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From Pediatrics via USA Today, here are some illuminating statistics on our most vulnerable. In a new study, babies under age 2 are more likely to be killed by their parents than by anyone else.

Here is a list of the most common perpetrators of infant death and the percentages the study attributes to each:

Father: 33.8%
Mother: 22.5%
Mother’s boyfriend:  22.5%
Babysitter:  7%
Other male relative:  5.6%
Acquaintance:  4.2%
Foster mother:  1.4%
Unknown:  1.4%
 

Educating Dads May Help Protect Babies from Abuse, USA Today, July 31, 2009.

Horrible and disgusting . . . parents killing their own babies. Here is an article out of Texas about a mother who committed a gruesome murder of her own 3 1/2 week old infant, repeatedly stabbing, decapitating and mutilating him: San Antonio Express News, via The Houston Chronicle, July 27, 2009, San Antonio Baby Fund Stabbed, Decapitated.

Yet, what most of us in the modern westernized world don’t know is that infanticide has been documented to have been very common throughout human history in most societies, the farther back in time, the more gruesome and the more prevalent, including violent infant sacrifice in the earliest societies, as well as exposure of most babies by medieval European societies, among many other variations of the same, perhaps used as a form of birth control, perhaps worse, as a way to displace parents’ pain and suffering on innocents.

 Consider this from Larry Stephen Milner:

“But the fact of the matter is that infanticide is not an isolated phenomenon and cannot be explained by some aberrant sociopathic excuse. From sacrificial killings meant to appease the wrath of gods, to the abandonment of bastard newborns in an attempt to hide from shame, human beings have slaughtered their offspring with no less frequency than they have murdered in the pursuit of war and oppression. The sheer numbers are staggering. In every era, in every country, some degree of infanticide has been found. While certain societies have noted only sporadic cases, others reveal that 10-50% of all newborns have been killed either at birth or soon thereafter. And for the most part, these killings have proceeded with either direct participation, or the permission, of the child’s parent and societal legal codes.” Larry Stephen Milner, Hardness of Heart; Hardness of Life. The Stain of Human Infanticide. Kearney: Morris Publications, 1998, p. 3.

 

Here is a story of child abuse out of Salem, Oregon.

Two parents have been arrested and accused of multiple counts of child abuse against their children, ages 15, 14, 13, 11, 10, and 9, including 6 counts of second-degree Assault, 6 counts of first-degree Criminal Mistreatment, 6 counts of Unlawful use of a Weapon and 6 counts of Coercion.

The children were taken into protective custody, as was the parents’ six-day-old infant, after the three older children called 911 to report abuse.  Sheriff’s deputies found significant evidence of abuse on the children.

Salem, Oregon, Parents Accused of Child Abuse, 7-22-09

What is most striking to me about this online newpaper article are the comments posted by readers of the article. Read them at this link: Two Adults Arrested in Salem on Multiple Counts of Child Abuse, Salem-News.com, July 22, 2009.

Apparently, nearly everyone who read the story was certain that the children were lying, that they were evil, and that they cruelly reported their parents just to avoid the spankings they deserve. Instead of sympathizing with the children or even hoping the parents could get some proper counseling, these multiple readers sympathized with the parents. Many of them cited bible verses indicating that children need to be disciplined with violence.

This is a very common classic method of childrearing. Children are to blame, children are to be hurt because they are to blame, and children need to keep quiet about it to protect the parents’ reputation.

Here are bible verses quoted by a reader commenting on an article on this situation in another online paper (Salem Parents are Accused of Child Abuse, OregonLive.com, July 22, 2009):

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

Proverbs 19:18 Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold correction from a child,
For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:14 You shall beat him with a rod,
And deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother

Despite all this, I am not singling out Christianity as the only religion that traditionally supports child abuse or mistreatment. In fact, I don’t know of a single culture that has been immune from child mistreatment through history.

Here is a public bulletin board post by an adult who was abused as a child:

My life is like a horror movie that just keeps playing over and over and over. Why doesn’t somebody push the stop button!!!??

I can truly sympathize / empathize with all on here. All the abuses, mental and physical, seems I’ve suffered through them all and then some.

Speaking of triggers…..they are everywhere – in every corner, under every bed, in the eyes of strangers, and the words of loved ones. There is no escape from them.

