Australian Institute of Family Studies: it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

Note: This one is a touch long. Extensive quoting.  Like, a lot.  More quoting than my own writing, I’m willing to bet.

So, I was going to start researching the next event, when I stumbled across this fact sheet released by one of my government’s departments in September, 2014. I couldn’t help being rather angry at some parts of it, so I’m going to dissect it as much as I can here. At the very least, it will be educational. You can see the fact sheet here, however I will be quoting it as I go through.

Fact Sheet

Physical Abuse
Research suggests that both mothers and fathers may physically abuse children. Findings from the ABS Personal Safety Survey (2005) indicated that of participants who had experienced physical abuse before the age of 15, 55.6% experienced abuse from their father/stepfather and 25.9% experienced abuse from their mother/stepmother. A further 13.7% experienced abuse from another known person and the remainder were family friends, other relatives, or strangers (ABS, 2005).

From ABS Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide:

ABUSE BEFORE AGE 15

All respondents were asked if they had experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15.

Only limited information was collected about physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15 including:

Whether experienced abuse more than once
Age abuse first occurred
Relationship to perpetrator/s of first incident of abuse

The purpose of including questions about people’s experience of physical and sexual abuse when a child was not to measure the extent of child abuse (in order to do this a separate survey would be required), but to provide background information about people’s experiences and to allow for investigation of the relationship between abuse before the age of 15 and experiences of violence since the age of 15.

Care should be taken when using these items as they were not collected using detailed questioning. The experience of physical abuse as a child is particularly difficult to measure, given changes in what is generally perceived as acceptable behaviour toward children, particularly in relation to discipline. In order to minimise the level of interpretation by respondents, a definition of physical abuse was included in the survey question. However, the response given by people would reflect their interpretation of the question and what constitutes physical abuse.” (Emphasis added) See here

“Fact” Sheet indeed. This is further indicated as the survey did not separate in its tables by the ages of the respondents (experience of abuse before the age of 15 for those who are 18-24, 24-34, 34-55, 55 and over for example), but simply put them all in one homogeneous group.

Further issues are that the categories of father and step father, as well as mother and step mother, were not separated. That is only a problem if you care about more than the person’s genitals, of course. Not really worth mentioning.

Fact Sheet

A British retrospective prevalence study of 2,869 young adults aged 18-24 (May-Chahal & Cawson, 2005) found that mothers were more likely than fathers to be responsible for physical abuse (49% of incidents compared to 40%). However, part of the difference may be explained by the greater time children spend with their mothers than fathers. Violence was also reported to be perpetrated by stepmothers (3%) or stepfathers (5%), grandparents (3%) and other relatives (1%) (May-Chahal & Cawson, 2005).

In the first paragraph, no explanation beyond the numbers was given for males being drastically higher (2.15 times higher). Here, when there is a study with mothers being higher (but significantly less drastically higher (1.23 times higher), it receives an explanation which is both only partial and potential (“part of” and “may”). If you want to see the abstract of the May-Chahal study, you can do so here.

A few final things need to be mentioned before we move on to the next paragraph. The ABS survey was conducted with people ages 18 and up, so this one was conducted across the whole population minus minors. The questions on abuse were asked to every participant, about what they had gone through when they were 15 years old or younger, and it specifically limited the number of questions it asked on it. The definition of physical abuse was:

“Physical abuse is defined as any deliberate physical injury (including bruises) inflicted upon a child (before the age of 15 years) by an adult. Discipline that accidentally resulted in an injury is excluded.” (Emphasis added) See here.

The May-Chahal article was conducted with people between the ages of 18 and 24 and was focused specifically on the issue of abuse. It was done in-person in interviews.

Keep in mind for the moment that the May-Chahal article is from 2005 with a sample of 2,869, and was actually done around 2005 (opps, I may have just given something away)

Fact Sheet

Further research shows that when taking issues of severity into consideration, fathers or father surrogates are responsible for more severe physical abuse and fatalities than female perpetrators (US Department of Health and Human Services [US DHHS], 2005). Other researchers such as Daly and Wilson (1999) have argued that biological parents are less likely than step-parents to physically abuse their biological offspring due to their greater investment in the genetic continuity of their family.

“Further research”. Keep that statement in mind as well.

And here we get to a wonderful little rabbit hole. The article used to source this statement is here. While reading through, I immediately went to the main section with the data, and then the conclusion, as normally you can skip the beginning and still get everything you need to know. However, I found nary a peep (tehe) of any mention of an association with severity. So, I went up to the introduction, whilst thinking “why on earth is an article being referred to for information in it’s introduction. There’s not going to be any original research there, and it’s all going to be referenced, so why not go to those references rather than getting it second hand”. It seems to be … “referring” … to this paragraph from the article it sources it from:

“Some research shows that when we take issues of severity into consideration, fathers or father surrogates (cohabiting husbands or boyfriends who are not biologically related to the child) are responsible for more severe physical abuse and fatalities than women perpetrators (Brewster et al., 1998; Klevens et al., 2000; U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995). Daly & Wilson (1999) have argued that parents are less likely than surrogate parents to physically abuse or seriously injure their biological offspring due to their greater investment in the genetic continuity of their family.”

