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April 17, 1996

American Childhood: Risks and Realities

Author Affiliations

Winthrop-University Hospital Mineola, NY

JAMA. 1996;275(15):1209. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530390077044

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The author of this book describes herself as a medical geographer and epidemiologist who is seeking an answer to the question, "What is going on with American youth?" In the introduction a quick historical review reminds us that there has not always been agreement about who is a child or what constitutes childhood.

It was not until the 1870s that protecting children became a societal responsibility, as the result of a court case brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Only at the end of World War II did children become the focus of the American family. They then began to benefit from an array of programs, such as day care, strengthened child labor laws, and food and job programs, yet the number of children in single-parent, female-headed households and the number of teenaged mothers and divorces increased. By the 1970s, the failing structure resulted