Child abuse is the physical or psychological maltreatment of a child by an adult.
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Even though by the end of the 1960s few people or agencies were concerned with the incidence of child abuse, interest-group politics transformed the issue into a popular cause within a few years. With the passing of the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in the United States and the 1978 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in the United Kingdom the issue of child abuse grew from a small, private-sector charity concern into a multimillion-dollar social welfare issue (Nelson 1984).
Initially, these acts regarded primarily combating physical abuse and emotional neglect, yet within a few years their focus shifted to child sexual abuse and created an establishment of social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and law enforcement officials, resulting in a large, self-perpetuating industry sanctioned and funded by government (Rind, Bauserman and Tromovitch 2000).
Today the terms child abuse and child sexual abuse tend to become synonymous. As a consequence, even though we get more and more strict laws regarding child sexual abuse, issues of physical and psychological abuse like non-theraputic, non-religious circumcision of boys (Darby 2003), discipline in juvenile correctional facilities (Szalavitz 2006) and treatment of hyperactive or unruly children with controversial drugs like Ritalin (Rafalovich 2005) are less likely to be considered abuse.
- Darby, Robert J. L. (2003) "The masturbation taboo and the rise of routine male circumcision: A review of the historiography," Journal of Social History 36(3): 737-757.
- Nelson, Barbara J. (1984) Making an Issue of Child Abuse: Political Agenda Setting for Social Problems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
- Rafalovich, Adam (2005) "Relational Troubles and Semiofficial Suspicion: Educators and the Medicalization of 'Unruly' Children," Symbolic Interaction 28(1): 25-46.
- Rind, Bruce; Bauserman, Robert and Tromovitch, Philip (2000) "Science versus orthodoxy: Anatomy of the congressional condemnation of a scientific article and reflections on remedies for future ideological attacks," Applied & Preventive Psychology 9: 211-225. (.pdf file)
- Szalavitz, Maia. (2006) Help at any cost: How the troubled-teen industry cons parents and hurts kids (Riverhead Books)