I have forgiven all who have misused me (that’s an odd way to say it??)… but I have not forgotten, nor will I ever. Sometimes I just want to spit and cuss and break something….

As you may remember from the prior post, in 1979, Sweden became the first country to ban all corporal punishment of children including in the home.

In an elucidating article, Adrienne Ahlgren Haeuser, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, has described the impact of the Swedish law a decade after its passage.

Professor Haeuser visited Sweden in 1981 and 1988, conducting extensive interviews with multiple government authorities, human services professionals, teachers and daycare personnel, child welfare organization leaders, parents, and some children.

The facts she discovered are amazing and surprising – the law has actually changed parenting practices and improved life in Sweden. Read the article at this link:  Swedish Parents Don’t Spank, By Adrienne A. Haeuser.

Here are some of her observations (made as of a decade after the law’s passage):

1. Before World War 2, Sweden was a society influenced by German authoritarianism and Lutheran dogma, under which childrearing included regular harsh beatings to “drive out the devil and make room for God’s Will.”

2. Sweden moved into the 1970’s with widespread child abuse.

3. The law was implemented in these ways: (a) every family received a mailing explaining the physical and psychological harm that can be caused by hitting children; (b) it was implemented through public health facilities, including close case work by nurses at the facilities; and (c) the law was given wide coverage in the media.

4.” The school system, in response to passage of the law, intensified the curriculum in child development and parenting. . . , and parents did not object to having their children learn about the law in school. As one parent said, ‘This teaches children not to be violent.'”

5. Since passage of the law, “few minor infractions have been reported by spiteful neighbors or children, putting to rest the speculation that such a law would create chaos by turning minor parental infractions into government cases.”

6. There have been many more reports of substantiated cases of child abuse.

7. In 1988, “[B]oth parents and professionals agreed that Swedish parents, aside from those with very serious psychological or social problems, were not using physical punishment of any sort, even in the privacy of their homes.”

8. “Swedish parents now discipline their children; and in doing so, they rely on a variety of alternatives to physical punishment. The method most commonly used is verbal conflict resolution. . . .”

9. ” To socialize preverbal infants and toddlers, Swedish parents make every effort to avoid conflict. They thoroughly childproof their homes and give their children a great deal of attention. Society supports include paid parental leave, which permits one parent to remain at home throughout a baby’s first 15 months of life.”

10. Violent crimes against people in Sweden decreased.

Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. is a clinician and researcher in children’s mental health and the neurosciences, and an internationally-recognized authority on children in crisis, who has served as a consultant and expert witness on many high-profile incidents involving traumatized children, including the Columbine High School Massacre, the Oaklahoma City bombing, and the Waco seige.  He has written extensively on the subject of the brain’s response to trauma and abuse during childhood and its impact on the brain of the adult who that child becomes.

Consider this analysis from Dr. Perry and see the full article by clicking the citation link after the quote:

What we are as adults is the product of the world we experienced as children. The way a society functions is a reflection of the childrearing practices of that society. Today, we reap what we have sown. Despite the well-documented critical nature of early life experiences, we dedicate few resources to this time of life. We do not educate our children about development, parenting or about the impact of neglect and trauma on children. As a society we put more value on requiring hours of formal training to drive a car than we do on any formal training in childrearing.

In order to prevent the development of impaired children, we need to dedicate resources of time, energy and money to the complex problems related to child maltreatment. We need to understand the indelible relationship between early life experiences and cognitive, social, emotional, and physical health. Providing enriching cognitive, emotional, social and physical experiences in childhood could transform our culture. But before our society can choose to provide these experiences, it must be educated about what we now know regarding child development. Education of the public must be coupled with the continuing generation of data regarding the impact of both positive and negative experiences on the development of children. All of this must be paired with the implementation and testing of programs dedicated to enrich the lives of children and families and programs to provide early identification of, and proactive intervention for, at-risk children and families. [emphasis added] Perry, B.D. and Marcellus, J.E.  (1997) The Impact of Abuse and Neglect on the Developing Brain.  Colleagues for Children. 7: 1-4, Missouri Chapter of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.

