.  The article says those “severe health problems” have a 1 in 3 chance of occurring.

Slightly off-kilter fears, wouldn’t you say? — Lenore

39 Responses

  1. More proof that we’ve lost all perspective…

  2. It is, and has always been, easier to worry about acute rather than chronic events.

  3. Humans are pretty irrational when it comes to statistics. See the number of people who are afraid to fly versus those who are afraid to get into a car each day.

  4. Did you catch the story this AM on The Today Show about the 12 year old girl who called 911 when intruders entered her house? Not ONE comment on “why was she left alone?!” but instead praise for the girl and the 911 operator. I watched it with my 9 year old and it gave us an opportunity to talk about the correct use of 911.

  5. @Layne: Sadly though, if something had happened to the girl, THAT would have been the issue. People are like that, they hear what they want to hear, quick to judge, and jump on the bandwagon. If there are enough people talking about how peanut butter can cure any type of cancer, I guarantee you sales of peanut butter would sky rocket. This is the mentality of America these days.

  6. It’s a bit of a funny question, though. I think people might be confusing ‘worry about’ with ‘what’s more scary’. Of course abduction is scarier than obesity, ergo a parent may well reckon they worry more about the former than the latter.

    I’m an aspirant freerange parent, and I’m honestly not sure how I’d answer that question. I know it’s highly unlikely my child will be abducted, but doubtless the outcomes of abduction would be worse than being obese. So I might conclude I’m more worried about abduction than obesity, though I don’t waste much energy on either.

  7. I’d like to see a poll on: What do you fear more? Something actually happening to your kids, or someone calling CPS because something could possibly happen to your kids?

  8. Perceived risk dominates actual risk -that’s not new. What’s different is people no longer want to be told what the actual risk is. I teach an environmental class and we discuss this and so many of my students don’t care what “experts” say – they think that the science in determining risk is flawed and cannot be trusted.

  9. @Wendy: Amen!!

    Anecdotally, I’d say it’s true!! “I could never forgive myself if something*bad* happened to my child, but silly me if they die in a car wreck” I just shake my head.

  10. That’s a good point, Claudia. The thought of a child becoming seriously ill is disturbing, but doesn’t give you those chills and feelings in the pit of your stomach that the thought of their being violently harmed does. Whether that’s rational or not, it’s human nature. So it depends on whether people are answering the (perceived) question, “What do you think is a greater thing to be feared,” or “What idea is scarier?” The question would have to be very carefully worded to make that distinction unambiguously enough to be sure of what a parent is thinking in the response, and from the article, we can’t even tell how it was worded. I’m doubtful that it was that explicit, though.

  11. The other thing is that most of the severe health issues that 1 in 3 “children” will experience will manifest when they aren’t “your babies” anymore. This is especially true if it’s obesity-related — a morbidly obese 12 year old is not healthy, but generally you’re not getting the horrific symptoms or diagnoses yet (though there are exceptions.) So if a person understands the question as, “What upsets you more, the thought that your kid might have a heart attack when he’s 60 (or even develop diabetes at 35), or the thought that he might be snatched off the street, violently misused, and left for dead while still a child,” the question answers itself.

  12. I’d say priorities need to be examined.

  13. Claudia and Pentamom, I totally agree. It’s just a really, really stupid question: “Would you rather have your kids be abducted and killed, or be fat?” By the way, as active as my kids are, they are still overweight. While I’m trying to turn that around, I still refuse to worry obsessively about it.

  14. There has to be some psychology at play with this reversal of priorities or potentially the media exposure associated with child kidnappings is causing this undue fear. It is unfortunate that proper childhood nutrition and exercise aren’t getting the this same level of exposure. However, as one other poster already stated, as a chronic concern, it would not be “news worthy”

  15. The problem should really be phrased as a cause an effect, or cost benefit question: would you take actions that would double the likelihood that cause your child to be obese in exchange for reducing the risk by half that s/he will be abducted? And follow that up with the starting probabilities are 1 in 3 and in a million. That might require some ‘splaining, but when asked in that way there is the possibility of teaching.

    Worrying about something or being scared of something is an emotional response to a thought. If those emotions affect our actions, those actions have consequences. And those actions are what really matter.

  16. You have choices in food meals in the longer term prospects will affect your health than what you take. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, etc. .. Eat foods rich in fiber. Eat foods rich in calcium and iron and eat foods with less salt and fat.

  17. Not a surprise when you look into the huge number of cameras England has been putting up to keep an eye on, well, whatever they feel like, really.

  18. I’m definitely more concerned about my child’s health than about him being kidnapped. I guess it’s just that losing a child completely is worse than them getting sick. We do need perspective, though.

  19. I’m so glad for this blog. I realize that a lot of my over-parenting is based out of fear of judgement from other parents because I’m going against the norms in our culture. I always remind them of the freedoms I had as a child and freedoms my parents experienced as children. I also mention that children are far more capable than we give them credit for. To really grow, they need more responsibility. We are infantilizing our children and then we wonder why they won’t move out after college. (they’re safer in our basements anyway – LOL) The long term consequences for this mass delusion will be very interesting to watch. Hopefully my kids will be the self-reliant innovators.
    Lenore, I want to see you give a TED talk on this!

