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Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - December 22, 2017 and is updated quarterly.

Instructions: Postings are listed for browsing with the newest messages first. Click on the linked ID number to see a message. You can search the author, subject, message ID, and message content fields by entering your criteria into this search box:

Message ID: 8033
Date: 2009-01-21

Author:Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC)

Subject:RE: Child Trauma

re: physical abuse and corporal punishment and state control Virtually all states limit the things that parents can do to their children, and very few people (except those who are accused) object to that in principle. Regardless of how much helpful health promotion or prevention work is done, the need will remain for a mechanism to legitimize state interference into parenting that we view as intolerable or outrageous. The main questions are where and how the line is drawn, whether the line is sharp or fuzzy, and what undesirable behavior we categorize as indicating a need for voluntary helpful guidance, and what behavior we designate as justifying intrusive state action. Its should be no surprise that different cultures and groups draw these lines differently. This means that what we label as child abuse is malleable, is as much a matter of values as facts, and is not necessarily equivalent to what is factually determined to be harmful. Obviously, we value protecting children from harm, so these are not independent constructs. Still, there are lots of things in this world that are harmful or traumatic to children, but we tolerate them and don't call them child abuse or even try very hard to prevent them. And, frankly, there are a few things we call (and should call) clear child abuse aren't all that harmful and certainly not invariably harmful. Because science can only tell us facts, not values, we shouldn't be surprised that the impact of science on child abuse definitions and social policy has its limits. People in our field often try to push the line in a certain direction, armed with facts. We may need to keep in mind that the facts aren't necessarily the issue, and that when it comes to social change, political consensus may be more the issue. For example, in the US, we might create political consensus in favor of public health approaches to promote "positive child discipline" or maybe even to discourage "harsh childrearing." Arguing for a ban on all corporal punishment, on the other hand, might prompt a fairly entertaining and dramatic cultural or political reaction. Mark Chaffin

re: physical abuse and corporal punishment and state control Virtually all states limit the things that parents can do to their children, and very few people (except those who are accused) object to that in principle. Regardless of how much helpful health promotion or prevention work is done, the need will remain for a mechanism to legitimize state interference into parenting that we view as intolerable or outrageous. The main questions are where and how the line is drawn, whether the line is sharp or fuzzy, and what undesirable behavior we categorize as indicating a need for voluntary helpful guidance, and what behavior we designate as justifying intrusive state action. Its should be no surprise that different cultures and groups draw these lines differently. This means that what we label as child abuse is malleable, is as much a matter of values as facts, and is not necessarily equivalent to what is factually determined to be harmful. Obviously, we value protecting children from harm, so these are not independent constructs. Still, there are lots of things in this world that are harmful or traumatic to children, but we tolerate them and don't call them child abuse or even try very hard to prevent them. And, frankly, there are a few things we call (and should call) clear child abuse aren't all that harmful and certainly not invariably harmful. Because science can only tell us facts, not values, we shouldn't be surprised that the impact of science on child abuse definitions and social policy has its limits. People in our field often try to push the line in a certain direction, armed with facts. We may need to keep in mind that the facts aren't necessarily the issue, and that when it comes to social change, political consensus may be more the issue. For example, in the US, we might create political consensus in favor of public health approaches to promote "positive child discipline" or maybe even to discourage "harsh childrearing." Arguing for a ban on all corporal punishment, on the other hand, might prompt a fairly entertaining and dramatic cultural or political reaction. Mark Chaffin