However had left out:

“In a longitudinal analysis of a cohort of children at risk for child maltreatment, Radhakrishna, Bou-Saada, Hunter, Catellier, & Kotch (2001) demonstrated that the presence of a father surrogate in the home increased the risk of a maltreatment report to more than twice that of families with both biological parents in the home.”

But I’m sure that isn’t important at all. Anyway, I decided to track down these articles. You know, the ones that were actually finding that bit of information in the fact sheet.

The Brewster article:

Child Abuse Negl. 1998 Feb;22(2):91-101. Victim, perpetrator, family, and incident characteristics of 32 infant maltreatment deaths in the United States Air Force. Brewster AL, Nelson JP, Hymel KP, Colby DR, Lucas DR, McCanne TR, Milner JS.

It can be accessed here.

This article was a) from 16 years ago, b) was with regard to 32 cases, and c) was with regard to the United States Air Force.

The discussion section was interesting and worth a read, but here’s a quote on the results, followed by one on the methodology

“The father was found to be the most likely candidate for committing fatal abuse with any age victim. The likelihood of the perpetrator being a stepfather or other nonbiological male parental figure increased with increasing age. Prior studies are mixed on whether the father (e.g., Hicks & Gaughan, 1995; Schloesser et al., 1992) or the mother (e.g., Barlow & Clayton, 1996; Bonnet, 1993; Goetting, 1988; Jason, 1983; Jason et al., 1983; Korbin, 1987; Schloesser et al., 1992; Schmidt et al., 1996) is the most likely perpetrator of fatal abuse. However, previous studies show that fathers are the most likely perpetrators to be involved in more violent causes of death (e.g., gunshot, severe head trauma, stabbing, etc.), whereas mothers are the most likely to be involved in neonaticide and, generally, in less violent manners of death (e.g., asphyxiation, drowning, neglect, etc.).”

“At least two methodological problems need to be considered as potential limitations. First, the present study’s overall sample is small. However, the present sample is relatively large in comparison to many of the previous studies on fatal abuse (e.g., Hicks & Gaughan, 1995; Husain & Daniel, 1984; Kasim, Cheah, & Shafie, 1995; Schmidt et al., 1996). Further, since fatal abuse occurs in less than 1 out of every 2000 child-abuse cases (Trocme & Lindsey, 1996), a completely adequate sample may not be practical. Furthermore, none of the previous studies on fatal abuse with larger sample sizes examined military populations, and few of these studies had as many factors as the present study (e.g., Christoffel, Anzinger, & Merrill, 1989; Daly & Wilson, 1994; Ewigman, Kivlahan, & Land, 1993; Hargrave & Warner, 1992; Schloesser et al., 1992; Starling, Holden, & Jenny, 1995).
Secondly, the lack of comparison groups may also be a limitation. The present study made as many comparisons to baseline information reported in the research literature as possible. However, because of its exploratory nature, the present study did not incorporate complex inferential statistics nor did it include a comparison group. A fruitful extension of the present study would be to incorporate inferential statistics with a military, no child abuse comparison group. Additionally, a military, nonfatal child abuse group also may be a worthy comparison group (e.g., Husain & Daniel, 1984).”

The Klevens article:
Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Mar;24(3):323-32.
Risk factors and context of men who physically abuse in Bogotá, Colombia. Klevens J, Bayón MC, Sierra M.

I can’t find a free copy of the article available, but a part of the abstract was interesting:

Situations of abuse occurred more often on a weekday, in the afternoon or early evening hours, with the mother present, exceptionally involved substance abuse, and tended to be repetitive. Male subjects’ lower level of education, stepfather status, perceived stress, substance abuse and mental illness, lack of social support, history of childhood physical abuse, negative perceptions, attributions and unrealistic expectations of the child’s behavior were associated with abuse.”

As well as the method:

Information from in-depth interviews of males reported to authorities for physical child abuse and their female partners (n = 45) was quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed and compared to to males and their female partners from the same neighborhood living with a child of the same gender and age (+/-3 years) as the abused child (n = 44).”

U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995:

Relevant section(s):

“One of the most interesting new findings that demonstrates the critical importance of better information is that most physical abuse fatalities are caused by enraged or extremely stressed fathers and other male caretakers (Levine et al, 1994; Levine et al, 1995). These men primarily assault infants and very small children by beating their heads and bodies, shaking them violently, intentionally suffocating them, immersing them in scalding water, and performing other brutal acts.”

&

“In a 34-State study of 216 fatal cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome, most perpetrators were men who became furious over a baby’s crying (Showers, 1994). This is consistent with other evidence pointing to males acting out their frustration and rage by assaulting a child”

So now some more articles to find!

