Each year in the USA there are approximately one million reports of child maltreatment, about 25% relate to physical abuse and about 1000 children die of maltreatment each year (US Department of Health and Human Services 1999). During the past few decades, researchers have aimed at detecting the children, who are at high risk of becoming victims of abuse, so that appropriate interventions can be undertaken. The risk factors that have been emphasized include characteristics of the child, family, and social environment, and the relationship. One of the risk factors that have been widely studied is the parents' upbringing, specifically whether he or she was abused as a child.
This risk factor is often referred to as inter generational transmission of child abuse. Soon after Kempe introduced the "Battered Child Syndrome" a number of reports began to appear which suggested that abusive parents were themselves abused as children (Curtis 1963; Galdston 1965; Wasserman 1973). Since this concept was presented there has been a considerable amount of research done on the subject. Steele (1983) declared that " with few exceptions, parents or other caretakers who maltreat babies, were themselves neglected (with or without physical abuse) in their own earliest years" (p. 235).
In contrast, Cicchetti and Aber (1980) have asserted that empirical support for inter generational transmission is lacking. Kaufman and Zigler (1987) reviewed evidence suggesting that abused children become abusive parents and concluded that the case for transmission across generations has been overstated. Looking back on past investigations gives support for inter generational transmission, almost without exception. These investigations identify maltreating parents and then interview them about their own childhood. Investigations done with and without control groups indicate abusing parents report high rates of having been abused physically during childhood (Steele and Pollock 1974; Horowitz and Wollock 1981; Oliver 1978; Kotelchuk 1982; Friedrich and Wheeler 1982). Kaufman and Zigler have pointed out the problem with using results stemming from retrospective investigations to estimate the effect of an abused-abusing cycle.
Because these investigations don't have access to parents who were mistreated as children, they tend to overestimate the incidence of the maltreated-maltreating cycle. There are also reasons why retrospective reports may underestimate how many maltreating parents were themselves abused as children. One reason may be that these adults believe that frequent experience with corporal punishment in childhood, beatings, was normal. Kadushin and Martin (1981) found that nearly every report of child abuse was precipitated by a behavior in the child that the parent felt called for disciplinary action. Therefore, in part, this appears to be related to cultural acceptance of violence (Hilberman 1980), but it also implies an identification with the parent's views on corporal punishment. In one investigation (Kotelchuk 1982), parents were asked to describe their childhood experience.
Investigators coding the descriptions were far more likely than parents to consider the experiences to have been abusive, on the other hand, parents' responses to a direct question about having been abused were not related to punitive treatment of their children. Though there has been a tremendous amount of research done on this subject I believe that it is important to continue to research this with the hope of finding a reason for this abuse and putting an end to it. For this reason I propose to conduct a longitudinal experiment to determine whether children who are abused grow up to display the same abusive behavior with their children. Method The experimental group will consist of subjects who were previously abused now seeking counseling for emotional assistance.
They will be randomly selected from a study of 347 families from lower income backgrounds. The children involved in these families will range from the ages 3 to 17, being that if they were any younger the study would be more severe, and live at home The control group will consist of families of subjects who were not previously abused and are not currently seeking counseling for emotional assistance. They to will be randomly selected from a study of 347 families from lower income backgrounds. The children will range from ages 3 to 17.
Design and Procedure Interviews will be conducted with the fathers in a random half of the families and with the mothers in the other half of the families. This will be done to determine the parent's life as a child and severity to which they were abused. The data on physical violence will be obtained from one child, and only from the parent that was interviewed. This will be done to determine whether they parent is displaying the same abusive behavior with their children. Interviews will cover all aspects of family patterns and everyday life circumstances. This will be recorded by using the Conflict of Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979).
The items in these scales will pertain to severe violence by the parent towards the child and this information will be recorded in an index. When referring to severe violence will be defined as behavior more severe than pushing, shoving, slapping, and throwing things. Specifically, the list will consist of whether during this two year study leading up to the interview, if the parent had ever kicked, bit, punched, hit with an object, beaten up the child or used a knife or gun. If a parent did any of these things they will be considered as abusing their child. Reference 1. Cicchetti, D., and Aber, J.L. Abused children-abusive parents: An overstated Case?
Harvard Educational Review (1980) 50: 244-55.2. Curtis, G.C. Violence breeds violence-perhaps? American Journal of Psychiatry (1963) 120: 386-87.3. Friedrich, W.N., and Wheeler, K.K. The abusing parent revisited: A decade of psychological research. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1982) 170: 577-87.4. Gladstone, R. Observations on children who have been physically abused and their parents.
American Journal of Psychiatry (19665) 122: 440-43.5. Hilberman, E. Overview: The "wife-beater's wife" reconsidered. American Journal of Psychiatry (1980) 137: 1336-47.6. Horowitz, B., and Wollock, I. Maternal deprivation, child maltreatment and agency interventions among poor families.
In L. Pelton, eds. The Social Context of Child Abuse and Neglect. Human Sciences Press, 1981.7. Kadushin, A., and Martin, J. Child Abuse: An Interaction al Event. Columbia University Press 1981.8. Kaufman, J., and Zigler, E. Do abused children become abusive parents?
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (1987) 57: 186-92.9. Kotelchuk, M. Child abuse and neglect: Prediction and mis classification.