VII. Child Abuse Introduction

Dr. Mary C. Sengstock, Ph.D., C.C.S.
Professor of Sociology
Wayne State University
• History of Child Abuse
• Types of Child Abuse
• Some Possible Explanations
History of “Childhood”
in Western Society
Pre-20th Century
• View of Children: A Liability
• Have Value Only in Their Potential
• Should Become “Contributing Members of
Society” ASAP
• Children: Responsible to Help Adults (Parents)
Children’s Work Before 18th Century
Worked on Family Farms
Boys Were Apprenticed Out
Orphans Often Purchased As Servants
Girls Often Sold
View of Children
• Seen As Recalcitrant, Evil, Difficult to Control
• Chastisement Widely Approved:
– Chastisement Often Severe
– Encouraged by Religious Leaders
• Parents Had Total Control Over Children
• Efforts to Interfere With Parental Control
Greatly Resisted
• “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”
Industrial Revolution 
Increasing Concern for Children
Industrial Revolution Changed Economy 
Family Economic Enterprises Ending 
Children No Longer “Useful” in Household
Children Forced to Work in Factories
Children in Lived in Workshops
Their Shocking Treatment Became Obvious 
Alteration of Society’s View of Children
Laws to Protect Children Develop
• Massachusetts (1600s): Prohibited “Unnatural
Severitie” of Punishment of Children
• BUT Only If the Child Was “Blameless”
• Sample Penalties:
• Death Penalty for Child 16+ Who Cursed or
Struck a Parent
Role of Religious Leaders
Protestant Leaders – Mixed Feelings:
Children Seen As a “Gift from God”
Also Considered to Be “Inclined to Evil”
Puritans Intolerant of “Stubborn, Disobedient
• 1800s: Orphanages Established for Neglected,
Abandoned Children
• Orphans Similarly Treated in Orphanages
1st Case of Handling
Child Maltreatment
1874: Mary Ellen Wilson
Found To Be Badly Abused
No Mechanism for Protection of Children
Mary Ellen Protected Under SPCA
Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Late 19th, Early 20th Centuries
• Introduced Notion of Childhood As Time for
“Education & Fun”
• School Became Important – BUT:
• School Vacations: Children’s Farm Work
• Children’s Work Responsibilities Still Took
Precedence Over Education
Continued Emphasis
on Children Working
• Education Usually Ended When Child Could
Get Job
• Children’s Wages Went to Family
• New Immigrant Groups: Dependent on
Children’s Wages
• Families (Esp. Fathers) Often Did Not Count
Their Children Until They Were “Valuable” –
i.e., Able to Work (or for Girls, Be Sold)
Modern Concern for
Child Maltreatment
“Battered Child Syndrome”
Introduced by Dr. Henry Kempe (1960s)
Usually Seen By Doctors in Emergency Rooms
Hence Usually Poor Children
Assumed Not to Exist in Middle or Upper Class
Rates of Child Abuse
• PCA (Physical Child Abuse): Approx 1 Million
• All Types: Approx. 3.1 Million
• Change in Rates:
– 1981: 3.1/1,000 – 1986: 4.9/1,000
– 1993: 9.1/1,000
– 2001: 12.5/1,000 – 2005: 12.1/1,000
Impact of Data Collection Methods
Why the Increase in Rates?
Is Data Collection a Factor?
Is This a Real Increase?
Or An Increase in Reports Due to Greater
Concern & Better Data Collection?
• 70%+ of Adults Report Having Been Abused
• 2% Report Severe Violence in Past Year
• So These May Be UNDER-Reports
Is Child Abuse Increasing?
Hard to Tell
Only Poor Records Today …
NO Records for Previous Periods (“IDOLIZED”)
Charles, 9th Earl of Spencer (Princess Diana’s Brother)
On Today Show with Bryant Gumble
Reported on Abuse in English Schools (Eton)
In 1970s-80s (Born in 1961)
Whippings & Things (Spankings?) With a Belt!
U.S. Schools
• Most Schools Had Paddles & Whips in
Classrooms Prior to 1960s
• Many Advocate Returning to Those Practices
• Attempt to Pass a Law in Congress in 1980s
• Religious Right Was a Major Opponent
Physical Child Abuse (PCA)
• Very Young At Highest Risk
– Hard to Handle – Easy to Injure
• Adolescents
– May Be Less Visible – Less easily Reported
– Less Attention Paid to Them
• Younger Boys Slightly Higher Than Girls
• Older Girls Usually Higher Than Boys
• SES: Occurs at All Economic Levels
PCA: Risk Factors
• Race/Ethnicity: Blacks Slightly Higher
– More Likely to be “Labeled”?
