Evolution of Child Maltreatment Theory


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Advanced Topics: Child Maltreatment Theory
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Southern Arkansas University
Kimberly Keith, MEd, LPC

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  • Day 2 Summer Session
  • One of the first medical research facilities for identifying and treating child abuse and neglect was at Colorado General Hospital in Denver, which became the The Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect “ We were founded by the doctor who pioneered this field. We never, ever forget his mission,  his vision, and his belief that change is possible. In 1962, Dr. C. Henry Kempe and his colleagues pioneered the identification and recognition of child abuse with their defining paper, The Battered Child Syndrome. This paper was regarded as the single most significant event in creating awareness and exposing the reality of abuse. It gave doctors a way to understand and do something about child abuse and neglect. Dr. Kempe was a tenacious researcher and a relentless advocate, working tirelessly to change policy, laws and perceptions to better protect children. For his efforts, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize.” Kempe Center web site http://kempecenter.org Psychopathology models did not hold up to research. No abusive personality type was found and only a small percentage of those who maltreated experienced any psychopathologic disorder (Kempe & Kempe, 1978).
  • Psychopathology models did not hold up to research. No abusive personality type was found and only a small percentage of those who maltreated experienced any psychopathologic disorder (Kempe & Kempe, 1978).
  • Social support theories (Giovanni, 1970) – “Families who experience maltreatment have fewer organizational networks to provide support; and they have fewer connection to organizational or social support, which exacerbates stress within the home and creates and environment for abuse or neglect.” P. 25 Strain theories (Farrington, 1980, Straus, 1980) - “Maltreatment occurs because of society’s emphasis on economic success combined with failure to provide equal opportunity for achieving that success. For example, maltreatment rates are higher in areas plagued with lower incomes and unemployment.” P. 25 Social Learning Theory Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), which addresses the generational transmission of maltreatment, hypothesizes that “exposure to violence can reinforce children to learn that violent behavior causes a desired response; and to accept violence as a normal and appropriate way to handle situations, express emotions, and resolve conflict. Further, watching violent behavior can lead to repeating that behavior at a later time, referred to as modeling.” P. 25
  • Patterns of attachment (secure, anxious-avoidant, and anxious-ambivalent, disorganized-disoriented) are identified by Ainsworth from the Strange Situation protocol. Two-thirds of children who are maltreated have insecure attachments, and most exhibit the disorganized-disoriented attachment pattern (Crittenden, 1988, Carlson, et al, 1989)
  • Evolution of Child Maltreatment Theory

    1. 1. EVOLUTION OF CHILD MALTREATMENT THEORY Scannapieco, Maria and Connell-Carrick, Kelli. ‘Theoretical overview of understanding child maltreatment’ in Understanding Child Maltreatment: An ecological and developmental perspective . 2005. Oxford University Press
    2. 2. The Beginning of Child Protection Mary Ellen Wilson Etta Wheeler In 1873, Mary Ellen was rescued from her abusive home through Etta Wheeler’s efforts with the help of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After Mary Ellen’s removal by the court Etta asked the head of the Society who helped “if there could not now be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which should do for abused children what was being so well done for animals?”
    3. 3. 1960s – Speculation Period <ul><li>Phenomenon of child abuse and neglect first comes into widespread public awareness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It took the advent of radiology and x-rays for child abuse and neglect to become recognizable. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1960, C. Henry Kempe was shocked and alarmed by the large numbers of children admitted to his pediatric service suffering from what were obviously non-accidental injuries. X-rays revealed old breaks and abnormal skeletal changes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>He published his findings in an explosive article “The Battered Child Syndrome” which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1962. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,896393,00.html </li></ul></ul></ul>
    4. 4. 1960s – Speculation Period <ul><li>Psychopathology Theories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Abusive parents are: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chronically aggressive; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rigid and domineering; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Impulsive; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emotionally immature; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Low frustration tolerance and difficulty expressing anger; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Unresponsive to child’s needs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Psychopathology models did not hold up to research. No abusive personality type was found and only a small percentage of those who maltreated experienced any psychopathologic disorder (Kempe & Kempe, 1978). </li></ul>
    5. 5. 1970s – Introspection Period <ul><li>Psychological Theories continue but methodological problems and the field’s inability to find an ‘abusive personality disorder’ or a strong correlation between psychological disorders and child maltreatment result in researchers turning to sociological theories. </li></ul><ul><li>Sociological Theories – “emphasize social factors such as poverty, socioeconomic status, social status, isolation, and acceptance of violence in society as causes of child abuse and neglect.” P. 25 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social support theories (Giovanni, 1970) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strain theories (Farrington, 1980, Straus, 1980) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeE_Ymzc1rE </li></ul></ul></ul>
    6. 6. 1980s – Diversity Period <ul><li>Ecologically based theories come forward. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus is on etiology (causes) of child maltreatment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ecological Model - Belsky (1980) applied Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of human development to child maltreatment. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Four levels in the ecological model (1.) Ontogenic (individual); (2) Microsystem (family); (3.) Exosystem (includes mesosystem, neighborhood, community); (4.) Macrosystem (society, culture, laws) </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. 1980s – Diversity Period <ul><li>Attachment theories Bowlby (1982) and Ainsworth (1978, 1989). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTsewNrHUHU </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Family Systems theories – Beginning of our understanding of crisis theory, feedback loops, paradoxical interventions; reframing, and problem-solving therapy – Milton Erickson, Jay Haley, Salvador Minuchin </li></ul>
    8. 8. 1990s – Multidisciplinary Integration <ul><li>Child maltreatment studies coming from psychology, sociology, social work, criminal justice, and public health fields. </li></ul><ul><li>Ecological/transactional theory begins to guide current practice and research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ecological/Transactional Model – Cicchetti & Lynch (1993) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus is on etiology and outcomes of child maltreatment; begin to look at risk and protective factors </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Current Status <ul><li>Integrative and process theories of child maltreatment are expanded. </li></ul><ul><li>Current research focuses on child protection practice, substance abuse treatment, community health and prevention, developmental effects of abuse, foster care outcomes. </li></ul>