SOC 335 – Social
Child abuse is when an adult such as a parent or
caregiver, causes an injury, death, emotional harm, or puts a child at risk for
serious harm. Child abuse can be done through direct actions or by failing to
care for a child properly. There are many forms of child abuse, including
neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse (What 2017). When
there is one form of abuse happening, there is most likely another form of
other mistreatment happening as well. Various forms of abuse are frequently
combined with either physical or emotional neglect (Ney 1994). As a society it
is important to determine child discipline from physical child abuse. Child
abuse is deviant, against the law, and violates the norms of the American
abuse is unfortunately a common issue in most societies and negatively affects
a child’s life. Having an understanding on child abuse creates awareness of the
issue and gives our society an explanation what is considered deviant. Child
abuse has many “gray” areas within the definitions of child abuse. Many opinions
differentiate on the topic due to differences in culture.
question the difference between child abuse and discipline. Discipline is
defined the practice of having people obey rules or standards of behavior and enforcing
order (Discipline 2017). Excessive discipline can lead to child abuse.
Excessive discipline is when a child is physically hurt, such as when the child
has bruising, broken skin, swelling or a situation that needs medical attention.
Punishment is meant to educate a child. The punishment may be considered
excessive if its purpose is to convey fear within the child. Other excessive
behaviors include the parent or adult involved losing control of his or hers behaviors,
using inappropriate action for the child’s age, and reaching unreasonable
demands for the child.
abusers tend to have less patience than others. They are unable to cope with
the demands of the children and the stress increases the likelihood of physical
or emotional abuse. However, there is no single explanation for child
maltreatment. Child abuse results from a combination of personal, social, and
cultural factors (Prince 2012).
conducted a study and found that mothers or females were responsible for more reported
child abuse cases. However, the study also states that more fathers or males
were responsible for fractures and head trauma. Factors that increase the child’s
chances of abuse are parental emotional problems, alcohol and drug issues
within the home, and other family violence (Legano 2009). There has been a
spike in child abuse reports since the 1990’s, however researchers believe that
many child abuse cases remain undetected (Combating 1997).
have not always been laws protecting children from abuse. For many centuries
laws failed to protect them. In 1864 a young girl named Mary Ellen was the
first recognized child to be removed from her home under child protective
services. Mary Ellen was being severely abused and neglected by her caretaker. The
police and court system would not step in to remove the child because there
were no laws to prevent child abuse, however animal abuse laws existed. The
dedication of several people saved Mary Ellen due to those animal laws. People believed
that if animals had the right to be respected then children should too. This
movement led to the founding of The New York Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children. The New York SPCC and Prevention of Cruelty to Animal
activists started the American Humane Society to prevent this type of abuse from
happening to other children (Myers 2009).
abuse has a long history in the United States. Children have always been
possible victims to abuse by their parents or other adults. However, awareness
and defining child abuse as deviant has grown to protect children (Child 2013).
More states are enforcing laws to
protect children from abuse. As of today, 31 states forbid hitting or spanking
in public schools, 37 states do not allow foster parents to strike children,
and all 50 of the United States outlaw clearly identified physical child abuse.
At least two states have introduced legislation in the past few years to ban
parental spanking. The bill did not make it pasted the committee, but it will
likely be brought up again in the future (Whipple 1997).
Sykes and David Matza’s techniques of neutralization help people understand how
one may rationalize a deviant behavior, such as child abuse. After a deviant
act is committed a person may attempt to neutralize their feelings associated
with the deviant behavior and attempt to protect their self-image. Acts, such
as harming a child, violate norms or go against beliefs can bring guilt and
shame. These emotions often prevent people from engaging in deviant behaviors.
