Parents are always on guard for danger when it comes to their children. Parents quarter their kids’ grapes, bolt TVs and dressers in the wall, and always tell them to look both ways before crossing the street.
But what about the dangers that parents have no control over? What if the leading cause of death in kids was something that, no matter how much parents try to protect them, something that they have little control over?
These hypotheticals are now a reality. Homicide is now a leading cause of death for children in the United States, according to a new study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
From 1999 to 2020, over 38,000 children in the United States were victims of homicide, the researchers found. The study also found that overall homicide rate has increased an average of 4.3% each year for nearly a decade.
In just one year (2019 to 2020), homicide rates increased across several demographics, the study says. In that time period alone, the number of children who were killed in a homicide rose 27.7%.
The study infers that the trend might be partly due to firearm-related homicides of children, which rose 47.7% between 2019 and 2020. Overall homicide rates of young boys rose 16.1% between 2018 and 2020. However, in an interesting turn, there was actually a decline in homicides among girls between 1999 and 2020.
According to the study, Black boys were killed more than any other group with firearms being the most common weapon used in children’s deaths. The study also found a jarring imbalance when it comes to Black and hispanic children homicide.
The rate of homicides in Black children increased 16.6% from 2018 to 2020. Black boys ages 16 to 17 had a homicide rate that was 18 times higher than that of White boys and 4.6 times higher than in Hispanic boys.
These numbers can be chalked up to systemic racism in neighborhoods with high populations of Black and hispanic children.
According to CNN, these neighborhoods are run by authority figures who exhibit unconscious bias. These unconscious biases “dehumanize” these children. These people in power perceive these children as “less childlike and innocent” and “as more culpable for their actions,” with “fewer childhood protections and benefit compared to their White peers,” the new study says.
Along with being a racism problem, these homicide rates are also a poverty problem. The homicide rate in rural areas has increased since 2011. In these areas, there are limited employment opportunities and challenges with poverty, according to the study.
The study also breaks down deaths by age group. Children 10 and under were most often killed by neglect or abuse, usually from parents or caregivers, particularly a father’s or mother’s partner.
Children 11 and up were killed in arguments, during a crime, or by a friend or acquaintance, the researchers found.
This study follows the recent news that guns are now the leading cause of death among kids under 18 — and that guns now kill more kids than car accidents.
Read the entire study here.