Nearly a third of all of the children in the United States end up exposed to weapons violence before they reach the age of 18, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics which also found about 1 in every 33 to have been directly assaulted with either guns or knives during such incidents.
Kimberly Mitchell, the study’s lead author and a scientist with the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, was quoted by Reuters as having said that millions of kids “are being exposed to violence involving weapons, and many of them are victimized by guns and knives, with an elevated risk of trauma and serious injury.”
Millions of children are being exposed to violence involving weapons, and many of them are victimized by guns and knives, with an elevated risk of trauma and serious injury.
According to the study’s authors, more than 17.5 million children in the U.S. have witnessed or been victims of assaults with weapons — a number which is significantly higher than those suffering from diabetes or cancer.
Dr. Denise Dowd, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, pointed out that the study represents “typical” American children.
This study represents typical American kids at a range of incomes and shows that their exposure to violence is very widespread and common.
The data analyzed by the researchers behind the study was derived from national telephone surveys in which 4,114 children, ages 2 to 17, were surveyed. When answering the survey’s questions, roughly half of the adolescent participants were at least 10 years old and able to answer for themselves. The rest of the children, who were under the age of 10, had their caregivers speak on their behalf.
More than half of the children who participated were boys, 57 percent were white, 15 percent black and 19 percent Latino. Most of the children lived with two adults – either their biological, adoptive parents or stepparents – but 36 percent lived with either a single parent or another caregiver. The largest group of kids, which came in at 62 percent, were from middle-class households, although all income level families were covered.
The study showed that minority children, those from low-income families or households, with one biological or adoptive parent, and boys in general were more likely to be exposed to weapons violence; this in comparison with the other groups of children examined by the study’s authors. The weapons included sticks, rocks, bottles and for three percent of the kids, guns and knives.
Regardless of their gender, older children were more likely to experience violence involving guns and knives.
The odds of being a witness or even a victim in attacks of using such weapons was higher for kids who were not living with their adoptive or biological parents as well as those with friends carrying such weapons and those who carried weapons of this nature themselves.
Regardless of the circumstances – whether it be domestic violence, gangs, bullying, fighting at school – children who are exposed to weapons are at risk of troublesome outcomes. The exposure to weapons puts children at an increased risk of a variety of mental health disorders including depression and anxiety, as well as difficulties with school, work and relationships.
These health problems can come as a result of toxic stress, which in turn causes traumatic events to induces changes within the brain. The stress created sends alarms to the brain, which can trigger the nervous system to release hormones to sharpen senses, tense muscles, speed up the pulse and deepen breathing. Dr. Dowd stated that regular exposure to such stress can affect a child’s everyday life and psyche in the long term.
When you are exposed to this toxic stress, the fight or flight instinct is all you have, whether you’re being attacked by a bear in the woods or your father comes home drunk and screaming at you. These kids can shut down or they can become hypersensitive and ready to fight at the slightest provocation.
Dr. Dowd has also stated that it is crucial parents keep guns unloaded and locked up – away from children. Parents should be on the lookout for any signs indicating that their children might be experiencing violence, be it at school or in the community. Children refusing to go to school and complaining of headaches or stomach aches with no apparent medical are just some of the signs which could indicate that a child is being exposed to violence.
An unrelated study reported here on Immortal News found bullying to have worse consequences than child abuse.