Levine article:

1994:

Levine, M., Compaan, C., & Freeman, J. (1994, August). The Prevention of Child Fatalities Associated with Child Maltreatment. State University of New York at Buffalo.

1995:

Levine, M., Compaan, C., & Freeman, J. (1995, February). Maltreatment-related fatalities: Issues of policy and prevention. Law & Policy, 16, pp. 449-471.

Can’t find the 1994 article at all other than as references, and the 1995 one isn’t freely available. The abstract from the 1995 article:

Maltreatment-related child fatalities, despite their relatively infrequent occurrence, constitute a serious social problem. Based on a review of national and unpublished state and local child fatality review team reports, we ascertained some risk factors that set parameters for prevention programs. Children under age four, and in particular those under age two, are at highest risk for maltreatment-related fatalities. Neglect-related deaths occur almost as often as abuse-related ones. Unrelieved crying and toilet training problems are “triggers” for assaults on young children. Males are frequently involved in abuse-related fatalities. People in their mid-twenties, rather than teenage parents are the most frequent perpetrators. About a third of maltreatment-related fatalities were known to child protective services. Implications of these findings, as well as the problem of predicting infrequently occurring events, are discussed in relation to programs of prevention.”

Showers article:

Showers, J. (1994). Shaken baby syndrome: What have we learned about victims and perpetrators? “Don’t Shake the Baby” Campaign News, 3, 1-2

I can’t track it down either; can only find as references. The author wrote a chapter in a book which seems to indicate the problem was more a combination of both not knowing shaking children was harmful and indeed it being recommended by some people. The frustration was probably true, but whether intention or recklessness exists (given the absence of knowledge) seem a bit harder to make out.

It would probably be beneficial here to return back to the study which started this little expedition (The US DHHS article from 2005), and explain a bit about it. The actual research was based on a 2002 data set from the National Child Abuse and Neglect System from 18 states. It had a data set of 192,392 perpetrators identified by the CPS). Here are some more quotes:

“Of all reported cases in the 18-State data set, slightly less than one-half of all perpetrators were male. Of these, about one-half (51%) were biological fathers, an additional one-fifth occupied some other parental role (adoptive fathers, stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends), and about one-quarter were in nonparental relationships (including relatives, foster parents, day care providers, or friends) to their victims. In comparison, among female perpetrators, 86 percent were biological mothers.”

“Biological fathers were less likely than other male perpetrators to act alone. When acting in concert with the mother, biological fathers were more likely to be involved with younger children and more likely to be involved with neglect than other types of maltreatment.”

“Finally, the findings and the literature suggest that because male perpetrators have many different relationships with their victims, interventions that strengthen the role of fathers to prevent further child maltreatment and improve child well-being are a complex undertaking. This study identifies clear subgroups of male perpetrators, suggesting that interventions of all types may need to be more highly differentiated for these different groups.”

“87 percent of females were caregivers compared with 60 percent of males.”

“One-half of biological fathers were associated with neglect.”

“Biological fathers had the smallest percentage of sexual abuse cases (7%) compared to between 20 percent and 30 percent for boyfriends, adoptive fathers, and stepfathers.”

“The maltreatment pattern for biological fathers was similar to the overall female pattern—that is, the majority was associated only with neglect, and less than 10 percent were sexually abusive, although about one-quarter were physically abusive”

So let us recap. The source for this “fact” in a “fact” sheet posted in 2014 was the introduction of a 2005 article which was in reference to articles from:

  • 2000, which interviewed 45 couples from one town
  • 1998, which dealt with 32 cases of infant maltreatment deaths in the US Air Force
  • a US Advisory Board from 1995 which referred to:
    • an article from 1995 which seems to be making particular reference to children under 4 and seriously and in these cases fatally poor parenting
    • an article from 1994 which I know exists but can’t find anywhere
    • an article about baby shaking which seems to be more related to ignorance, some people apparently advising shaking of children as useful, and again, poor parenting.

It’s almost as if there may be a reason other than penis!

Now, I’m not saying that this proves men aren’t the ones mostly causing fatalities. But I’m hoping everyone can see that this is a ridiculous reference. Surely there has been research done on child deaths and the perpetrators more recently than 14 years ago. Surely it has been done on a wider scale. Why is it that a 2014 fact sheet, not a historical retrospective, is using information that is between 14 and 20 years old? This is absolutely shoddy fact checking.

So that was the physical abuse section fact sheet, only seven more to go! Let us continue.

Neglect

The first two paragraphs in this section aren’t too contentious, so on to the third.

Fact Sheet

Evidence also suggests that mothers are more likely than fathers to be held responsible for child neglect. In a large representative study that examined the characteristics of perpetrators in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in the United States, neglect was the main type of abuse in 66% of cases involving a female caregiver, compared to 36% of cases involving a male caregiver (US DHHS, 2005). This finding is consistent with the fact that mothers tend to be the primary caregiver and are usually held accountable for ensuring the safety of children even in two-parent families. In light of societal views on gender roles, it has been argued that this may constitute unreasonable “mother blaming” (Allan, 2004; Jackson & Mannix, 2004).

