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Child Abuse Negl. 1988;12(1):3-23.

Child abuse as an international issue.

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  • 1Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham 03824.


This paper provides a background and suggests a strategy for an international approach to policy development concerning child abuse. First, child abuse is defined in a way that makes it applicable across cultures and national boundaries as that portion of harm to children that results from human action that is proscribed, proximate and preventable. A number of other dimensions, such as the degree of social sanction or social censure, are outlined that also affect the likelihood that given harm will be regarded as child abuse. Cross-cultural research also reveals that certain categories of children--such as those in poor health, females, unwanted children and those born under difficult circumstances or with disvalued traits or under conditions of rapid socioeconomic change--are more vulnerable to maltreatment in many countries. The paper argues for a two-pronged international strategy that first urges individual countries to make a priority of the particular types of abuse that are in most urgent need of attention in their society as well as participating at the same time in a concerted international focus on three widely occurring forms of child abuse: parental child battering, selective neglect, and sexual abuse.

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