Saturday, September 26, 2015

Who Is Responsible for Child Abuse?

Who’s really responsible for child abuse?

As it happens, it’s not nursery school teachers or even a child’s biological father. First on the list of potential abusers is the mother’s live-in boyfriend. Second on the list, with caveats, is the mother herself.

The conclusion is inescapable. Or at least it should be. Samantha Allen  presents the argument, while disputing it in The Daily Beast:

Conservative and family-focused groups like the Heritage Foundation can wield it to argue that marriage is “still the safest place for women and children” and advocate for a return to traditional values. Others might counter that the economic and educational advantages of marriage—and not marriage itself—are what help children flourish.

Of course, it’s not about flourishing. It’s about preventing abuse. It’s about preventing sexual molestation. And, as we saw in a recent Boston case, it can lead to murdering children.

True enough, marriage provides many advantages to children. But, apparently, and this is the most important point, a child’s biological father is radically disinclined to abuse his children while a mother’s boyfriend, who is not a biological father, seems to be inclined to do so.

So much for fatherhood as a social construct.

However, ask yourself this. If television presents a drama about child abuse, how likely is it that the father is the culprit? I would say that it is extremely likely. A certain cultural narrative has worked to diminish and malign fatherhood, the better to convince women to jettison their husbands in favor of liberation.

The truth of the matter is: the people most likely to commit these crimes are mothers’ boyfriends.

Allen reports on the recent case of Bella Bond:

“Our daughter is dead. The guy that’s been living in my house murdered our daughter.”

These are the words that Bella Bond’s father Joseph Amoroso said he heard from her mother, Rachelle Bond, when he went to see his child for the first time. The “guy” that had been living in Rachelle Bond’s house was her ex-boyfriend Michael McCarthy, whom prosecutors allege murdered Bella in June, and then kept Bond “captive,” injected her with heroin, and, with her help, disposed of the body in the Boston Harbor after storing it in a refrigerator for weeks.

Many researchers have studied the question. They have noted that it’s not about gender. That is, there is nothing about testosterone that predisposes a man to abuse his children. A child’s male relatives are far less likely to abuse him or her than are the child’s male non-relatives.

Naturally, the researchers have offered a number of explanations of the phenomenon. They begin with the notion that the boyfriend does not command the child’s respect and thus, to discipline him, needs to use force. They also suggest that, at times, the boyfriend will feel threatened by the mother-child connection.

Allen reports on the research:

2001 study in Child Maltreatment found that “the presence of a non-biological father figure in the home should be considered a significant predictor of a future child maltreatment report.” In a sample of 644 mother-child pairs, the authors found no significant difference in maltreatment between mother-father households and single mother households, but did find that children with a cohabiting “father surrogate” were “twice as likely to be reported for maltreatment after his entry into the home.”

She also adds:

In 2002, a study in Pediatrics looked specifically at cases of fatal child maltreatment over a two-year time period in Missouri and found that risk of fatal maltreatment was not increased for children living with a single parent, but that it was raised eight times if they were living with unrelated adults, “primarily in households including biologically unrelated adult males and boyfriends of the child’s mother.”

One does not like to have to point this out, but these single mothers, divorced or otherwise, have very poor judgment when it comes to choosing boyfriends. They have even worse judgment when it comes to inviting these men into their homes. Since they are morally obligated to protect their children, they ought to be held somewhat accountable for the consequences of their actions.

Allen also notes that single mothers are responsible for more child abuse than are single fathers. One reason might be that more women than men are primary caregivers:

Again, these cases are not necessarily determined exclusively by the boyfriend’s gender. After all, according to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (PDF), mothers acting alone were responsible for 40 percent of child abuse, compared to 20 percent for fathers. Mothers were also responsible for over twice the percentage of child fatalities as fathers. Bear in mind that women are more likely to be a child’s primary caretaker.

Mothers are more likely to abuse their children, but mothers spend far more time with their children. Point well made.

Naturally, Allen does not want to stigmatize single mothers. None of us want to stigmatize single mothers, many of whom are great mothers and raise wonderful children.

