DURHAM, NH (CBS Connecticut) – According to a recent study, the amount of violence U.S. children are exposed to has fallen considerably during the past decade.

That includes the recession period from 2008 to 2011, which shows that families facing hard times did not translate into an increase of violence.

“It should be encouragement to people who  have been working on this problem,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and lead author of the study, told Reuters Health. “We’re seeing an improving trend and an overall decline in the exposure to violence, abuse, and crime among young people.”

Researchers conducted telephone surveys in 2003, 2008, and 2011. They asked if children and teens between the ages of two and 17 had been either victims or perpetrators of assorted violent behaviors.  Children 10 years old and older were able to answer the questions themselves, while children under 10 had their parent answer on their behalf.

Researchers measured 50 types of violence and found that 27 declined during their study.

The study found that assault dropped 33 percent from 2003 to 2011.  Bullying also fell about 33 percent.  Sexual violence fell about 25 percent.

Finkelhor said his findings were similar to police reports and the National Crime Victimization Survey. “There are multiple data points that give us some confidence in this direction that what we’re seeing is not just a fluke,” Finkelhor told Reuters.

The study did not show why exposure to violence has decreased. Researchers suggested a few possibilities such as anti-violence campaigns, fewer face-to-face interactions thanks to social media, and more widespread use of psychiatric medications by both youth and adults. “Such medication has been specifically targeted at children with aggressive behavior, which showed clear declines in this study,” the authors wrote.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.


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