Child maltreatment

An environmental pathogen?

Authored by: Melissa Jonson-Reid , Charlotte Bright

The Routledge International Handbook of Biosocial Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415722131
eBook ISBN: 9781315858449
Adobe ISBN: 9781317936749


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In 1962, Dr C. Henry Kempe established the modern foundation for child maltreatment research by naming the battered child syndrome, a medical condition resulting primarily from physical abuse (Kempe et al., 1962). Most of the literature describing the battered child syndrome focused on physical abuse, with Kempe later calling for more attention to sexual abuse in a lecture in 1978 (Kempe, 1978). In the late 1970s we begin to see emerging discussion of emotional abuse (Garbarino, 1978). Also in the 1970s, maltreatment goes through a process of redefinition as a consequence of increasing attention to other underlying issues, such as lack of social support (Garbarino, 1977) or a mental health disorder on the part of the parent (Webster et al., 1985). By 1984, researchers were increasingly calling for more emphasis on child neglect, coining the now common phrase “neglect of neglect” (Wolock and Horowitz, 1984). Since then, what we call maltreatment has expanded and contracted in response to research or public concern, ranging from a narrow focus on physical abuse to a broad focus including issues such as childhood obesity or exposure to intimate partner violence (Viner et al., 2010; Trocmé et al., 2013).

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