Note that in the first sentence, we are talking about mothers and fathers, and then in the second sentence, we move to “female caregivers” and “male caregivers”. Also note here we are talking about “held responsible” as opposed to “be responsible”.

The Allan article:

Allan, J. Mother blaming: a covert practice in therapeutic intervention, Australian Social Work, Volume 57, Issue 1, pages 57–70, March 2004

Its abstract:

In this article I will discuss the continuing discursive support for idealised motherhood, describe some ways mother blaming is practiced within therapeutic intervention and discuss the implications of this for social work practice. The article is based on a qualitative study of professionals who provide therapeutic intervention for sexually violent children and their families. The case examples discussed come from this study and describe the roles attributed to mothers in causing and maintaining their children’s sexual violence.”

The Jackson & Mannix article:
Jackson, D., Mannix, J.Giving voice to the burden of blame: A feminist study of mothers’ experiences of mother blaming, International Journal of Nursing Practice, Volume 10, Issue 4, pages 150–158, August 2004

Its abstract:

Mother blaming has been identified as a pervasive and serious problem and it is known that the professional literature has strong and entrenched mother-blaming messages. Using a feminist approach, this paper explores mother blaming as it has been experienced by a group of mothers themselves. Analysis of narrative exposes mother blaming as a burden that complicates the already-complex responsibilities that comprise mothering. Health providers are among those identified by women as being particularly likely to attribute problems with (even grown) children to maternal fault. Implications for practice and research are drawn from the findings of this paper.”

It is probably worth repeating two of the quotes from above:

“The maltreatment pattern for biological fathers was similar to the overall female pattern—that is, the majority was associated only with neglect, and less than 10 percent were sexually abusive, although about one-quarter were physically abusive”

&

“Of all reported cases in the 18-State data set, slightly less than one-half of all perpetrators were male. Of these, about one-half (51%) were biological fathers, an additional one-fifth occupied some other parental role (adoptive fathers, stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends), and about one-quarter were in nonparental relationships (including relatives, foster parents, day care providers, or friends) to their victims. In comparison, among female perpetrators, 86 percent were biological mothers.”

Given that biological mothers made up slightly over 17 out of every 20 female perpetrators in that sample, I think it’s safe to say that the female caregiver perpetrator patterns can be said to also be the biological mother perpetrator patterns, especially given the following:

“Among female perpetrators, 86 percent were biological mothers, 10 percent were nonparents, and the remaining 4 percent were stepmothers, adoptive mothers, fathers’ girlfriends, or combination mothers.”

From a US census report in 2009 on custodial parents, based on information collected in 2008:

“In spring 2008, an estimated 13.7 million parents had custody of 21.8 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent lived somewhere else.3 The number of custodial parents has remained statistically unchanged since 1994 (Table 1). The 21.8 million children living with their custodial parent represented over one-quarter (26.3 percent) of all 82.8 million children”

&

“Mothers accounted for the majority of custodial parents (82.6 percent) while 17.4 percent were fathers, proportions statistically unchanged from 1994.”

Which may go some way towards explaining the disparity. Less children can come into contact with a stepmother or father’s girlfriend than stepfather or mother’s boyfriend.

I also find it interesting that here, we get the contextualisation that we may be having unreasonable expectations on mothers, however in the earlier section on physical abuse, we firstly were not explicitly given the context of the ABS Personal Safety Survey statistics (in that they were covering people from something like 3 or 4 generations, and the definition of “physical abuse”), and then again, in the “men are more likely to be associated with severe violence”, we weren’t provided context that the more general studies (the Levine and Showers articles), that the violence was partially attributed to poor parenting skills, and in the case of the Showers article, also social acceptance and recommendation of the action in question, based on ignorance of the effects.

Note: What I am about to say is by and large my own opinion; I am not referring to nor summarising research articles, though there are a few sources for it; as such, take with a grain of salt; I’m probably somewhat biased

We made a hairpin turn, from expecting fathers to be providers and disciplinarians (both summed up rather well with the adage “wait until your father gets home!”) to suddenly expecting them to take on a greater role in raising children, even at young ages, and yet I wonder how many people bothered to wonder if men might have needed help to fulfil that role, simply beyond the expectation. We hear so much talk about how young girls are raised with dolls and how this sets up gender roles and expectations of mothering, and yet thought that we could simply turn to men and say “hey we expect you to be different now” and they’d just be it, despite not having that background.  It’s not like we’ve known about the is-ought problem for, oh, a good 300 years now though.

Was it not foreseeable that some of those first waves of fathers under the new paradigm, whose experience of how to be a father would have been based on their own fathers, under the old paradigm, would have trouble suddenly being a primary agent with children. Some fathers beforehand had the mothers acting as gatekeepers, determining what incidents were serious and what incidents weren’t, having the father discipline the more serious ones (see here for example, end of that page and start of the next; or here for one that doesn’t treat fathers like demons; or here, for what to me seems like a case of “father blaming”, as if men simply chose to not be in the home with no form of social expectations or pressures – nope, all just those mens fault), naturally incurring more severe punishments. How were they meant to adjust from that experience of fathering, to a more nurturing fathering role, without support and teaching?