• Other Risk Factors:
– Low Birth-Weight/Premature/Handicapped Babies
All Hard to Handle, More Stress for Parents
Severe Abuse Related to Belief in Spanking
Tends to Be Hidden
Abusive Parents Believe Behavior Appropriate
Acts of Violence Against Children
• Maria had Colic – Cried for 3 Hours – Shaken
So Hard She Lost Consciousness
• 3 Year Old Jimmy Pulled Puppy’s Tail – Father
“Taught a Lesson” By Pulling Ear – So Hard It
Tore the Skin
• Kevin “Fell Off His Razor” (Scooter) – Actually
Was Beaten by Mother’s Boyfriend – Who
Sometimes “Lost His Cool” In Disciplining Boy
How Far Must It Go To Be Abuse?
Reasonable Discipline vs. “Abuse”
Must Injuries Last 48 Hours? (1 Definition)
Is Spanking, Paddling for Discipline Abuse?
Can Be Especially Bad if Done in Anger …
Parent Out of Control!
Murray Straus’ View
ANY Violence Inappropriate (Incl. Spank)
Legitimates Violence By Authorities
Legitimates Violence in Other Areas
Thus: Violence Begets Violence
Children Learn From Violence …
That Violence Is OK!
That’s One of the Sources of Classroom
Effects on Children
• Physical Abuse or Neglect Can Cause Death
• Shaken Baby Syndrome Causes Brain Damage
• Children Removed from Abusive Homes
– Tend to Consider Themselves Responsible
– Are Often Protective of Their Parents
Unusual Type of Child Abuse:
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
Munchausen Syndrome:
People Fake Their Own Illness to Get Attention
Munchausen By Proxy:
People (Usually Mothers) Fake Illness or Injury
in Their Children to Get Attention
• EX: Cause Vomiting, Diarrhea, Dehydration
• May Threaten Child’s Health or Life
• Mother Wants to Appear the Devoted Mother
Child Sexual Abuse
• Sexually Arousing Behavior Between Child &
Older Person (Adult or Late Teen)
• For Sexual Stimulation of Adult or Someone
Else (e.g., Through Pictures, Videos)
• Adult Is “In Charge” – Stronger or In Authority
• Child Is Not In a Position to Resist
Child Sexual Abuse TODAY
• No Longer Just Incest
• Includes Both Family & Non-Family Abuse
• Includes Physical & Non-Physical Stimulation
– EX: Watching Videos, Movies
• Adult or Older Child Misuses Power, Authority
• Creates Problems With Statutory Rape Laws
– Adolescent Perpetrator & Victim Both Under Age
Identifying Child Sexual Abuse
• More Difficult Than Other Child Abuse
• Adults – Parents & Professional Workers:
– Embarrassed to Inquire
– Reluctant to Believe It
• Sexually Abused Children Unusually
Knowledgeable re Sexual Issues
• Children Rarely Lie But …
• Often “Open to Suggestion” By Interviewers
Child Neglect
Only Recently Included in Child Maltreatment
Child Protective Services (CPS) Workers:
The Most Commonly Reported Type
Failure to Provide Child With Life Necessities:
– Food
• EX: No Health Care – Poor Hygiene – Poor Nutrition
– Unsafe Home Environment – Abandonment (Left
Alone); Neglecting School; No Love, Attention
• All Difficult to Define!
Clarifying Child Neglect
• Who’s Responsible? Father? Mother? Both?
• Usually Mother Blamed – Child Care “Her Job”
• Difficult to Define:
– Is No Food “Neglect” If No Money?
– Is No Doctor “Neglect” If No Health Care?
– How Old May Child Be Left Alone?
– How Long Can a Child Be Left Alone?
– A Few Minutes? Few Hours? Few Weeks?
– Combination of Length of Time & Child’s Age?
– Is Parental Deliberateness a Factor?
How to Deal With Child Neglect?
• Remove Child from Home?
• Who Takes the Child? Who Pays for This?
– Relative? Foster Care?
