To think that perceptions of child abuse have changed a lot over the years?

(119 Posts)
extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 20:34:51

Been reading some threads on here recently that have got we thinking about the definitions of 'child abuse' and how it has changed a lot over time.

Some things that were quite commonplace 20 years ago would now leave people gasping in horror but at the time it was just seen as discipline and, by extension, good parenting.

The example that springs to mind is the whole 'washing child's mouth out with soap if they swear' - quite normal when I was a child but now would land you an appointment with social services.

Why the shift for one generation to the next? Why have attitudes changed so dramatically to how we discipline our kids when, generally speaking it seems that people are growing up more badly behaved now we don't use these 'abusive' practices anymore? Abviously I am generalising but AIBU to wonder why things have changed so much?

PeneloPeePitstop Wed 13-Feb-13 08:39:00

You might also consider that some 'disruptives' would have been in institutions. I for one am glad that is no longer the case. Hiding children and adults with disabilities away is wrong.

scarletsalt Wed 13-Feb-13 08:27:14

Erm, I had a nigh on idyllic childhood and am still very close to my parents, especially my mum. But I did get my mouth washed out with soap for swearing once when I was about 8 and was smacked a small handful of times (all by my mum, my dad was all talk no action!).

I was most certainly NOT abused and like to think that I am a well adjusted and mostly happy person who has good relationships with my family, DH and DS.

I am going to try not to smack my DS, but more for the 'you cannot tell a child not to hit and then hit them' reasons, than because I thunk it will scar him for life.

I think that is does minimise the term 'abuse' somewhat to ascribe the term to things like smacking (when it is rare and does not leave a mark), shouting or other mild forms of Punishment.

CailinDana Tue 12-Feb-13 23:02:32

It's worth remembering that you view your childhood and your adulthood from two very different perspectives. Life in the 50s-90s had its own challenges for people, challenges we hardly have to face today, such as terrible maternity leave, legitimised rape within marriage, police turning a blind eye to abuse and domestic violence, open racism and homophobia, grinding poverty, massive lack of opportunity for women, etc etc. But as a child you would be oblivious to much of this. A pretty standard childhood is going to seem wonderful in retrospect because it was a time when you had no responsibility and no real understanding of the world. Naturally as you get older and start to realise there's more going on, the world seems darker and more scary. As you get older you start to lose touch with younger generations and you start to crave the certainty of what you knew when you were young - hence the craving for "the good old days." It's all about perception. When you consider people that speak fondly of surviving a world war (!) it seems pretty obvious that hindsight paints things in rather a rosy hue. No era was ever perfect -people were always people and they always made mistakes. It's just that seeing something from the outside or seeing something from the vantage point of a child skews your perception and makes it hard to make comparisons.

WRT abuse I think feminism has had a large role to play in making it more visible and less acceptable. Abuse, particularly sexual abuse, was often covered up or justified because it was men who were the perpetrators, for the most part, and women didn't have any voice to speak out about it. Added to that was the perception, still in existence today but less so, that women and children "asked for" abuse in some way which made it easy to just dismiss victims and allow men to carry on doing as they pleased. When you consider that even in 2013 a young woman can go on TV and say that children growing up too fast can "make men confused" it's not hard to see how abuse was justified in the past by saying that children led adults astray.

JacqueslePeacock Tue 12-Feb-13 22:51:33

Phew - that's a relief!

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:43:23

Surprised I didn't get picked up on that earlier actually...

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:39:25

Bloody hell what a numpty I am Talk about typos... I meant corporal punishment blush

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 22:38:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JacqueslePeacock Tue 12-Feb-13 22:37:45

Flippinada, "capital punishment in school was outlawed fairly recently I think and a good thing too"? shock shock shock

I had no idea capital punishment had ever been legal in school! Am glad it was outlawed. grin

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 22:29:03

No probs OxfordBags. Thanks for explaining. DS is 14 now, so it's a long time since the toddler phase!

The intention of the naughty step was nothing to do with assuming that children are always naughty. I understood it be a benign way of teaching cause and effect, as it can be hard to reason with a toddler. If they are angry at being thwarted, logic doesn't always work. So, you put them on the step for a few minutes and tell them why. They realise that they can't do that stuff, otherwise they have a few minutes on the step and they don't like it. You didn't punish toddlers for silly things of course, only naughty things like hitting people. This made sense to me and it always struck me as a sensible way to approach things. No physical punishment or even shouting. The idea was to be calm and firm and to be honest I see no harm in it, but each to their own. Child care 'experts' told you to do this back in my day.

I probably sound like a right old fart now.

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:21:19

I agree with Oxford and Anna

I hate the model of parenting which is based on children being horrible little beasts that need to be controlled and forced into submission.

That does not mean raising a child with no boundaries or discipline, which is what people with a certain viewpoint tend to assume when you say you don't agree with smacking.

Btw, slightly off topic, someone mentioned this upthread - we did burn witches - in Scotland, but not England and Wales.