Luckily, today there is more help for fathers to learn how to be more involved parents.

Note: Here ends this personal opinion comment

Fact Sheet
Explanations regarding causes of neglect have tended to identify the broader social context within which the child and family are living (such as health, housing and socio-economic status), as well as a parent’s psychopathology (Wood, 2008). A literature review by the former NSW Department of Community Services (2005) showed that there was a strong correlation between chronic neglect presentations and parental drug and alcohol use, poverty, domestic violence, mental health problems, and young single mothers. In these cases, the presenting problem for the parent distracts them from providing the necessary care for their child and frequently dominates the case planning and intervention strategies provided by child protection workers (NSW Department of Community Services, 2005).

However, neglect (including supervisory neglect) is a difficult concept to quantify and is more likely to be affected by risk factors that a parent or caregiver may or may not be able to directly influence. Families living in poverty may be unable to provide adequate nutrition, education or medical care for their children due to a lack of access to resources, not because they do not recognise their child’s needs or lack the desire to provide for those needs. Families may also face additional challenges in supervising children due to distraction from stresses and anxiety associated with everyday living concerns (Scott et al., 2012).

None of this is wrong, but golly, isn’t it interesting that for the form of abuse women are more likely to be found to commit, we get some measure of risk factors other than whether you have inney or outey genitals. Because it’s not like the sources used to state the physical abuse factors were referring at all to risk factors. Oh, just wait:

Male subjects’ lower level of education, stepfather status, perceived stress, substance abuse and mental illness, lack of social support, history of childhood physical abuse, negative perceptions, attributions and unrealistic expectations of the child’s behavior were associated with abuse.” (Klevens article, above)

I guess they just happened to miss that.

Sexual Abuse

Fact Sheet

Research focusing on perpetrators of child sexual abuse is extensive compared to other forms of abuse. Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by males (ABS, 2005; McCloskey & Raphael, 2005; Peter, 2009). In a US study examining the characteristics of perpetrators in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect (US DHHS, 2005), 26% of all cases involving male perpetrators were associated with sexual abuse compared to just 2% of cases involving female perpetrators.

Another repeat of one of the above quotes from the US DHHS study:

“Biological fathers had the smallest percentage of sexual abuse cases (7%) compared to between 20 percent and 30 percent for boyfriends, adoptive fathers, and stepfathers.”

Just to provide more context on who is doing it, rather than just that persons private bits. It’s still higher, but most certainly is not 13 times as high.

Fact Sheet
Contrary to other types of abuse, research suggests that a far greater number of child sexual abuse offences are perpetrated by adults who are not in a caregiver role (ABS, 2005; US DHHS, 2005). Findings from the ABS Personal Safety Survey (2005) indicated that for participants who had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15, only 13.5% identified that the abuse came from their father/stepfather, 30.2% was perpetrated by other male relative, 16.9% by family friend, 15.6% by acquaintance/neighbour, and 15.3% by other known person (ABS, 2005).

The ABS survey Sexual abuse before the age of 15 statistics were susceptible to the same limitations as physical abuse. The definition of sexual abuse was:

Sexual abuse is defined as any act by an adult involving a child (before the age of 15 years) in sexual activity beyond their understanding or contrary to currently accepted community standards.” Here

To reiterate, the study did not go in depth, and actually said a different survey would need to be done to get reliable figures, it was based on the whole population minus current minors, and it used broad categories. Further, given the prevalence of this fact sheet in using the US DHHS study findings, it is interesting that it here decided not to refer at all to the findings from that study, as mentioned just before.

The rest of this section isn’t too contentious.

Emotional Abuse

The first two paragraphs introduce emotional abuse and the dearth of research on it. The third is below:

Fact Sheet
From the limited research that is available, emotional child abuse mainly comes from parents/caregivers and can come from both mothers and fathers. In the United States 4th National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, 73% of all incidences of child emotional abuse were from a biological parent, 20% from a non-biological parent, and 7% from an other person (Sedlak et al., 2010). Of these incidences of emotional abuse, 60% were perpetrated by males and 50% by females (these figures exceed 100% as in some instances both males and females were involved in emotional abuse) (Sedlak et al., 2010).

Emotional abuse was differentiated from emotional neglect, and so I will do so below. Essentially, the difference is between doing and not doing, but you can see the specific codes in the link to the report below if you wish.

Information from this report on emotional abuse:

Emotional Abuse

“Alcohol use was most involved in emotional abuse (22% of the children), while drug use was most involved in emotional neglect (21% of the children). The perpetrator’s mental illness was most often cited as a factor in emotional abuse (17% of the children). All three factors were more often involved in maltreatment when the perpetrator was a biological parent.”

