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May 9, 1977

Compassion vs ControlConceptual and Practical Pitfalls in the Broadened Definition of Child Abuse

JAMA. 1977;237(19):2086-2088. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270460072024

A broadened understanding of child abuse has enabled practitioners to think of the parents of abused children not as evil murderers but as human beings caught in a complex web of social isolation and deprivation. Concomitantly, child abuse laws have changed dramatically in the last decade to include virtually all childhood physical symptoms of family crisis; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and child neglect are now reportable by nearly all professionals who have contact with children. There has been a dramatic increase in case reports, but the services for which families become eligible do not approach the humane rhetoric and intent of child abuse legislation. Society and the helping professions are caught in a dilemma that we characterize and address clinically as compassion vs control.

(JAMA 237:2086-2088, 1977)