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The "Discovery" of Child Abuse

Stephen J. Pfohl
Social Problems
Vol. 24, No. 3 (Feb., 1977), pp. 310-323
DOI: 10.2307/800083
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800083
Page Count: 14
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The "Discovery" of Child Abuse
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Abstract

This paper represents a study of the organization of social forces which gave rise to the deviant labelling of child beating and which promoted the speedy and universal enactment of criminal legislation in the mid-1960s. Initial consideration is given to an historical survey of social reaction prior to the formulation of a fixed label. Specific attention is focused on the nineteenth-century "house of refuge movement," early twentieth-century crusades by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the rise of juvenile courts. A second section concentrates on the web of cultural values related to the protection of children at the time of the "discovery" of abuse as deviance. A third section examines factors associated with the organizational structure of the medical profession conducive to the "discovery" of a particular deviant label. The final segment of the paper concerns resultant social reaction. The paper synthesizes conflict and labelling perspectives in providing an interpretation of a particular social-legal development.

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