“Compared to children with employed parents, children with no parent in the labor force had more than 3 times the rate of Endangerment Standard emotional abuse (2.3 versus 7.1 per 1,000, respectively).”

“The incidence of emotional abuse for children in low-SES families was more than 5 times the rate for children not in families of low SES (2.6 versus 0.5 children per 1,000, respectively).”

“Only three significant differences emerged in emotional abuse rates. Children living with other married parents and those living with a single parent, whether with or without a partner, were emotionally abused at significantly higher rates than those living with two married biological parents (2.9 or more children per 1,000 versus 0.8 children per 1,000, respectively). The rates differ by a factor of more than 3; the highest rate, for children whose single parent lived with a partner, is more than 10 times greater than the lowest rate, for children living with two married biological parents.”

Emotional Neglect

See first quote above

“The increase in the rate of emotional neglect since 1993 could, in part, signify a real increase in the occurrence of maltreatment, but it is fairly clear that it also reflects some change in policy and focus. Since the NIS–3, a number of CPS systems have undertaken initiatives to increase collaboration between CPS and agencies that serve domestic violence and alcohol and drug problems (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families/Children’s Bureau and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2001, 2003). The increased emotional neglect incidence may predominantly reflect the heightened CPS attention to these problems, which are involved in certain types of emotional neglect. Further analyses will clarify whether the increases in emotional neglect primarily occurred in specific types of emotional neglect or for children recognized at specific types of agencies.”

“Emotional neglect. Children with no parent in the labor force had the

highest risk of Harm Standard emotional neglect (4.9 per 1,000), almost 3.5 times higher than the rate for children with an employed parent (1.4 per 1,000), a statistically significant difference. Children with an unemployed parent had nearly 2 times the rate of Harm Standard emotional neglect compared to those with employed parents (2.7 versus 1.4 children per 1,000), which is a statistically marginal difference.” (was similar for endangerment standard)

“Emotional neglect. Children in families of low SES had a significantly higher risk of Harm Standard emotional neglect. The estimated incidence rate in families of low SES was 3.8 children per 1,000 compared to 0.8 per 1,000 children not in families of low SES. The incidence rate for children in low-SES families is more than 4 times the rate for children not in low-SES families.” (similar for endangerment standard)

“Children living with other married parents and those living with one parent (with or without a cohabiting partner) had significantly higher rates of emotional neglect than children living with two married biological parents. An estimated 3.9 per 1,000 children living with other married parents suffered Harm Standard emotional neglect, as did 10.9 per 1,000 children living with one parent with an unmarried partner and 4.9 per 1,000 children living with one parent without a partner, compared to just 0.9 per 1,000 children with two married biological parents. Compared to the Harm Standard emotional neglect rate for children with two married biological parents, the rate for children whose single parent had a cohabiting partner is 12 times higher, the rate for children whose single parent had no partner is more than 5 times higher, and the rate for children with other married parents is over 4 times higher.”

Emotional Abuse

100% 148,500

Biological Parent

73% 108,400

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

20% 29,400

Other Person

7% 10,700

Emotional Neglect

100% 193,400

Biological Parent

90% 173,800

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

10% 19,600

Other Person

^ ^

Emotional Abuse

60% (male) 50% (female)

Biological Parent

56% 50%

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

76% No Relationship

Other Person

60% No Relationship

Emotional Neglect

41% (male) 80% (female)
Table 6-2. Perpetrator’s Relationship to Child and Severity of Harm by Category of Maltreatment
Maltreatment category/most closely related perpetrator Percent in category Total children in category Fatal or serious Moderate Inferred
Emotional Abuse

Biological Parent

Nb Parent or partner

Other Person

100%

73%

20%

7%

148,500

108,400

29,400

10,700

30% 69% *
Emotional Neglect

Biological Parent

Nb Parent or Partner

Other Person

100%

90%

10%

^

193,400

173,800

19,600

92% 8% +

(the table dealt with all types; I have limited it to emotional abuse and neglect here; * meant the estimate would be unreliable, ^ and + the category didn’t exist in that type; ^ for person, + for severity group)

Some general information from the report:

“Table 6–3 further reveals sex differences across the different perpetrator relationships, for overall abuse and for the specific abuse categories. Among all abused children, those abused by their biological parents were nearly equally likely to have been abused by mothers (51%) as by fathers (54%), but those abused by nonbiological parents or parents’ partners and those abused by other persons were much more commonly abused by males (79% and 74%). This pattern applies for emotionally abused children, where the percentages of children with male perpetrators differ across the relationship categories. However, there are no differences across relationship categories for female perpetrators of emotional abuse. Moreover, the pattern is also different among physically abused children. When biological parents or other persons were perpetrators, males were the abusers for only about one-half of the children (48% and 56%, respectively), whereas when the perpetrator was a nonbiological parent, nearly three-fourths of the children were abused by a male (74%). The mirror image of this pattern is evident in the differences in percentages of children with female perpetrators across the relationship categories. When the perpetrator was a nonbiological parent, then this was a female for less than one-third of the children (29%); when the perpetrator was a biological parent or other person, then it was more likely to be a female perpetrators (for 56% and 43% of the children, respectively).”