  20. Mika says “I teach an environmental class and we discuss this and so many of my students don’t care what “experts” say – they think that the science in determining risk is flawed and cannot be trusted.”

    There was actually a study out a couple of years ago that determined that “gossip trumps truth.” We’re more inclined to believe stories than reality. Maybe it is because the reality is so mundane. That may also why people would believe an online blog slandering someone than read what the person they are attacking has to say. I experience that myself, as many people who go to my site discover it via the attack blogs.

    Oh, here’s a link to an article on that study.

  21. It’s true. I’ve done a market survey recently and the amount of money a parent is willing to spend on security and safety far exceeds what they are willing to spend on health and fitness. Colin

  22. @Derek: I’m willing to bet the reasoning behind it is that when you’re gossiping, there’s a lot more emotion behind it vs. simply repeating a fact. People will always pay more attention to you if you’re emphatic (“Did you hear that you can get poisoned and die if you eat out of a can that is puffed up?”) instead of logical (“There was a study done that shows that puffed up cans contain a bacteria called botulism – that’s why they puff”). It’s all in how you tell the tale. 😀

  23. 1 in 3 people have severe health problems? That seems rather high.

  24. i willing to spend on health and fitness.

  25. Severe health problems, at least in Australia, (well “chronic” health problems) include vision disorders and asthma.
    So, if you wear glasses or ever had a wheeze, you have a severe/chronic health problem.

    So, by those definitions, 1 in 3 might not be that high.
    (I think the stats we work on are 1 in 4, but would have to check)

  26. I confess to being a bit of a sceptic about the whole ‘obesity epidemic’ thing, one, in that I see no evidence of this significant proportion of obese children (I do note that in less affluent areas you see more of them, but nothing like, on sight, the proportion suggested by ‘research’ quoted in the media). Nor is being overweight or even obese a 100% certainty for serious ill-health, death before parents etc, except, presumably, in the case of morbid obesity, as the media puts over that it is. I suspect there is rising obesity, but screaming scary statistics doesn’t actually help.

    Insofar as there is an issue, I think a lot of the panic about what kids are eating is totally missing the point. Our parents’ generation would have had some very calorific diets – syrup, suet, fried dinners, and I’ll bet they didn’t get the feted ‘5 fruit/vegetables a day’. But the big difference is – they weren’t driven everywhere and they generally moved more. I think this is by far the greater health issue than food.

    It drives me nuts that when my kid goes to school, I’d be subject to an inquiry if I sent her with the packed lunch I had pretty consistently between the ages of 4-18 – a peanut butter sandwich, packet of crisps and two miniature chocolate bars (I am pretty healthy and not overweight – in fact I was consistently underweight for most of my childhood). Yet parents aren’t being questioned about whether they walk their kids to school, do they get exercise, etc. Nor should they be, but kids should not be getting the message from authorities that their parents don’t know how to feed them. And also the general unhealthiness of giving kids complexes about food – if they know chocolates are so ‘bad’ they’re ‘banned’ from lunchboxes, it only makes them more exciting.

    My best mate at primary school was overweight and his parents, guess what, totally banned sweets at home. So he just ate them everywhere else he could.

  27. Just today Yahoo featured this article that College Students lack empathy, that they are too focused on themselves and what they do.

    When children are solely raised in organized activities, sports/arts, they don’t get to hang out with peers that aren’t like them (or like their parents) and eventually cliques naturally rise while in high school.

    With free-range concepts children play with all types of kids with differing talents/abilities or children who have no talent/ability. That’s was me. When an eleven year old comes to an aid of another at the play ground, the eleven year old won’t be afraid to come fearing the other child’s social status. Children bond and care as neighbors, no matter who they may be. It becomes a natural response.

    So many high school student see helping others is doing a fundraiser drive, they’re arms reach away. Even a day out at the soup kitchen, seems to be more about making ‘them feel good’ that they helped the homeless rather then seeing a duty to help those in need. Even as I think back in high school/college going to a concert with social issue attach, really isn’t having empathy for a cause. It’s a side issue to see a band I like with friends.

  28. Totally agree with Claudia.

  29. As a freerange parent-in-training, I have a lot of room for improvement and I still worry about abduction. However, as my son gets older I worry about it less and less.

    Regarding health problems and obesity specifically, while I don’t worry about it (because my child is not overweight or obese), I am aware that obesity in childhood leaves those children with a greater chance of developing diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease when they reach adulthood, and those diseases are much more likely to lead to death or disability than their possible abduction as children.

    Through research and experience, I’ve learned that a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the best way to go. I recently read the China Study, which gives an eye-opening look at the benefits of a plant-based diet. So, with a free-range lifestyle, children will get plenty of activity and a whole-foods, plant-based diet will get them to eat healthy at the same time, which will give them a greater chance for happiness, health and longevity as adults. Isn’t that what we all want for our children, anyway?

  30. Please talk to my wife about this!! She harps on it constantly. Granted, we had one in our neighborhood. it is freighning.

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  34. If a child is abducted, the possibility to dead or missing very large. if ill, possibly to recover very large too. So natural that parents are more worried about the kidnapping.

  35. Disease is a silent abductor. Parents should know that.

  36. Children? inconvenience, but please take care of them. Health problems should not neglect. It is most important.

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