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August 1, 1977

Statement on Child Abuse and Neglect

JAMA. 1977;238(5):427. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280050067029

Child abuse and neglect in the United States have become increasingly ominous. Each year a rising number of infant children die or suffer permanent brain damage. Helpless children need protection from destructive behavior; simultaneously, the physician must guard against punitive abuse of the abuser and should sympathetically seek out the underlying parental pathologic condition that provoked the behavior.

Most abusive parents are lonely, isolated, and frustrated people; they probably received inadequate parental care in their own formative years and were themselves abused or rejected. They usually single out one child for maltreatment, a child who serves as a special source of irritation to the parent, who under stress or in crises loses all self-control. The child at risk in such a home must be protected; however, child and abuser alike need attention, concern, and treatment to permit the child to live and develop normally within his natural family without fear