Table 6–4. Perpetrator’s Sex by Severity of Harm and Perpetrator’s Relationship to Child
Maltreatment Category/

Most Closely Related Perpetrator

Male

Female

Fatal/Serious

Biological parents

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

Others

48%

45%

61%

80%

70%

75%

59%

15%

Moderate

Biological Parents

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

Others

45%

41%

62%

63%

70%

76%

45%

32%

Inferred

Biological Parents

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

Other

64%

40%

86%

93%

41%

68%

*

*

All Maltreatment

Biological Parent

Nonbiological Parent or Partner

Other Person

48%

43%

64%

75%

68%

75%

48%

20%

“Children who were seriously injured or moderately injured more often had female perpetrators than male perpetrators (70% in each case versus had female perpetrator 48% and 45% with male perpetrators, respectively). This pattern differs for children with inferred harm, who tended to have more male perpetrators than female perpetrators (64% versus 41%). These patterns probably reflect both the fact that female perpetrators predominate in neglect, where more children are severely harmed, and the fact that inferred harm is typically associated with sexual abuse, which males most often perpetrate.”

Witnessing Domestic Violence

Fact Sheet
Violence between intimate partners with children is overwhelmingly a gendered issue with the vast majority of incidents involving a female victim and male perpetrator (ABS, 2005; Holt et al., 2008; Mulroney, 2003). The ABS Personal Safety Survey (2005) found that of the women who had experienced physical assault since the age of 15, 31% said they had been assaulted by their current or previous partner compared to 14.3% of men who had been assaulted by their previous or current partner, and almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) said they had children in their care at the time of the relationship.

This one has a few issues when attempting to relate it to the ABS survey. Firstly, physical violence is distinguished from physical assault:

“Physical violence includes any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of physical assault. Physical assault involves the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten. An attempt or threat to inflict physical harm is included only if a person believes it is likely to be carried out.”

Secondly, from the ABS, 3.1% of women were assaulted. So, 3.1% times by 0.31 will give us the percentage of women who were assaulted by a current or previous partner = 0.961%.

Now, to be entirely honest, I have no earthly idea where they got the 14.3% from. The passage which has the 31% reads:

“Of those women who were physically assaulted, 31% (73,800) were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner compared to 4.4% (21,200) of men who were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner”

The only 14.3’s I could find in the paper were unrelated, so I don’t know where they got it from. Anywho, 6.5% of men reported being assaulted, so we now do 6.5% times by 0.044 to give us the percentage of men who were assaulted by a current or previous partner = 0.286%

0.961 divided by 0.286 = 3.36; women are 3.36 times more likely to be assaulted, under the above definition, by a current or previous partner than men are. So yes, they are more likely to be assaulted, but whether it can be said to be “overwhelmingly” and “vast” is up for debate.

The problem comes in in that this passage is with regard to children witnessing physical violence between partners, which is a section which relies, on physical violence, not assault (at least on my reading, which seems to be the only way to get the numbers to work). The summaries of those findings are below.

Current Partners

People who experienced violence from their current partner were more likely to experience physical, rather than sexual, violence.

  • Since the age of 15, 0.9% (68,100) of men and 2.1% (160,100) of women experienced current partner violence
  • 10% (16,100) of women who had experienced violence by their current partner had a violence order issued against their current partner as a result of the violence. Of those women who had violence orders issued, 20% (3,200) reported that violence still occurred.

Violence which occurs between partners in a home may affect the children who also live

in the home.

  • 49% (111,700) of men and women who experienced violence by a current partner reported that they had children in their care at some time during the relationship.
  • An estimated 27% (60,700) said that these children had witnessed the violence

Previous Partners

Since the age of 15, people were more likely to have experienced violence from a

previous partner than from a current partner.

  • 4.9% (367,300) of men experienced violence from a previous partner compared to 15% (1,135,500) of women
  • 32% (368,300) of women and 40% (146,500) of men who had ever experienced violence by their previous partner said there had only been one incident
  • 59% (667,900) of women who experienced violence by a previous partner were pregnant at some time during the relationship; of these, 36% (239,800) reported that violence occurred during a pregnancy and 17% (112,000) experienced violence for the first time when they were pregnant
  • 61% (822,500) of persons who experienced violence by a previous partner reported that they had children in their care at some time during the relationship and 36% (489,400) said that these children had witnessed the violence

The table with regard to children witnessing table 27 at this page.

The 61% comes from previous partner violence, and was ungendered. 55.1% of men said they had experienced violence while having children in their care, and 62.4% of women said they had experienced violence while having children in their care.

It thus seems somewhat inappropriate to say that violence between partners with children is overwhelmingly a gendered issue simply because of the number of cases, when the percentages of those who suffer from this violence, and whether they have children are actually fairly similar. Yes, women are more likely to make up the case load, presumably to the tune of an approximately 75%/25% split, but that seems more related to their being more likely to suffer from physical violence from current or previous partners, as both are roughly the same ratio.

