Child Abuse - Past and Present

Topics: Child abuse, Domestic violence, Neglect Pages: 6 (2189 words) Published: April 13, 2013
Child Abuse – Past and Present
Donna Hurst
University of the Cumberlands
HSOL 131

This paper explores the issue of child abuse. It will trace this social problem from the earliest of times to present day. The paper will also include the scope of abuse to children. Information on how to report suspected child abuse and neglect will be provided. The references in this paper will include online resources, printed articles and information from frontline workers in a local Division of Protection and Permanency office in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Child Abuse is one of the few issues in the world that does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, creed, nationality, or socioeconomic background. It is an issue that affects children worldwide and upwards of one and a half million children in the United States alone each year. However, while the practice of child abuse is mentioned in even the earliest publishings, it is very recent social development.

In the ancient world, children were killed at birth if they did not seem fit. Fathers were permitted to kill their newborns in if they deemed the child was abnormal. Any child that showed signs of being physically handicapped was killed by order of the tribal elders by leaving the child out exposed to the elements. Midwives were instructed by physicians to kill children that were unfit. After the child was born, they’d examine the infant and if it wasn’t what they considered “normal,” the child was gotten rid of.

The practice of infanticide is not found only in texts. There are paintings dating back to the thirteenth century depicting the practice of infanticide. Emperor Constantine, who was dying of leprosy, was told the way to cure his disease was to bathe in the blood of 3000 infants. From the 14th century, a mosaic depicting mothers dropping their babies into the river. King Herod had ordered all children under the age of two to be put to death.

The texts and depictions also indicate that infanticide was conducted through exposure and abandonment. Rather than drowning or bludgeoning the child, the child would be taken out into the woods and left. This bloodless form of infanticide was most commonly performed to rid an unwed mother of the evidence of her impurity or to dispose of a child that was malformed or undesirable.

Abandonment was yet another that these children were disposed of. This practice was so prevalent in France that Napoleon created places or institutions where babies could be dropped off. In today’s society, most states have a similar law on the books called Safe Haven. The law states “A newborn infant may be surrendered to a safe haven provider. The term 'newborn infant' means an infant who is medically determined to be less than 72 hours old.” (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012)

These ideas were extreme in their nature, but it goes to show just how little care and thought were given to children in the world’s early history. As attitudes changed and the world expanded and evolved, children ceased being looked upon as possessions and instead became their own unique individual with their own set of inalienable rights. With this new set of beliefs concerning children becoming the new norm, the notion that a child was disposable began to fade into the background. This paved way for the first laws protecting children to come into play. The creation of these laws created three separate eras in the protection of children from abuse in the United States. The early era extended from ancient times prior to the New World being discovered through 1875. The next era began in 1875 and lasted for near 100 years when the third and final era began in 1962. As stated earlier, children prior to 1873 were treated as their parents and caregivers saw fit with the law only intervening in extreme circumstances. The children suffered silently with no one to advocate on their behalf. In fact, animals were given more consideration than...

Bibliography: Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012, November 28). State Statue Results. Retrieved from Child Welfare Information Gateway:
Myers, J. E. (2008). A Short History of Child Protection in America. Family Law Quarterly, 449-463.
New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, History, The Catalyst. (2012, November 28). Retrieved from New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children:
Waltz, M. (2012, November 26). BSW. (D. Hurst, Interviewer)
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