How Severe Must Neglect Be to Take Action?
What Is Impact on the Child?
Which Hurts Child More: Neglect or Removal?
Can We Be Sure Child Will Receive Better Care
in Alternate Environment?
New Form: Fetus Neglect
• Attempts to Hold Women Responsible for
Neglect of Unborn Children:
• No Prenatal Care
• Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
• Taking Drugs in Pregnancy
• Getting Treatments for Mother That Might
Harm Child (EX: Cancer Treatment)
• Again: What Should Be Done?
Psychological Maltreatment
• New Form of Child Maltreatment
• Reject – Degrade – Call Names (Idiot, Stupid)
• Threats – To Child; Other Persons (Mother);
Things Child Loves (Pets, Favorite Toys)
• Shackling to Bed; Lock in Basement, Attic
• Forcing Child to Do Things Feared (Attic)
• Isolate from Siblings; Urge Siblings to Mistreat
• Ignore/Exploit/Restrict Action/Teach Deviance
Q: Should Child Maltreatment
Be Considered Abuse?
• Or Is It Simply Poor Parenting?
• How Do We Draw the Line?
• How Much of This Involves Parents Doing
Their Best to Handle a Bad Situation?
• How Can CPS Handle the Additional Cases?
• Is Our Health & Welfare System Set Up to
Handle It?
• Are We Willing to Spend This Much Money?
Allowing Children to
Observe Parental Abuse
• A New Addition to Definition of Child Abuse
• Can Be Very Traumatic for Children:
– Fear for Self: What Will Happen to Me if They
Split Up? Who Will Take Care of Me?
– Fear for Parent: Will Mommy Die?
• Parents Usually Try to Hide Their Fights
• Children Rarely Are Unaware
– See Injuries; Hear Yelling; See/Hear Home Damage
Children Protect Abused Parents
• College Student Feared for Younger Siblings
Living With Father & Abusive Stepmother
• Teen-Aged Girl Who Asked How to Help
Abused Mother
• Janice Humphreys – Shelter Children:
– Helped Mother With Housework
– Tried to Be Good So Father Would Not Get Mad
– Tried to Protect Mother
Dealing with Observation
of Parental Abuse
How Would We Identify It?
Would We Remove Child?
Who Is Responsible?
Father for Abuse? Or Mother For Remaining?
Some Courts Blame Mother for Inaction!
Should We Require Couple to Separate?
How Would Defenders of Family React?
Can CPS Handle This Level of Work?
Child Maltreatment in General
Public Tends to Be Very Ambivalent:
Great Abhorrence at Child Neglect or Abuse
Reluctant to Interfere with Parent Rights
Still Numerous Calls for Increased Discipline
Some Bills in Congress/Legislatures Promoting
More Physical Discipline in Schools, Homes
• But Mass. Legislature Introduced Bill Banning
Spanking in State (2007)
Effects on Children in Childhood
• Disorganized Attachment …
• Parent Is Both Protector & Attacker
• Similar to “Stockholm Syndrome” – Victims
Protect Those Who Imprison Them
• Disruptive Behavior Inside & Outside Home
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Later Effects on Children
• Socio-Emotional/Behavioral Difficulties
– Depression; Anger; Anxiety; PTSD
• Alcoholism, Drug Abuse
• Family/Interpersonal Difficulties
– Difficulties Relating to Others as Children, Adults
• Parenting Difficulties
– Unrealistic With Own Children; Abusive
• Biological (Physiological) Problems
– Physical Health Problems; Conceptual Deficits
Who Abuses More?
Usually the Mother
She Is Most Frequently With the Children
Most Responsible for Child Care
Father Usually Involved in “Play” or “Fun”
BUT Father May Be Involved When He Arrives
Home – If Matter Is Really Serious
Mechanisms for Dealing
With Child Abuse
• Improved Parenting Education
– For BOTH Women & Men – Why?
– Should REQUIRE Child Development Class in
Sophomore Year of High School – WHY?
• Community Awareness & Concern
– They Either Support or Discourage Child Abuse
– NOT an Issue in Which the Larger Community Can
Remain Uninvolved
– Community Opinion Is Known & Affects Parents
Next Discussion
Theories Explaining Child Abuse
What They Tell Us About Managing Parental
Behavior to Reduce Child Abuse
Policy Dilemmas of American Society Re Child