Archive for September, 2010

Deaths in middle childhood

By far the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 9 in the U.S. is automobile accidents, accounting for some 21% of all deaths (I’m looking at figures from 2002). After that comes cancer (18%) and congenital abnormality (7%). What surprises me is the fourth item on the list: drowning (5%). I’ve heard that swimming pools are dangerous, but I never fully grasped just how dangerous they are (I assume that most child drowning deaths are from swimming pools).

Mind you, while the percentage is surprisingly high, that is a percentage of deaths at an age where relatively few people die. The actual numbers are small: 159 drowning deaths of children aged 5 to 9 in 2002.

The other causes of death at 5% are burns and homicide, the latter being the more scary one. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 61% of homicides of children aged 6 to 11 are committed by family members. A “significant percentage” are negligent gun usage. Children can also be accidental victims of carjacking or robbery. Overall, 1 in 8 of these homicides are committed by strangers, or about 0.5% of all deaths of children in this age range, or something like 17 deaths in the year (remember this includes carjacking and robbery deaths).

So, if you’re the kind of person who wants to keep your children safe, it’s pretty obvious that you should teach them how to be safe around cars and teach them how to swim. There isn’t much you can do about cancer or congenital issues, and only limited steps you can take about fire. Everything else pales to insignificance. Obviously teach your kids to be careful around strangers, but don’t go overboard. They are at least 42 times more likely to be killed by a car.

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