Objectives: To analyze, historically and critically, the conceptualization and recognition of the maltreatment of children.
Methodology: Historical analysis and interpretation.
Results: From her own experience in researching cases of child abuse during the 1960s, the author analyzes the conceptual advances that have been achieved in diagnosing and understanding this situation. She likewise analyzes how the view of child abuse has changed from a natural and socially acceptable occurrence to a process causing mental pathology and other adverse effects.
The author points out the need to detach incest from the general category of sexual abuse because incest needs to be dealt with as a separate indictable crime. Labeling incest as an integral part of child abuse forms one of the multiple machinations of a patriarchal society and tends to diminish parental responsibility and condemnation of incest.
The author also presents data showing that girls are subject to sexual abuse between 1.5 to 3 times more than boys.
Conclusions: To transform the concept of child abuse, especially that committed in the family setting, requires a symbolic revolution to change interpretations on a worldwide scale. Such interpretations should address the unconscious predilections of men and women.
Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico