April 19, 2015

"How have we gotten so crazy that what was just a normal childhood a generation ago is considered radical?"

Asks Danielle Meitiv, a prominent mother in the "free range children movement," quoted in a WaPo article titled "'Free-range' flap in Maryland fans flames of national debate on parenting." Answering Meitiv's question, WaPo says:
Sociologists date an increasing perception of dangerousness to some highly publicized child abductions in the 1970s and ’80s, including 6-year-old Etan Patz, who was headed to a bus stop in New York City.

That terrifying disappearance, now the focus of a jury trial, led to the creation of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the faces of missing children showing up on milk cartons across the country....

“Most of what gets reported to CPS does not get substantiated” because the evidence is uncertain, [said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire], noting that the substantiation rates are around 25 percent to 30 percent, depending on the kind of maltreatment. “So the question is, do these cases involve families where there is some need, or is this just an overreach on the part of the state?”


Shouting Thomas said...

You're one of the people who brought this shit down on us with your "I'm just like a nigger" feminism, and your "My son is just like a nigger" because he's gay, Althouse.

And, you're deliberately stupidifying yourself so as not to see how that's connected.

You're so corrupt and decadent.

Try to connect the dots if you can. Religious illiteracy is the cause. Your faggotization and pussification program might be the place to start looking.

The pompous rejection of 2000 years of Christian tradition and moral education has rendered you a brain in a jar. Another revolutionary astounded by the destruction and havoc brought about by the revolution she gleefully participated in.

Your Holy Book of 10,000 HR Regulations won't help you to understand.

Shouting Thomas said...

Or, try to start from this perspective:

NYU Law School valedictorian decided, instead of being an entreuprener and starting a biz or law firm and chasing after clients, to sit on her lazy ass in a sinecure for 45 years bitching about fairness.

Ann Althouse said...

Get some sleep, Thomas.

rhhardin said...

Children are ratings gold, the MSM discovered.

Tune in and find out what will kill your children today.

That was the 80s.

Women, being dumber than rocks, tuned in, and here we are.

That's how we got here and will stay here until women learn to fly in instruments.

Fly on instruments : you know that you can't trust how it feels, just do what the instruments suggest regardless.

This is too complicated for women to do.

Guys do it easily.

Cynicus said...

Shouting Thomas. If you don't like Althouse don't read her. Your invective and ad hominem attacks are illogical, not persuasive and unreadable.

I think CPS thought it was more powerful than it is. They don't even see the abuse of power because it is so routine. Most parents back off their principles in the face of losing their child. To paraphrase our president: the police and CPS acted stupidly. And they probably acted stupidly because they are mandated to act stupidly by their legislature.

Cynicus said...

Rhhardin your comment is almost as dumb as Shouting Thomas' comment. You seriously believe Ann Althouse and Freeman Hunt are incapable of flying an airplane with training solely because they are women.

Sammy Finkelman said...

You know, Hillary Clinton's mother was a runaway child, and she did all right.

She ran away from her paternal grandparents at the age of 14 and went to live with a woman where she worked as a nanny and housekeeper.

There were already social workers in those days and family courts, so this was quite illegal - but possible.

Her change of address was not reporter and the woman she lived with made sure she went to her school in Alhambra, California, which was itself illegal since she was actually living in San Gabriel California.

She did not attempt to rejoin her mother and step-father in Chicago until she was 18 and free of all court restrictions.

Nowadays this might not be possible or people wouldn't dare and her only choice might be prostitution.

But since this is not part of any narrative, you won't hear Hillary Clinton talking about things that way.

Christopher said...

I've gotta say that I didn't expect the comments section for this post to be quite so angry.

Michael K said...

There are a couple of changes in society that may have increased this hysteria. One was that there were more stay-at-home mothers 50 years ago who knew their neighbors and would watch a bit the local children. Second, families are smaller and women are having children later which makes the child seem more at risk and less replaceable.

I don't mean to say that mothers care more about their children now but there is a sense of the "helicopter parent" which exists in the same culture with parental neglect.

Christopher said...

I remember when I was growing up we used to play flashlight tag in my neighborhood.

We would go out around nine or ten at night, dressed completely in black, and run all over the block. While playing we'd hide in bushes, jump fences, and run through the streets.

Never once were the police called, never once did any neighbor complain.

rhhardin said...

Women do not take into account that they are emotional basket cases.

To strip away the confusing technical metaphor.

Laslo Spatula said...

Kids today dress a lot more provocatively then a generation ago.

At what point as a Society are we willing to raise the question: Are the children asking for it?

I am Laslo.

Christopher said...

"Because it was clear you were playing a game with other children, in your neighborhood at night.

The people calling the cops are seeing two children not playing alone at a park, but walking in daylight along a busy street, where the people calling in do not know them. They are concerned that children should not be walking along the roadway unattended."

We also used to walk to and from parks all the time while we were growing up. It was in the suburbs so the streets probably don't qualify as "busy" but I'm pretty sure that most of the people didn't know us from Adam.

When I was still in elementary school we used to walk to the gas station about 3/4 of a mile from my house in order to buy candy/soda. My parents were fine with it, their only rule was that we couldn't cross the highway it sat along.

MayBee said...

CPS comes down hard on middle class families with small problems because the meth families with multiple parents involved are just too complicated to sort out.

Christopher said...

And then there was the Tastee Freeze along the highway, although I don't think it was actually associated with the actual franchise. There was a path through the woods that we all used to get there.

I loved that place, but it was eventually demolished when they expanded the highway. It was right across the road from the Kawasaki Dealer and the "Adult News Outlet".

Laslo Spatula said...

"And then there was the Tastee Freeze along the highway..."

I think that is where Jack and Diane went.

I am Laslo.

jr565 said...

of course we've gone crazy. We've gone from celebrating the nuclear family as the norm to one where any family will do and is equal to the nuclear family.

Christopher said...

I was wondering how long it would take somebody to make that joke.

buwaya puti said...

Michael K is completely right.
Its a hysterical reaction to having just one or two children, manifesting on a society wide level.
The fix, to improve childrearing for all, is to have more children.

buwaya puti said...

In the old days girls of 14 very often did go live in someone else's household as domestic servants.
And boys too actually.
Both "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" misrepresent things a bit, because many of the servants in reality would have been very young.

Phil 3:14 said...

My mom used a cowbell to call us boys home for dinner when we were out in the woods.

Its a bit Pavlovian.

That's why I always want more cowbell.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, an article by Ilya Somin in "The Volokh Conspiracy" law blog references three important cases to show why Metiv has an "open and shut" case against Montgomery County: Meyer v. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Troxel v. Granville. For the benefit of your loyal readers, can you summarize these cases? And do you agree with Somin that these precedents are entirely on Metiv's side?

EDH said...

Big, fat, blue, discarded, lifeless newborn baby Sinatra was unavailable for comment.

steve uhr said...

One of my best childhood memory -- watching the riots in Madison in 1967 with my friends. We were nine and smart enough to stay up wind or inside some restaurant on State Street (Ella's Deli?) We would collect the empty pepper gas canisters and bring them to show-and-tell at Randall. Unfortunately the canisters weren't quite as empty as we thought.

Michael K said...

"CPS comes down hard on middle class families with small problems because the meth families with multiple parents involved are just too complicated to sort out."

I think this is a factor. So is the collapse of black inner city life which cannot be mentioned.

MayBee said...

Some of this ties in with the shame culture.

There's a bit of "if something happens to your children you only have your selves to blame" about it all. People don't want to be responsible for something bad happening to their children, so they bubble wrap them. As if that will ward off the evil spirits of the truly bad people.

MayBee said...

And you know, there's almost nothing you can do. Polly Klaas, Danielle Van Dam, and Elizabeth Smart were taken right out of their homes.

Anonymous said...

Hell, before I was ten years old, I had roamed free and:

* climbed up abandoned coal tipples

* walked railroad tracks and sat under railroad bridges as trains passed by overhead

* walked several miles out of town and camped for the weekend with some friends

* rode corralled horses bareback using bailing twine as reins
(one of us was bitten in the small of his back by an annoyed critter)

* played "army" at night, crawling through the dirt

* climbed fifty foot trees all the way to the top

* engaged in hand-to-hand combat with wooden staves while balanced on fallen pine trees stretched six feet above a wet gully.

I pity kids today.

Eleanor said...

My daughter lives on a cul de sac. My 8 year old grandson and his friends are allowed to ride their bikes on the street. The school principal refers to it as "the neighborhood where kids are allowed to run wild".

Birches said...

I blame Oprah.

Birches said...

I won't go as far as rhhardin, but it is a woman thing. It manifests itself in helicopter parenting, vaccines, and GMOs, among other things. When's the last time you heard of a guy getting all crazy about the trace amounts of GMO's in his child's cheerios?

I don't have audio right now, but I'm betting the price of a good steak dinner, the 911 call on the Meitiv's was from a woman, no?

Birches said...

And the WAPO is adding to the hysterics by posting minimum ages that are false. I don't care that the Colorado guideline is 12---it's not the law...

jimbino said...

Jelink is quite right.

I grew up on Chicago's South Side and at age 10 took the IC train alone to the loop every Saturday for two years, where I walked around, getting to know all the shops, including Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field, and all the hidden cafeterias. I usually walked through Grant Park and visited the Art Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Natural history museum, and conversed with numerous fishermen and women on the breakwater rocks along the shore. I never suffered a bad incident and nobody ever called the cops or CPS.

Rearing kids in Amerika nowadays is a form of child abuse. I advise concerned parents to move south to a Latin country, where kids are still free.

steve uhr said...

"Someone is eventually going to pull up to the 10-year-old and yell, 'How much for the little girl?'"

And if you put a monkey in front of a typewriter eventually he will type the entire Iliad.

GPS trackers are the size of a quarter. Stick one in your child's sock and you will know immediately when he get in a vehicle. Take reasonable precautions and kids w/o parents looking over their shoulder are safer than ever.

Michael K said...

"I pity kids today."

Some of them have swimming pools like three of my grandchildren. Others have nothing but TV.

We were outside all the time. It was a different world. I walked to kindergarten and crossed a busy street. It was five blocks in Chicago. The nun scolded me and smacked my hand with a ruler on one of the first days. There was a florist shop next door to the school owned by friends of my father. The next day, instead of going to school, i I went to the florist shop and helped the old uncle in the nursery. When I heard the school bell at noon, I left and walked home.

The school never called my mother and she did not know that I never went back until I told her 40 years later. I was saved by the fact that we moved in early November or I would have been found out when the cold weather came.

We used to ride our bikes to the Museum of Science and Industry and explore all the exhibits. I rode a bus miles to my high school.

MadisonMan said...

or is this just an overreach on the part of the state?

When has that ever happened?

Sammy Finkelman said...

I used to walk alone a quarter of a mile or so to the public library every Friday when I was eight. I used to walk to school. The primary consideration in those days was a child old enough to cross the street alone without getting hit by a car, and the general opinion was, I think, was that it was OK if the child was 6.

When President Kennedy was assassinated my mother sent me to pick up my brother, who was 5, from school (kindergarten)

But he had already left and I met him on the way, and it wasn't a problem. He was heading to my father's store where I think he went every day. He only had to cross a single dead end one way street.

When I was ten I started coming home alone.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

My mom walked me to school on my first day of kindergarten, when I was 5 years old. But she didn't pick me up afterwards, I came home on my own. After that I walked by myself, to and from. Well, I mean I walked with the swarms of other Baby Boom kids going to school. Four blocks, no problem, rain or shine, in thunderstorms and snowstorms, in hot weather and cold, and never once was school closed on account of snowfall or cold. Starting taking the bus by myself and with friends to Saturday movie matinees about the same time. Took the El to Wrigley Field when I was 7. Dad would say, on Saturday mornings, "get out of the apartment and blow the stink off of you." During the long summer evenings I was told to "come home when the streetlights turn on," which meant that I got home after dark. On Halloween we trick-or-treated without adults, climbing up and down the back stairs of three-story tenements. We went to the beach on Lake Michigan every day in the summer, and no parents ever accompanied us. Learned to eat at restaurant counters and pay for my hamburgers-and-root beer by the time I was c. 6. We roamed free and we roamed far and wide. Basically I left home when I was 18. I loved my childhood.

Amadeus 48 said...

I have a friend on the Brookfield Zoo board of trustees in Chicago. He told me that they had a presentation on security procedures at the zoo. He said that in 1934 the zoo had 3,000 instances of children separated from their families and and delivered to the zoo office for for a general announcement over the loudspeaker system. In 2004 there were three. Parenting has changed, together with technology.

Sammy Finkelman said...

buwaya puti said... on 4/19/15 @, 9:34 AM

In the old days girls of 14 very often did go live in someone else's household as domestic servants.

" In the old days girls of 14 very often did go live in someone else's household as domestic servants.

And boys too actually.

Both "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" misrepresent things a bit, because many of the servants in reality would have been very young."


I think that is a little bit of an earlier than when Hillary's mother did that. By 1934, California probably had a lot of child labor laws, that would prohibited this.

I think it's very likely this arrangement, under which she was paid $3 a week, was not legal. (She also once gave her an old blouse that she said she could no longer fit into, when she noticed Dorothy had only one blouse which she washed every day, something Dorothy appreciated very much.)

That has to be why Dorothy Howell continued to go to school in Alhambra, California, instead of San Gabriel, which are about 3 miles apart, and were almost certainly not in the same school district. This way the informal arrangement would never come to the attention of the authorities, but if she dropped out of school there would have been some investigation.

By the way, she and her sister, who was about 3 years old, traveled alone on a train from Chicago to California to live with their grandparents after their parents got divorced when, Dorothy, the older one, was eight.

Her father had been granted custody, and then sent them to California to live with his parents.

Her grandparents were pretty strict. After she went trick or treating one Halloween against their instructions, they confined her to her room for one year except for school, and she wasn't even allowed to eat in the kitchen or play in the yard.

Dorothy discovered when she went to live with her mother and her new husband, who was a Russian Jewish immigrant named Max Rosenberg, that her mother really wanted her only as a housekeeper, and it turned out there was no promise by her husband to pay for a college education, and she moved out. She got a job as a secretary and an apartment.

Just around that time she met a traveling salesman eight years older than her, and they married about five years later. About five years after that, her first child, Hillary, was born.

Roughcoat said...

jelink said: "played "army" at night, crawling through the dirt."

We conducted amphibious assaults of Lee Street Beach on Lake Michigan. How many times did we invade Iwo Jima, storm Omaha Beach. I imagined myself to be John Wayne, or Richard Jaeckel.

I realize now my parents wanted us out of the apartment so they could have some quality time together ... and make more brothers and sisters for us.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Maybe the zoo also improved the signage, and got rid of whatever it was doing to separate children from their parents.

They must have had special exhibits that only children without parents (maybe in a group of children, accompanied by a zoo employee) could go to.

Sammy Finkelman said...

One problem with Etan Patz was that it was actually the first time he had gone alone to school. He had begged to go alone, and something went wrong. Or maybe he decided to take a detour.

We've got two semi-confessions by now by two different men, no version of which really fits the facts.

The person on trial now apparently felt guilty for many years, but his confession makes no sense. So what did he really do?

Gahrie said...

Times have indeed changed.

As a 7 year old, during the summer I left my house early in the morning, and often didn't return until after dark. If I ate lunch, it was usually at a friend's house, and then only because we happened to be near by. I roamed the desert, explored the junk yard, swam in the river.

By ten we were living in England, and family members would often take advantage and visit. My younger brother and I were often left alone in the house for up to a week while they traveled.

During middle school we were in Florida, and I would spend my summers exploring the swamps, swimming near gators at the national park, going scuba diving with my friends.

My early teens we were back in England, and being left alone again. During the school year in high school, on a three day or four day weekend my friends and I would go to Paris or London without adults. Since none of us could drive (you had to be 18) hitch hiking was the way to get around.

Today my parents would probably be doing hard time.

Browndog said...

I think that maybe some feel children are so precious they don't dare have any..

On the other hand, some may feel they hate everyone that's already here--why add to the misery?

I am certain, however, that it's not the children that have changed.

retired said...

I fully agree with Thomas, both posts, although I would use more temporate language
Thomas doesn't need sleep, Ann, you need coffee, as in wake up and smell it. Think who you would be if you learned from your commenters. But then you would be run out of town.

You'll vote for her. You are her.

Drago said...

jimbino: "Rearing kids in Amerika nowadays is a form of child abuse. I advise concerned parents to move south to a Latin country, where kids are still free"



"Why are so many children trying to cross the US border?"

Thanks for playing.

jimbino said...


Why are so many children trying to cross the US border?

