THE DISINTEGRATION OF MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY
Published on May 15, 1997
Written by: Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.
Far too many children are badly abused in the United States today. This disturbing fact–driven home by shocking stories on nightly television broadcasts – appears also in professional literature as analysts try to understand the causes of this problem and find a remedy for it. The growing empirical evidence on child abuse reveals new, alarming, and distinct patterns of familial relationships that contribute greatly to this tragedy. The studies show that, along with a continual rise in the incidence of child abuse in the United States, there has been an increase in the number of children born out of wedlock and abandoned by their fathers, as well as an increase in the number of children affected by divorce. Now, in addition to poverty and community environment, the rising incidence of child abuse in the United States can be linked to one more factor: whether an abused child’s parents are married.
The underlying dynamic of child abuse, the breakdown of marriage and the commitment to love is spreading like a cancer from poor communities to working-class communities. As social scientists, community leaders, and legislators consider ways to stop the spread of this cancer, they must focus their attention on the most upsetting byproduct of the disintegration of family and community: the abuse, maiming, and even death of America’s infants and young children, about 2,000 of whom–6 per day–die each year.
The Alarming Rise in Child Abuse
The best available estimates of child abuse in the United States are found in studies conducted by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These National Incidence Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect, conducted in 1980 (NIS-1), 1986 (NIS-2), and 1993 (NIS-3) focused on reported and recognized cases of abuse (although they did not measure the actual incidence of abuse). According to NIS-3, child abuse and neglect increased by 67 percent between 1986 and 1993 (an average of almost 10 percent per year) and 149 percent between 1980 and 1993. Some of the biggest increases in recent times were reported in physical abuse (102 percent, or almost 15 percent per year) and sexual abuse (83 percent, or almost 12 percent per year).
Abuse and Neglect of American Children Has Increased 134% Since 1980
Obtaining trustworthy estimates of the degree of abuse and neglect in the United States–situations that perpetrators try to keep hidden for as long as possible – is difficult. Scholars utilize various methods to generate estimates of abuse, and their estimates are not always similar. Consequently, serious disagreements about the true level of abuse exist.
All Types of Child Abuse Have Increased Since 1980
The effects of abuse are more readily observable: broken bones and bruises, scars from cigarette burns, swollen faces, and drastic changes in behavior. School teachers and doctors are often in a position to see these signs of abuse; but few see the signs of neglect in the passive child who is rarely talked to at home, or who may be locked up and left unfed, unclothed, and unwashed for long periods, or who must fend for himself. Changes in the neglected child’s body and behavior are slower and more easily mistaken for ill health or shy personality.
READ THE REMAINDER OF THIS ARTICLE HERE:
About the Author: Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.