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 21:59:17

Sorry, skullcandy, I didn't get my point across very well, was rushing - I didn't mean time out or naughty step are harsh, I was referring to the attitude in general that you either have to use certain styles of discipline or let children run wild, which is nonsense.

Saying that, I think both time out and naughty step are pretty useless. They might stop a child doing the undesired behaviour there and then and over time make them learn to not do it, but they don't teach a child why they shouldn't do it (excepy mummy or daddy doesn't like it, which is a crappy answer) and, more importantly, they doesn't teach them alternatives to the undesired behaviour. I feel they set children up to constantly fail, because the child is merely being punished, not helped to find different ways of behaving and thinking.

Bunfags, I dunno what the politically correct thing is right now. I don't choose my parenting based on what is trendy. I guess what is big in some circles right now is sort of what I expressed above; not just punishing and disciplining as an end in themselves but giving them a chance to be good; old discipline models work on the presumption that children are always naughty or on the brink of naughtiness, which is a horrible and untrue way to view kids. I personally loosely practice attachment parenting, and I have virtually no behaviour issues with my DS, but he is a toddler, so cannot say how well this will continue to work as he grows. I do have friends who parent similarly with their older kids and they are also very well-behaved; this approach encourages children to be independent, handle responsibility well and be morally autonomous, even though most people mistakenly think it means letting kids run riot and take the piss. I just know I believe in listening to children and finding a way for everyone to be okay with the outcome of whatever, not just being the Big Boss over my family. You can discipline really well with positivity, IMHO; offering choices, encouraging kids to think about stuff, not just letting situations, etc., happen to them, but involving them fully in daily life. Again, easy with one toddler!

That's a bit waffly, sorry.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 20:59:20

I meant politically correct

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 20:59:01

OxfordBags, so what is the politicall correct thing to do these days if you can't do time out or naughty step. I'm not being snipey, but genuinely curious, as when DS was a toddler it was the in thing.

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 20:15:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Anna1976 Tue 12-Feb-13 20:02:05

The point upthread about security and love making the difference to the behaviours is one worth making. I was never told off, smacked or threatened; never disciplined, and given no boundaries at all, just endless material crap.
But I grew up in a nasty household full of venom and resentment, knowing that I was unwanted, knowing that no matter what I did my parents and sister would neither like nor understand me. Constantly being fobbed off with a knowing smile, a nasty remark and some more expensive material stuff, used to feel like a slap in the face.
My parents were brought up in the 1940s and 1950s, with frequent beatings, mouths being washed out with soap, no food if they were bad, screaming yelling autocratic parents - they had absolutely no idea that there are ways of giving consistency and boundaries through kindness that don't involve irrational, autocratic violence and disrespect. They thought that the ony other way to do things was to give in and be martyrs seething with unspoken resentment.

Hesterton Tue 12-Feb-13 19:24:19

One big influence was the growth of interest in psychology as a science. People were beginning to openly link adult behaviours with childhood experience, and realising that humanely treated children as a norm was more likely to lead to rational and more humane society.

I think it's true - my school was brutal as a child, my school now as a teacher 40 years later and in a more deprived area is far nicer.

On the surface things may have seemed better in the 60s and 70s, but it could be hideous for many on the fringe, the disabled, gay people, etc.

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 19:20:01

Skullcandy, there are plenty of ways to have discipline and rules without things like Time Out or naughty steps, FFS. It's not a choice between harsh or letting kids take the piss.

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 18:50:46

MrsKeith are you asking me?

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 18:37:52

So the way you were disciplined influenced you and now your children? And your comfortable with this?

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 18:04:30

Apparently you can't have a bag of crisps or choccie biccy in a lunchbox now skullcandy.

Time out isolationist? confused

DS is a teenager now. I am always interested to read MN threads about younger DC, and I always think it's amazing how quickly opinions change. Sometimes I think it's a good job things are different, other times I think people are turning into soft lads and lasses these days.

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 17:58:39

I guess it will take time to filter through. My eldest DC is 21, has a child, both he and the babys mother are ok with smacking and parent similarly to me/her parents, but probably a watered down version, as I did with my children.

I suppose within our family the changes are smaller so will take longer. Had I never continued any of my parent's techniques then I imagine my children would be doing an even more watery version of that.

Isolationist though? Seriously? That can't be true.

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 17:49:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 15:42:05

I know exactly what you mean Sasha. I my mum used to tell me she'd have my guts for garters.

I seriously wonder what the next generation will think. Do you ever wonder about this? There are bound to be things we do today that will have people clutching at their pearls in a few years time.

PessaryPam Tue 12-Feb-13 15:35:26

These days we have parent abuse.

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 15:17:22

The perception of child abuse has changed, child abuse hasn't changed. The things we think are unacceptable now were still unacceptable then. Perception doesn't necessarily change what a thing is. Many people would have thought it awful to smack their kids or wash their mouths out with soap in the past, it's silly to believe everyone was the same, just as they are now.

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