Infancy and Childhood
Infancy (bir’~l to age 2) and childhood (ages 3 to 12) are typically thought of as carefree years; however, children are among the most powerless and vulnerable people in society. Historically, children were seen as the property of their parents, who could do with them as they pleased (Tower, 1996). In fact, whether an infant survives the first year of life depends on a wide variety of parental factors, as a community health scholar explains: All infants are All infants are not created equal. Those born to teenage mothers or to mothers who smoke cigarettes,drink alcohol, or take drugs are at higher risk for death in their first year. Those born in very rural areas or in inner cities are more likely to die as infants. Those born to black women are at twice the risk as those born to white women. Older mothers carry a high risk for conceiving an infant with Down’s syndrome, and Native American women carry a high risk for having a baby with’ a serious birth defect. Add to the mix a mother’s education; her economic, marital, and nutritional status; and whether she had adequate prenatal care, which all play into whether her infant will make it through the first year of life, But surviving the first year is only one piece of the equation. Quality of life is another. Infants who survive the first year can have lives so compromised that their future is seriously limited …. We cannot always predict which infants will survive, and we certainly cannot predict who will be happy. (Sch-‘ neider, 1995:26) Moreover, carly socialization plays a Significant part in children’s experiences and their quality of life. Manychildren are confronted with an array of problems in their families because of marital instability, an increase in the number of single-parent households, and the percentage of families in which both parents are employed Iull time. These factors have heightened the need for high-quality, affordable child care for infants and young children. However, many parents have few options regarding who will take care of their children while they work. These statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund (2002) point out the perils of infancy and childhood: very day in the United States, lout of every 5 infants are born into poverty: over 3.000 children die from gunshot wounds every year, 7 million children are at home alone on a regular basis without
adult supervision, and every 11 seconds a child is reported abused or neglected. As these statistics show, the risk of death or penn nent disability from accidents is a major concern in childhood. In fact, two-thirds of all childhood deaths are caused by injuries. (TI,e other third are caused by cancers, birth defects, heart disease, pneumonia, and HIV/AI DS.) Although many previous childhoodkillers such as polio, measles, and diphtheria are now. controlled through immunizations and antibiotics, motor vehicle accidents have become a major source of injury and death for infants and children. (As compared with all other racial-ethnic categories, Native
American children have the highest rate of motor vehicle deaths.) The childhood motor vehicle fatality rate is higher in the South and Southwest, where more parents own pickup trucks and allow children to ride in the truck bed (Schneider, J 995). Despite laws and protective measures implemented to protect infants and children, far too many lose their lives at an early age due to the abuse, neglect. or negligence of adults.