However, if an individual does participate in a deviant behavior their response
is to neutralize their feelings is a defense mechanism. People feel the need to
neutralize their guilt and protect their dignity (Leduc, Soc 335, Fall
and Matza defined five different methods that a delinquent may use to justify
their actions that apply to child abuse very well. The first one is denial of
responsibility. The person engaged in child abuse may deny taking responsibility
and make up excuses. A common line associated with this method would be “It wasn’t
my fault!” The second method is denial of injury. A person may attempt deny
that there was no serious injury or harm done to the child. Even if the child
was hurt the abuser may attempt to minimize the situation so that their actions
would not appear to be deviant. The third method is the denial of
victimization. The abuser may attempt to neutralize their feelings by stating
the child “deserved it.” One may use condemnation of condemners to point out
that they are being accused out of spite. They may say lines like “Everybody
does it!” or “You did the same thing back in the day!” The last method is
appeal to higher loyalties. Instead of taking responsibility of the situation,
the person may suggest that the offense was for the greater good or that they
were attempting to be a rule enforcer (Leduc, Soc 335, Fall 2017).
of the techniques of neutralization can be applied to a situation concerning child
abuse. However, it fails to explain how the deviant behavior was learned. It
doesn’t give an explanation as to how the deviant made their choices that led
to the need of neutralizing them. Another weakness with this theory is that not
all child abusers approve of social values such as honesty and fairness. This
theory does not apply to all child abusers.
D. Orcutt explains how situational context affects social interpretations of deviant
behavior. The three dimensions of a situation context that Orcutt states are
the goals of the situation, the situational stability of the use, and the user’s
motivations. Depending on situational context, child abuse or child discipline
can be interpreted in many ways. Situational context describes the reason why
something may be occurring and the appropriate behavior and actions associated
with the situation.
first of these conditions relates to situational goals. Child abuse may fall
into a task situation or in a socioemotional situation. The use of discipline
is generally perceived as more “acceptable” when the goals are connected with a
task. The abuser would be connecting the acts to teaching the child a lesson.
When the abusers emotions are high and they are not utilizing the means for
education the act is defined as more deviant (Leduc, Soc 335, Fall 2017).
situational stability of child abuse use also varies. When the action of child
abuse happens one time or on rare occasions the stability is considered intra-situational.
When the individual abuses a child repeatedly in different situations the
stability is defined as inter-situational. Child abuse is should not be tolerated
under any conditions. However, when child abuse is perceived as a consistent
inter-situational pattern, the actions are considered very deviant (Leduc, Soc
335, Fall 2017).
third variation that Orcutt discusses relates to motivations behind the child
abuse. Motivations behind child abuse are defined as either social or personal.
Social motivations include situations where the abuser is committing the acts because
that is how they were raised. The methods are passed down from generation to
generation. Personal motivations are implied when the child abuse is used as an
individual attempt to cope with a situation. People are more likely to label
personal motivations as deviant because they take their frustrations out on the
child and utilize those actions as coping skills (Leduc, Soc 335, Fall
panics bring awareness to a concern which is believed to be a positive and
cautious measure. Its purpose is to have an intervention to stop those who are
a threat to the society or those who are responsible for creating the threat.
However, in most cases the public greatly exceeds this purpose by overreacting.
It creates a consensus through fear and does not always provide the audience
with facts. Instead it uses one sided emotional imagery to convince the
audience of a specific view point (Leduc, Soc 335, Fall 2017).
the 1980’s reports of child sexual abuse in day-care centers swept the
nation. This moral panic led to people
questioning day care centers, anxious parents, and the implication that behind
every tree lurked a pedophile waiting to snatch our children. Sexual abuse is a
disturbing crime, but the perpetrators are usually relatives or family friends,
and less than 1 percent of cases take place in day-care centers. America was described as experiencing an
“epidemic” of sexual abuse in day care (Casey 2015).
abuse may include an act by a parent or other adult that results in actual or
potential harm to a child. Child abuse is known as a deviant behavior. The
United States along with other countries are creating more awareness on the
issue. More laws are being passed to protect children from the short and long
term effects of abuse. Nonviolence disciplines are becoming more and more
popular in attempt to stop child abuse.