And yet, the statistics do not lie. Single motherhood (especially coupled with a live-in boyfriend) creates greater risks for children than does a home with two married parents.

Keep in mind, if you destigmatize something you are going to get more of it. And while it is feministically preferable for a woman not to need a man for anything—remember Gloria Steinem declaring that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle—perhaps having a stable home with a mother and father present creates the best circumstances for bringing up a child. Surely, it offers the best chance of diminishing the incidence of child abuse. And we all want to do that, don’t we?

Thus, we should not be encouraging single motherhood or divorce.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Thus, we should not be encouraging single motherhood or divorce.

Sort of like what Planned Parenthood does, minus the skull-squishing part.

Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) is a program for all Minnesota families with children between the ages of birth to kindergarten entrance. The program is offered through Minnesota public school districts. ECFE is based on the idea that the family provides a child's first and most significant learning environment and parents are a child's first and most important teachers. ECFE works to strengthen families. ECFE's goal is to enhance the ability of all parents and other family members to provide the best possible environment for their child's learning and growth.

The Minnesota Department of Education provides support to local school districts to provide high-quality parenting education to families within their communities.

Or Marriage counselors!
D'oh! Oops, wrong blog!
Maybe Marriage Coaches will be the next big thing?

And better skip the Catholic priests, or is that all cleaned up now that everyone has been properly shamed?

Really, I'd probably have been one of the naive enablers... Well, that was embarrassing, but let's relocate Father Jack out to the Smithville congregation where no one knows him. God forgives him so we must too, and now we can let him go back to doing God's work...

Now we know why the Pope was asking everyone to pray for him. What a job!

Sam L. said...

" Surely, it offers the best chance of diminishing the incidence of child abuse. And we all want to do that, don’t we?"

We should, but not all do.

Anonymous said...

Each person who perpetrates child abuse is responsible for his or her actions. Ironically when a child grows up he or she is responsible for efforts to heal from persistent pain.

This page accurately describes the problem with therapy or a change process for persons who experience human relationships as triggers to old double binds: When the Remedy is the Problem.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @September 26, 2015 at 9:47 AM:

"Sort of like what Planned Parenthood does, minus the skull-squishing part."

You think institutionalized infanticide for profit is a minor detail?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @September 26, 2015 at 9:47 AM:

"And better skip the Catholic priests, or is that all cleaned up now that everyone has been properly shamed?"

The Catholic Church has been institutionally shamed, and deservedly so. They have also placed greater emphasis on mitigating the problem of pedophile priests. That is concrete action. Catholic dioceses have been ordered to pay enormous sums of money to people as restitution for crimes committed, and the vast majority deservedly so. Those are court-ordered punitive damages. Yet we all know that the money will do little to heal the wounded. Amidst contrition from the Church, which has significantly suffered under the weight of this scandal, the piling on continues. And yes, horrific as it may seem, pedophiles are human. What's your alternative to forgiveness? It is interesting that this problem is postured as a unique problem for the Catholic Church. Are you aware that the incidence of pedophile priests is identical to that of the general population? If priests are not human, what are they? Why hold them to a higher standard than everyone else, on a human level? Seems that's buying into the special status that priests supposedly enjoy, that you likely decry because they are no holier than thou. So you reject the "absurdity" of special clerical status inner society, yet you want clerics held to a higher standard because of their sacred position or the institution they work for. It's fun to talk out of both sides of your mouth, eh?

Kind of like how despicable you think it is for people to lie, cheat and spread discord because they seek to protect an institution over the clear crimes committed against human beings. That's what they're being shamed for. And the Catholic should be shamed for it, in the confirmed pedophilia cases and cover-up.

My demand is that we be consistent with the "skull-squishing" over at Planned Parenthood. The abused live, albeit wounded, sometimes grievously so. The aborted are murdered, albeit under the sanitary and rational protection of penumbra "rights" as determined to be "law" as determined by five unelected Supreme Court justices.

