Four Theoretical Models of Child Abuse

Topics: Child abuse, Domestic violence, Sexual abuse Pages: 6 (2513 words) Published: November 8, 2014
Four Theoretical Models of Child Abuse Report

I have been asked to write a report describing the four theoretical models of child abuse to include: Medical, Psychological, Sociological and Feminist approaches which I will start off by describing each. Next I will compare and contrast the different theoretical models of abuse then conclude by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the four.


The medical model was created by Kempe in 1968. He was an American paediatrician and suggested an idea called the ‘battered child syndrome’ which as a result of this lead to child abuse to the head of the research arena. He also put forward that there was a ‘cycle of abuse’ where parents who had been abused/battered as a child consecutively abused/battered their own children and he got this idea from looking into parents who were abusive towards their children.

“In 1978 he stated that four factors were present in child abuse cases: 1. The parents must have a background of emotional or physical deprivation and perhaps abuse as well 2. A child must be seen as unlovable or disappointing

3. There must be a crisis
4. There are no effective sources of aid at the moment of crisis” (O’Hagan, M; Smith, M 2002)

For several years the pattern of which was used for intervening when a child was being abused hence focused on Kempe’s work to promote programmes to break the ‘cycle of abuse’ such as therapy for children who have been abused, crisis counselling and help lines for parents. The model consequently puts forward that child abuse is a type of disease which has precise signs and symptoms. By presenting it as if it was a disease led people believing that it was ‘predictable, preventable and curable’ just like all the other diseases in the world however, as we know, that is not the case. In the 1970’s this caused the medical model to be immensely criticized and in 1976 other explanations started to be required. The model also suggested that the mothers who’d abused their children suffered from poor attachments themselves when younger and what’s best for the child is to be taken out of the home so their parent’s could be treated.


Psychologists have always required proposing theories that link to the way a household works as a family and demote that any breakdowns of relationships within the family is classed as a family dysfunction. A great deal has been talked about as to reasons that can cause breakdowns. The psychological theory hangs upon whether therapy for families can restore weak relationships and prevent child abuse. Together with this theory it is believed that all frustration and aggression of the weak relationships are aimed towards one member of the family which is frequently the weakest member known as ‘scapegoating’. Although there is certainty that the majority of families use a scapegoat, there have also been times when more than one or all of the children have been abused by the parents.

With lots of psychological perspectives, research has been linked with the similarities of animals and how they act. “Reite (1987) put forward the view that there were many factors common to human child care and neglect to that of animals.” (Jenks, C 2005) He noticed that if there was any kind of disturbances between the mother and the infant early on during attachment, the animals then abuse those. In 1981 Barash compared similarities with Reite’s theory and called it the ‘culling process’ of which the weakest in the litter are neglected in certain situations such as when there are shortages of food. Steele and Pollock (1974) suggested that child abuse happens due to extreme demands in the superego and that the parent’s psychological make-up/DNA may be the problem.


Sociological research focuses on studying how and why people live in specific conditions, and how the patterns of which people live can change. Sociologist’s search for the link that the...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Essay about Child Abuse: Causes and Prevention
  • Essay about Child Abuse
  • Child Abuse and Neglect essay
  • Essay on Child Abuse
  • Child Abuse Essay
  • Models of Abuse Essay
  • Essay about Child Abuse
  • Child Abuse Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free