Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
“To Train Up a Child,” a parenting book that advocates parents use such extreme discipline measures as starvation and severe beatings with switches and plastic tubes, has been implicated in the murders of three children, all adoptees: 4-year-old Sean Paddock, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz, and 13-year-old Hana Williams. Last month, Williams’ adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, were convicted of homicide by abuse after the girl died of malnutrition and hypothermia, both punishments linked with advice from the book, which was written by a preacher and his wife. Politix.com reports on a petition that is circulating urging Amazon.com to remove the book from its website–so far, the petition has garnered more than 80,000 signatures:
The book by preacher Michael Pearl and his wife Debi advocates using a switch on babies starting at 6 months old. The book also recommends beating older children with a flexible plumbing pipe that “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.” The Williams’s seem to have taken that advice to heart. When Hana died, her body was scarred by beatings with the plumbing line.
The same kind of tubing was used to beat Lydia Schatz, 7, whose adoptive parents were convicted of second-degree murder in her death. Her parents would intersperse beatings with prayer. Lydia “died from severe tissue damage, and her older sister had to be hospitalized,” the New York Times reports. Another small child, 4-year-old Sean Paddock, was scarred by beatings with the tubing when he died at the hands of his adoptive parents.
The Williams’s told friends that Hana was “rebellious” and recommended To Train up a Child as manual for dealing with rebellious children, according to Slate. Hana has also been deprived of food (perhaps following the Pearls’ advice that “a little fasting is good training”) and forced to shower outside and sleep in a barn without bedding, even in freezing weather.
Currently over 670,000 copies of To Train Up a Child are in circulation.
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Discipline Without Spanking
Monday, August 12th, 2013
Mothers with a specific gene that makes them more prone to stress during times of transition and uncertainty may be more likely to treat their children harshly or abusively during times of economic downturn, according to a new analysis of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. CBS News has more:
Moms who had a variation in a gene called “DRD2 Taq1A genotype” were shown in a new study to be more likely to react negatively to economic changes in their environment compared to moms who didn’t possess the variant.
The DRD2 Taq1A genotype has been shown to control how the body creates dopamine, a neurotransmiter that regulates behavior in the reward-based pathway in the brain.
The researchers looked at data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFS), which included almost 5,000 children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The mothers were interviewed after giving birth, and when their child was 1, 3, 5 and 9 years of age. Information on parenting behavior was gathered when the child was 3, 5 and 9 years old.
Harsh parenting was determined by the mother’s score on the Conflict Tactics Scale, which included questions on five items on psychological harsh parenting — like shouting or threatening the child — and five more items on corporal punishment, like slapping or spanking.
Saliva DNA samples were also collected from 2,600 mothers and children when the child was nine to test for the genetic variant.
After gathering the data, the researchers took into account the economic conditions where the subjects were living, focusing on unemployment rates. They then discovered that moms who had the “sensitive” allele or variation of the DRD2 Taq1A genotype — which they called the “T allele” — were more abusive towards their children when the economy was bad, such as during the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Mothers without this genetic variation were no more likely to act harshly towards their children during this time.
When economic situations improved, mothers with the sensitive T allele were not as harsh compared to the other mothers.
They also discovered that high levels of unemployment among the subjects did not increase how abusive a mom was. Mothers with the T allele were more likely to be mean with their children when the economy was bad, even if they personally did not lose their job or had any personal changes because of the recession.
Instead, the overall unemployment rate of the city they lived in and their confidence in the economy played a larger role. A 10 percent increase in the overall unemployment rate was linked to a 16 percent increase in maternal harsh parenting among those with the T allele.
Image: Angry mother and daughter, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 14th, 2012
The number of children who are abused or neglected in America has dropped for the fifth year in a row, an annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services has announced. More from The Huffington Post:
The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Wednesday, estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That’s down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007.
“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.”
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 – down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About fourfifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities, with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Regarding the overall maltreatment figures, white children accounted for almost 44 percent of the victims, black children for 21.5 percent and Hispanic children for 22.1 percent. About 11 percent of the victims were physically or mentally disabled.
Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 – down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. About four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of maltreatment, according to the report.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Emotional or psychological abuse can be as damaging as physical or even sexual abuse, an article published in the journal Pediatrics argues. Time.com has more:
Psychological maltreatment can include terrorizing, belittling or neglecting a child, the pediatrician authors say.
“We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved or unwanted,” Harriet MacMillan, one of the three pediatrician authors, told reporters.
What makes this kind maltreatment so challenging for pediatricians and for social services staff, however, is that it’s not defined by any one specific event, but rather by the nature of the relationship between caregiver and child. That makes it unusually hard to identify.
Keeping a child in a constant state of fear is abuse, for example. But even the most loving parent will occasionally lose their cool and yell. Likewise, depriving a child of ordinary social interaction is also abuse, but there’s nothing wrong with sending a school-aged boy to stew alone in his room for an hour after he hits a younger sibling.
All of this means that, for an outsider who observes even some dubious parenting practice, it can be hard to tell whether a relationship is actually abusive, or whether you’ve simply caught a family on a bad day.
Psychological abuse can also include what you might call “corrupting a child” — encouraging children to use illicit drugs, for example, or to engage in other illegal activities.
In their Pediatrics paper, MacMillan and co-authors say that 8% to 9% of women and 4% of men reported severe psychological abuse in childhood when the question was posed in general-population surveys of the U.S. and Britain.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Children who are abused, neglected, or witnesses to violence or trauma are almost 60 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, a new report by the victim assistance group Safe Horizon and the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University has found. But going through even a short period of therapy can help both children and their parents or caregivers tremendously, the report also found–65 percent less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times reports:
[Yale psychiatry professor Steven R.] Marans reported that children who participated experienced a 54 percent reduction in trauma symptoms, and their caregivers benefited almost as much.
“When children are alone with and don’t have words to describe their traumatic reactions, symptoms and symptomatic behaviors are their only means of expression,” he said. “And caregivers are often unable to understand the connection between the traumatic event and their children’s symptoms and behaviors. To heal, children need recognition and understanding from their caregivers.”
He added: “This intervention inspires hope and confidence. It can make an immediate and palpable difference in the daily lives of children who have suffered even the worst forms of abuse.”
Well over 90 percent of caregivers who participated in the intervention said they had learned new skills and would recommend the program, which could be a boon to child treatment centers throughout the country.
Image: Mother and daughter in therapy, via Shutterstock.
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