Status of American Children Ranks Low

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology Forum, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Status of American Children Ranks Low


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology Forum


The well-being of American children is worse than that of children in other developed countries on a wide range of measures, according to a recent analysis by Uri Bronfenbrenner, professor emeritus of human development and family studies and of psychology. Even when minorities and the poor are excluded from some of the analyses, American children and families consistently rank among the lowest of the industrialized countries.

"In the absence of good support systems, external stresses have become so great that even strong families are falling apart. Hecticness, instability, and inconsistency of daily family life are rampant in all segments of our society, including the well-educated and well-to-do," Bronfenbrenner says.

In his analysis that pulls together statistics from many sources, Bronfenbrenner found children of the English-speaking countries (United States, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Canada) worse off than children of other industrialized nations, with American children at greatest risk. When compared with the developed nations (United States, Japan, Canada, and Western Europe), American children were among the worse off for measures such as the percentage of children living in single-parent families and in poverty, teenage pregnancies and births, divorce, and government support for child care, preschool programs, child benefits, health insurance, and leave policies.

The Well-being of Children

                                       United States     Japan, Canada,
                                                         and Western Europe

Federal preschool program
for children under age 3               No                Yes

Government allowances for children     No                Yes

Health insurance                       No                Yes

"What is at stake is nothing less than the next generation of Americans, particularly American males, who in growing up are especially vulnerable to such disruptive forces as the devastating effects of divorce, poverty, and unemployment," Bronfenbrenner notes.

"We have earned the dubious distinction of doing less for our families and children than any other industrialized nation," he says. "The status of American children and families is as desperate as ever and is the most serious domestic problem we have faced since the founding of the republic. …

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