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FEATURING ASHLEY THOMAS – It was only a few decades ago that parents left their children unattended, playing on the street outside their homes or in the park, walking to school, or running errands. But today, particularly because of fears of child abduction and abuse, parents have become far more vigilant of their children.

Either because of or in spite of this cultural change, crimes against children have dramatically dropped to where they are statistically negligible. Still, the fear and paranoia over children’s safety remains, and it appears to have translated into moral judgments against parents who might leave their kids unattended even when safety is not an issue.

There have been several cases in recent years of people calling the police on parents deemed to be negligent of their children, resulting in the kids being taken into state custody, or worse, the parents being incarcerated.

Recently researchers conducted a series of experiments based on fictitious scenarios of children being left alone, and asked subjects to judge their danger. They wanted to examine the question of, “Why do bystanders call 911 when they see children playing in parks, but not when they see children riding in cars,” given that risks from car accidents far outweigh the risk of kidnapping?

Download the report HERE.

Ashley Thomas, PhD student in the Cognitive Science department at the University of California, Irvine, co-author of the report, No Child Left Alone: Moral Judgments about Parents Affect Estimates of Risk to Children.

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