Early Childhood Violence Prevention
Consider these grim statistics regarding American children: every day, 10 are murdered, 16 die from guns, 316 are arrested for crimes of violence, and 8,042 are reported abused or neglected (Children's Defense Fund, 1997, p. 15). In 1996, more than 3 million children were reported as victims of child abuse and neglect to child protective agencies in the United States (National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse [NCPCA], 1998). Wang and Daro estimate that more than 3 children die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect. Of these children, approximately 78% are under 5 years old at the time of their death, while 38% are under 1 year of age (cited in NCPCA, 1998). Violence is now perceived as a public health issue, and there is much evidence to illuminate its deleterious effects.
Among the current prevention and intervention efforts are Healthy People 2000, which identifies violence prevention as a national health priority; the National Education Goals, which call for safe and drug-free schools; and the American Academy of Pediatrics' Health Status Goals for 1997-1998, which call for a reduction in domestic, community, media, and entertainment violence (National Education Goals Panel, 1997; American Academy of Pediatrics, 1997).
This Digest focuses on preventing violence in children's lives and suggests ways caregivers, parents, and teachers can reduce the damaging effects of violence.
The Effects of Violence on Young Children
The Early Years
Even before a child is born, violence can have a profound effect upon its life. Studies show that battered, pregnant women often deliver low birth-weight babies who are at great risk for exhibiting developmental problems (Prothrow-Stith & Quaday, 1995). Shaken Baby Syndrome, the shaking of an infant or child by the arms, legs, or shoulders, can be devastating and result in irreversible brain damage, blindness, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, spinal cord injury, seizures, learning disabilities, and even death (Poussaint & Linn, 1997). The growing body of knowledge regarding early brain development suggests that "the ways parents, families, and other caregivers relate and respond to their young children, and the ways that they mediate their children's contact with the environment, directly affect the formation of neural pathways" (Shore, 1997, p. 4).
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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