Pennsylvania: Child Abuse Renewal: Recognition and Reporting, 2 unitsPage 2 of 12

1. Societal Recognition of Child Abuse

Child abuse and neglect is not a new phenomenon-it has been documented for more than two thousand years. For most of human history children had no rights in the eyes of the law and it was unthinkable that the law would intervene in the domain of the family.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, articles published by several pediatricians drew attention to the occurrence of fractures and brain injuries in children at the hands of caretakers. In 1961 C. Henry Kempe, a physician and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, convened a conference on “the battered child syndrome,” in which he argued that doctors had a “duty” to the child to prevent “repetition of trauma.” The Battered Child Syndrome Conference resulted in many states’ passing laws to protect children from physical abuse. By 1967 all 50 states had succeeded in passing mandatory child abuse reporting laws.

Child abuse is now recognized as a problem of epidemic proportions, with serious consequences that can cause indelible pain throughout the victim’s lifetime. Unfortunately, violent and negligent parents and caretakers serve as a model for children as they grow up. The child victims of today, without protection and treatment, may become the child abusers of tomorrow.