What’s responsible for these positive results? Dr. Grucza and his colleagues offer three interesting factors that may be related to these trends.
First, the focus on decreasing lead exposure in children may be linked to the decline in a variety of serious problems. It’s only in the past 30 years that we’ve come to recognize and take action to protect our children from this serious environmental hazard.
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Second, the increased treatment of teens by psychotropic medicine may be having a significant impact on decreasing delinquent behavior in teens. While not a panacea, medication can be very helpful in treating mental disorders. Finally, the substantial decrease in childhood maltreatment means kids are growing up a bit safer and less traumatized and neglected.
I’d suggest that another factor may be responsible for these positive trends — the overwhelmingly positive effects of media attention. Bullying is a great example of a toxic behavior that had been tolerated for many years by parents and schools. It wasn’t until bullying victims such as Erika Harold, Miss America of 2002, used their positions of influence to educate us that bullying was abusive and harmful and not just playful bantering.
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Don’t misinterpret this research. We still have a long journey in raising mentally healthy children. While the trends in many areas are positive, there are still an extraordinary number of kids whose lives are shattered by drugs, depression, and abuse. Let’s be proud of what we’ve accomplished, but continue to devote the resources to provide our kids with safe and loving homes.
Next Week: Unexpected benefits of a bad childhood
Dr. Ramey is the Executive Director of Dayton Children’s Center for Pediatric Mental Health Resources and can be contacted at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org.