Women and children at risk: a feminist perspective on child abuse.

Domestic Violence Training Project, New Haven, CT 06511.
International Journal of Health Services (Impact Factor: 0.99). 02/1988; 18(1):97-118. DOI: 10.2190/3K8F-KDWD-QYXK-2AX5
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Viewing child abuse through the prism of woman battering reveals that both problems originate in conflicts over gender identity and male authority. Data indicate that men, not women, typically commit serious child abuse. A study of the mothers of child abuse victims shows that battering is the most common context for child abuse, that the battering male is the typical child abuser, that the battered mothers have no distinctive pathology in their backgrounds, and that clinicians respond punitively to the battered mothers. The child abuse establishment assigns responsibility for abuse to mothers regardless of who assaults the child, and responds punitively to women, withholding vital resources and often removing the child to foster care, if women are battered or otherwise fail to meet expectations of "good mothering." The combination of male control, misleading psychological knowledge about women's propensity for "bonding," and sanctions used to enforce gender stereotypes of motherhood combine to increase the entrapment and inequality from which battering and child abuse originate, a process termed "patriarchal mothering." The best way to prevent child abuse is through "female empowerment."