Here are some paradoxes measured with American children compared with those in other economically advanced nations (from the UNICEF report, "Child Well-Being in Rich Countries”):
Although the U.S. is the wealthiest nation, we measure 26th for child welfare among the 29 countries included.
American kids are among the most likely to exercise regularly, yet they are the most overweight.
Let's pause right there. How is that possible -- what scenario does this describe? It seems that we are preoccupied with health and with exhorting our children to exercise. Yet, we are unable actually to produce fit kids. Other countries, where they don't provide exercise lessons and diet lectures, manage -- through the normal course of living, playing, eating -- to have less overweight children. (I explain that here.)
Okay, back to the paradoxes. You know how we emphasize open communications with our kids -- how parents are taught to listen and to talk to their children? And you know how, after a tragedy like the explosion at the Boston Marathon, Americans pride themselves on their pulling together?
Well, it appears that we are not so good in the communications-community for children department after all. Only a little more than half (56%) say their classmates are “kind and helpful.” Fewer than three quarters (73%) say they find it “easy to talk” to their mothers, while a little over half (59%) say the same for their fathers.
Taken together, these figures were dismal -- American children ranked 28th out of 29 in the quality of their relationships. We are not creating a strong sense of community among our children and their peers. And -- despite all our emphasis on communication with our children -- we fare poorly in that category as well.
Let's turn to sex. Americans are fairly late in initiating sex compared with children in other countries. Yet more of our children have children -- we have the highest teen fertility rate.
Somehow, our emphasis on chastity doesn't prevent a fair number of teens from having unprotected sex. Do you understand that anomaly? (I talk about that here.)
And, in the nation which spends the most for health care, we have among the lowest average birth weights and highest infant mortality rates. What's that about? In good part, it has to do with the tremendous economic disparities measured among American children in the survey, which cause us to be rated 26th in "material well-being."
But here's one that probably isn't related to our large pockets of poverty -- we have among the lowest rates of immunization against childhood diseases.
What's that about? Kooky celebrities, films, and groups broadcast that such immunization causes autism. Now, immunizable diseases are reappearing in the United States and killing American children. Overall, we're 25th in "health and safety" for kids.
Okay -- where do we stand on drugs and alcohol? Thank God, our kids are close to the least likely to smoke and to get drunk.
However, they are among the most likely to get stoned (smoke marijuana). Somehow, as cautious as we are and as much as we inculcate children with the risks of substance abuse, overall, American children rank 23rd out of 29 nations in "behavior and risks."
We sure are a strange bunch. (Is this what is meant by American exceptionalism?)
Oh, American kids were in the bottom third in "life satisfaction," even though American adults are in the top third. What -- don't they appreciate all that we're doing for them? Sure makes us feel good.
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