Child Abuse Began In 1962

Stephen Turner writes in his 2013 book The Politics Of Expertise: “Ian Hacking’s classic paper on child abuse (1991) is an example of this kind of argument involving expertise in this sense: here the triumph of an expanded concept of child abuse is seen as the successful imposition of a definition that serves the interests of certain professional groups. The experts in question here are perfect embodiments of what I have called the fifth type of expertise. The political issue here is not expert knowledge as such, but discretionary power: the reason child abuse is a problematic category is because social workers and physicians acting in the name of the state employ this concept and operate in terms of a consensus about it.”

Ian Hacking wrote: “Many readers will have resisted my distinguishing child abuse from late nineteenth-century cruelty to children. I did so chiefly because Victorians never medicalized cruelty. Cruel parents were not deemed sick or even pathological. There was no attempt to characterize normal family behavior. There was no medical intervention, even when some of the active interveners were in fact trained physicians. Child abuse in contrast began with doctors in 1962, and among the opening assertions was that abusive parents are sick and in need of help. I said in the preceding section that in the power struggle over who owns child abuse the doctors triumphed. I now suggest this was a foregone conclusion because child abuse is seen in a framework of normalcy and pathology.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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