Knowing your neighbors reduces social isolation

By Kerry Coffey

A recent nationwide study noted that almost one in four Americans has no one to confide in. Of those who do have confidants, the number dropped from three to two during the last two decades. The study revealed that we have lost confidants from both inside and outside the family, with the largest losses coming from the ties that bind us to community and neighborhood.

The loss of community bonds is important because research also shows that child abuse and neglect most often occurs when parents and other caregivers are alone – when they lack the social and material resources needed to adequately care for children.

The national trend toward social isolation is mirrored in southern Greenville County and adjacent communities in Anderson and Laurens counties, according to social work professor Jim McDonell of Clemson’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life. “Evidence from our research suggests that children are at greater risk for harm when families live in social isolation,” he said.

Strong Communities, an institute initiative funded by a long-term grant from The Duke Endowment, strives to prevent child abuse and neglect and to reduce social isolation by creating connections among families so that every parent and every child can be confident that someone will notice and will care whenever they have cause for joy, sorrow or worry.

For more information: Clemson Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, 864-656-6271, and Strong Communities, 864-688-2214,