I'm still waiting for Planned Parenthood to be "properly shamed" for their grotesque institutional criminality, while protected by the institutional ruling class in Washington, D.C... both Democrat and Republican. My goodness, the Republican Congress won't pass a budget defunding Planned Parenthood for fear that President Obama will veto it to protect his most reliable constituency. This from the President who high-mindedly scolds his opponents to "Stop playing politics," even though it is his (and their) chosen profession. Curious. Shut down the government because of intransigence over a single budgetary line item dedicated to a single entity for which there are suitable delivery alternatives? Where is his shame? The head of Planned Parenthood apologizes for the "tone" of an official in one of the videos, but what would cause need for an apology? Probably the fact that the subject of abortion is a human person (sanitized as "fetus"). That's what makes it sensitive. But we can't talk about that, because it's insensitive to women. And we have a President who stands for "women's health," which is sensitive to women. Which is it? Are these barbaric acts being performed on human beings or not?

Once you get off your cowardly Catholic bigotry and move on to child abuse in all forms, I'll listen. So far in your comment here we have exemptions for "skull-squishing" and condemnation of a humble and contrite Pope Francis who is asking for prayers.

But the great privilege of being a liberal is that you never have to say you're sorry, because your intentions are so moral. Damn the results, unless the results are politically useful in damaging your enemies. In this case, the Roman Catholic Church. My goodness, you are small.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD at 9:49 AM: You think institutionalized infanticide for profit is a minor detail?

I wonder what the definition is for infanticide? ... It looks like it applies after birth. ... Infanticide (or infant homicide) is the intentional killing of children under the age of 12 months.

And I see another term:
Neonaticide usually refers to the killing of a child during the first 24 hours of life...
The United States ranks first in rates of homicide of children under the age of four years. Forty-five percent (45%) of all child murders occur in the first 24 hours of life.

Well, that could use some improvement, "first 24 hours of life"?! i.e. fertilization?! But the second part is astounding, 45% of child murders in the first 24 hours of life.

Whatever I believe on abortion or neonaticide or infanticide, I'm going to go with the ideal that if you're going to end the life of your child, the younger the better, and so that's why first trimester abortions are better than later ones. I don't know how early abortions can be performed, although I suppose the "morning after pill" offers the best option of all, preemptive at least after the act, whether a woman has a fertilized egg or not.

But besides intent to end of life, I confess the means of ending a life are a concern for me. I have just as much compassion for for abortion doctors as death-row operators. How do you end a life, human or not? It's one thing to deal with miscarriage where no act of will was applied to end the life. But actually the existence of first trimester spontaneous abortion suggests to me that there must be a critical development path, like a space probe launch window, and if anything goes wrong, if any key systems fail proper development, the fetus itself has some unconscious will to end itself, or who knows, but much of life seems to have certain "rites of passage" that are binary (or trinary), either you pass through, or you stay in a less developed state or you physically die. And the birthing process itself, with all the potential complications, especially before modern understanding made it life or death for the mother as well.

But back to killing as an act of will, I don't have a good understanding how one can keep good conscience while intentionally causing harm or death, as the hippocratic oath also demands. I understand rationalizations, and objectifying other, but the opposite also sometimes comes out, like mothers who later personifying the aborted child and even imagine birthdays that will never happen,
whether through guilt, or just a way of honoring an impossible "choice of conscience".

I also think to my dad who died a few years ago, but he had his own moral center defined around the death of his younger sister who was born sicky and died after a few days. My dad was about 3 years old and remembers an intense jealousy at all the attention his new born sister was getting and wishing she would leave. So when she did die he believed he was responsible for her death and he stayed as a single child and regained his parents attention, but at a high cost for that burden he felt.

Later as an older he rejected his minister's explaining "original sin" and how we're all born sinful, and he didn't believe it because he didn't feel sinful. So I connect these two events, while I never got to ask him. Did his young guilt prevent his awareness of his own sometimes ill intent?

It never would have occured to me to deny my sinfulness, but I had two siblings to fight to vouch for my transgressions. But I never had to suppress such a sense of responsibility of deadly harm that he felt so young.

Anyway, I imagine life or death decisions will always be outrageous, and beyond ordinary morality, and courage and community is needed whatever choices you make.