15% divided by 4.9% = 3.06

15% times 0.624 = 9.36

4.9% times 0.551 = 2.699

9.36 divided by 2.699 = 3.468

The Holt article:

Child Abuse Negl. 2008 Aug;32(8):797-810. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.02.004. Epub 2008 Aug 26. The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: a review of the literature. Holt S, Buckley H, Whelan S.

Ultimately I’m not too fussed by the article. The only thing I would mention is that as it was a review of the literature, and given the dearth (to my understanding) of literature on the male experience of domestic violence, a gendered conclusion was also a foregone conclusion.

The Mulroney article (it can be found by googling the title in “”; it is a document):

Mulroney, J. (2003). Domestic violence and child protection: A research report. Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Newsletter, 13, 4-6.

To be honest, I’m not sure why this was used to reference this particular fact. The review of the study doesn’t indicate analysis of differing rates between men and women, and it’s interview component with families as opposed to institutions was explicitly with women who had suffered domestic violence and their children, at least if I’m reading it right. Not to say it isn’t worthwhile research, though there may be some problems given the definition ADFVC uses:

“Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women both in relationships and after separation. It occurs when one partner attempts physically or psychologically to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence takes a number of forms. The most commonly acknowledged forms are physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional and social abuse and economic deprivation. Many forms of domestic violence are against the law.”

Which should be compared to the research by Nathan Beel linked to in the last post, in particular the following quote:

“If Johnson (2011) is correct that males are over-represented as intimate terrorists, it begs the question why domestic violence is framed as gendered violence without qualifiers in spite of his admission that intimate terrorism ‘probably represents a small part of all the violence that takes place between partners in intimate relationships’ (p. 290). This is in contrast to situational couple violence, which is ‘by far the most common form of couple violence, and… is roughly gender-symmetric in terms of perpetration’ (Johnson, 2011, p. 290). Framing the entire issue based on the exceptions is misleading.”

Fatal Child Abuse

Fact Sheet
Tragically a small but significant number of children die as a result of child abuse and neglect. These children are either directly killed by acts of violence or die from chronic neglect and abuse over time (Asmussen, 2010). Evidence suggests that younger children are more likely to be fatally assaulted by parents and/or other caregivers, whereas teenagers are most often killed by their peers or other adults (Asmussen, 2010). Yampolskaya, Greenbaum, and Berson (2009), in a study examining 126 profiles of perpetrators of fatal assault in United States, found that males were three times more likely to fatally assault their children. The study also found that non-biological parents were 17 times more likely to commit a fatal assault toward a child than biological parents (Yampolskaya et al., 2009).

The Yamposkaya article:

Yampolskaya, S., Greenbaum, P., & Berson, I. (2009). Profiles of child maltreatment perpetrators and risk for fatal assault: A latent class analysis. Journal of Family Violence, 24(5), 337-348.

I can’t find the article available for free, but the abstract sill provides some useful information:

“This study examined characteristics and profiles of 196 child maltreatment perpetrators in Florida, including 126 who committed fatal assaults during 1999–2002. Results of logistic regression suggest that being a biologically unrelated caregiver is the strongest predictor of fatal child maltreatment. Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was used to classify perpetrators, and three classes were identified: Biological Mothers with Health Problems, Male Perpetrators with Domestic Violence History, and Multiple-Problem Perpetrators. Results of LCA showed that compared to Biological Mothers with Health Problems, Multiple-Problem Perpetrators were seven times more likely and Male Perpetrators with Domestic Violence History were 12 times more likely to commit a fatal assault. Implications of the findings are discussed.”

I would be interested to know the differences found between biological fathers and nonbiological fathers. I also find it interesting that this was mentioned in the fact sheet as “in the United States”, rather than just in Florida, and secondly, if we’re using United States statistics, then why wasn’t the Sedlak report (referred to in emotional abuse) used at all. We start with a wider definition in this section, and then move to only considering fatal physical assaults. The Sedlak report had both fatal/serious incidences of assault and neglect.

Fact Sheet
Most researchers who have used police homicide records regarding fatal child abuse suggest that the majority of perpetrators are males (Lyman et al., 2003). However, many deaths due to child abuse and neglect may not meet the criminal definition of homicide, particularly deaths due to neglect (Finkelhor, 1997; Lawrence & Irvine, 2004).

It’s nice that they provided this caveat. Still, no risk factors other than either genitals or nonbiological parents were provided, despite the Yamposkaya article apparently providing them.

There are two further sections on Adolescent/young offenders and Intergenerational transmission that aren’t too contentious.

Given the above, I have taken the liberty of providing a modified version of the fact sheet’s opening sentence to what it seems it should have been:

The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide an overview of the evidence available regarding the genitals of those who abuse children, unless they don’t poke out, in which case we’ll look at other factors too.  But remember, you can’t be sexist towards men.