Why did Willy Sutton rob banks? Why does Amerika continue its drug war that's hurting Latino kids in Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador?

Amerikan kids could easily go free-range in places far from the reach of the US drug war, like Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador.

buwaya puti said...

Interesting point about children's welfare and the drug war. Presumably the problems are caused by conflicts created by competing interests in pursuit of excess illegal profits from smuggling drugs.
Let us consider a thought experiment. If the US were to legalize most now-illegal drugs, and drove almost all the profit out of what would then be niche commodity markets, and thus reduced incomes across Latin America, would Latin American children's welfare, overall, improve?
Consider the possibility, that the US drug market is in fact an exercise in wealth transfer to Latin America. This does trickle down also.

jimbino said...

Buwaya puti:

Consider the possibility, that the US drug market is in fact an exercise in wealth transfer to Latin America. This does trickle down also.

You are right, and that would be an argument for not combating the Mafia in NYC, Chicago and Las Vegas, as well.

I think that experience shows that the drug-war premium gained by the traffickers does not trickle down much.

Else, why would places like Cidade de Deus and Chicago's South Side and Watts be so poor?

There might be some trickle-down to the extent that the Mafiosi and drug lords hire housekeepers and body guards, but not when they buy yachts and vacation homes in Monaco.

In any case, the illicit wealth created by the Amerikan drug laws would have to trickle-down pretty strongly to reach a poor village kid in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvado, Honduras, Nicaragua and Brazil.

Colombia is an exceptional country: in spite of the decades-long US-sponsored drug wars, it is the only SA country to show decades-long continued growth in GDP.

Birkel said...

The movie Stand by Me is now child abuse.

jimbino said...

Buwaya Puti:

Let us consider a thought experiment. If the US were to legalize most now-illegal drugs, and drove almost all the profit out of what would then be niche commodity markets, and thus reduced incomes across Latin America, would Latin American children's welfare, overall, improve?

If Amerika changed its policy to something more benign, like spending anti-drug money to pay for drug lords in SA to dig deep holes and fill them in again, there would also arguably be a "trickle-down" effect.

This is a great dissertation project for an economics or poly-sci PhD student.

Kirk Parker said...


You're wrong. RHH is on to something, and you are perhaps missing that he's making an implied statistical argument. It's not necessary for it to be true of every single person who has XX chromosomes, only that it's true enough for the major portion of the belle curve.

buwaya puti said...

The more we prosecute drug dealers, the higher the risk premium, the higher the prices and the greater the profit. Consider that the cost of goods for illegal drugs includes only a trivial portion for actual production costs, plus an enormous risk premium through the whole supply chain. Every merchant or carrier in the chain needs to make a large profit to cover his risk premium and also large expenses, such as protection and payoffs.
The consumer ultimately pays this risk premium. That explains a great deal of poverty. However, the US consumer pays the largest part by far of the entire supply chains risk premiums.
IIRC even the big time Columbian drug lords spent hugely on living large at home, plus much more to employ hordes of hangers on and gunslingers, plus payoffs (supplemental income) to large parts of the government and security agencies. I believe the Mexican ones do so also. It stands to reason that this all is generating consumer demand and employment in Mexico.

RecChief said...

it's crazy nowadays to let your kids roam free. While the chances are extremely low, I would be out of my mind if any of my kids were snatched.

A consequence of describing pedophilia as a sickness that can be cured or held in check.

I ascribe to Heinlein's thoughts on child molesters (see Starship Troopers, the book, not the movie)

gpm said...

Just about three years younger than Althouse. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in West Englewood. A lot of experiences similar to those of Jimbino, Michael K, and, to a slightly lesser degree, Roughcoat (you couldn’t have dragged me to Wrigley Field, and there were only a very few, small apartment buildings in our neighborhood), though they all seem to have been a lot closer to the Lake than we were. Which didn’t stop us from taking the CTA to Rainbow Beach on our own in grammar school (17 cents at the bus stop on the corner). But it's perhaps not a good idea to view the situation there the same way today, when Englewood is the centerpiece of the image of Chicago as "Chiraq."


Freeman Hunt said...

I was a free range kid, but there were other kids and adults all over the place. It's not like that now. If you buck the trend, your kids aren't going out into a community; they're going out truly alone, an entirely different thing.