 

Take a look at this list of countries where all corporal punishment against children, including in the home, is now legally prohibited:

Sweden (1979)
Finland (1983)
Norway (1987)
Austria (1989)
Cyprus (1994)
Denmark (1997)
Latvia (1998)
Croatia (1999)
Germany (2000)
Israel (2000)
Bulgaria (2000)
Iceland (2003)
Romania (2004)
Ukraine (2004)
Hungary (2005)
Greece (2006)
Spain (2007)
Venezuela (2007)
Uruguay (2007)
Portugal (2007)
New Zealand (2007)
Netherlands (2007)
Republic of Moldova (2008)
Costa Rica (2008)

In addition, in Italy in 1996 the Supreme Court in Rome declared all corporal punishment to be unlawful; this is not yet confirmed in legislation.

In Nepal in 2005, the Supreme Court declared null and void the legal defense in the Child Act allowing parents, guardians and teachers to administer a “minor beating”; the Child Act is yet to be amended to confirm this.

Do you notice a country that is noticeably absent from the list?

A number of countries, some motivated in part by the UN’s convention and resolution protecting the rights of children, have taken the important step of legally standing behind child protection. This is clearly a step forward in the advancement of civilization.

In fact, the UN Study on Violence Against Children set a goal of universal abolition of corporal punishment against children as 2009. As of March 2009, the count of countries with full abolition was 24. The prohibition is being added by further states at a fast rate.

Here is a statement made at a discussion of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:

“As for corporal punishment, few countries have clear laws on this question. Certain States have tried to distinguish between the correction of children and excessive violence. In reality the dividing line between the two is artificial. It is very easy to pass from one stage to the other. It is also a question of principle. If it is not permissible to beat an adult, why should it be permissible to do so to a child? One of the contributions of the Convention is to call attention to the contradictions in our attitudes and cultures.”
Concluding statement to Committee on the Rights of the Child General Discussion on Children’s Rights in the Family, October 1994

In America, suggestions to legally prohibit hitting children are rarely well-received. A recent attempt at a limited watered-down ban on corporal punishment (only on children under 4) in California was angrily received as well as ridiculed by many and shot down. (See Spanking Still Legal in California, Feb. 24, 2007, by Eric Fleming.) Why are Americans so hell bent on protecting the rights of parents to hit children?

How about this:

“Consider the injustice of hitting children. We hit in order to inflict pain. The law does not permit us to inflict pain on anyone other than our children. Floggings of prisoners and in the armed services, the beating of wives and servants are part of an unwanted brutal past. Our laws prohibit us from inflicting pain on animals. Why our children?”.
Ian Hassall, New Zealand Commissioner for Children, 1993.

Here’s Michael Jackson several years back speaking on how horribly and how painfully his father Joe Jackson abused him (along with the other Jackson children) as a child – severe beatings, whippings, tripping him and pushing him into walls, severe pervasive put-downs. Reading other interviews with family friends and other family members, including Joe’s admission to the whippings (which he has said he believes is good discipline), I suspect the admissions in this video are only the tip of the iceberg.

How about some important words from some important people:

“Each generation of parents commits atrocities against their children which by God’s decree remain invisible to the rest of the world.” – John Updike

“If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Men are what their mothers made them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Deprived children. . . are a source of social infection as real and serious as are carriers of diphtheria and typhoid.”- John Bowlby

“Men are to be viewed as the organs of their century, which operate mainly unconsciously.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

In 2007, the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, published a study, The Science of Early Childhood Development (2007). Among so many important concepts, the study printed the following list of what it terms the “Core Concepts of Development”:

  • Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development, as capable children become the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable society.
  • Brains are built over time.
  • The interactive influences of genes and experience literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and the active ingredient is the “serve and return” nature of children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community.
  • Both brain architecture and developing abilities are built “from the bottom up,” with simple circuits and skills providing the scaffolding for more advanced circuits and skills over time.
  • Toxic stress in early childhood is associated with persistent effects on the nervous system and stress hormone systems that can damage developing brain architecture and lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.
  • Creating the right conditions for early childhood development is likely to be more effective and less costly than addressing problems at a later age.

The study contains important information and research conducted by many highly-regarded, well-trained specialists in human development; I plan to refer to it over and over again. My question is, if Harvard came out with this study in 2007, why are policymakers not listening? If we are in fact aware that childhood mistreatment directly impacts society as a whole, then why are large amounts of budget dollars not being allocated to the parenting education and child abuse prevention? Why are child welfare programs some of the first to be cut from budgets, instead of the first to be prioritized?