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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?

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 22:58:46

Dawndonna, good for you, and yes it's a tribute to you as a mum that older kids come home, with or without washing! At the end if the day your mum has reaped what she sowed and serve her right.

Bunfags Mon 11-Feb-13 22:59:37

Do they have to rouse teenage DC in the morning?

I have actually heard people on MN suggest that shouting at a child is abuse grin

If yes, I want to know how. If they don't have teenage dc, it will all become clear then.

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 23:00:52

Holly your post re your older children, spot on exactly how I feel when my Dss are out.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Feb-13 23:09:02

I really understand the last part of your post OP, I've been told on mn that my siblings and I were abused as a child when I've described our upbringing. When I've gone into detail regarding DH's childhood, which was mainly spent in the Caribbean there have been lots of shock comments.

However both of us, and all our siblings are very close to our parents, feel very loved by our parents and are quite horrified at, what we felt was just us being disciplined in a way our parents felt was right at the time, being termed abuse.

My family is really involved in boxing, when I've mentioned this on mn, its been said that my parents and now I have forced our children into a culture of violence and that it is a form of abuse, SS should be called etc etc etc

I think that, possibly because of some of the careers posters are involved in they are hyper-sensitive to the topic and don't give a true picture of overall societies attitudes (and based on how many kids I see out and about getting a walloping, they really don't).

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 23:09:33

GrowSome - I have actually heard that myself....from social services!

MrsKeithRichards Mon 11-Feb-13 23:13:22

extremepie you thought it was normal because it was your norm. That doesn't mean it was right and I think the people that seen your bruises and kept quiet let you down.

I'm only 2 years older than you. My dad was very handy with his fists for completely stupid reasons, annoying him really, not actual discipline. We learnt not to annoy him, avoid him too. I was still copping it at 15 and after chatting to close friends I realised it wasn't normal. I told him it wasn't normal, that he was out of order. It stopped.

I think my mum let me down by not saying that to him, but maybe it was normal to her. My sister's are a good bit older, they moved out as soon as they could.

In fact now I think about it, it still seemed normal to my mum. We were at a family party recently and joking about kids as teenagers, the hassle they cause. I heard my mum saying to a cousin 'oh the bother we had with her, total nightmare, almost broke us up' and I'm thinking I wasn't that bad.

MrsKeithRichards Mon 11-Feb-13 23:19:56

But you can't say shouting at a child is never abusive.

Sure, we all resort to it occasionally, it's pretty ineffective and is a sign of losing control. The frequency, the aggression behind it, what you're shouting could all make it abusive.

It's a big area full of grey bits and looking at occurrences in isolation won't give you a definition.

MoonlightandRoses Mon 11-Feb-13 23:33:35

extreme - yes, that makes more sense.

I'm with MrsKeith on this one though - there's a difference between 'normal' in a given situation (for an extreme look at some of the child bride/arranged marriage cultures around the world) and right.

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 23:37:28

True MrsKeith, if you are constantly screaming at your kids (as my eldest sister used to do) that is pretty abusive. Unfortunately the didn't turn out too way, so also not very effective!

Sometimes I wonder why it took so long for society to realise that beating your children into submission was not right - just habit I suppose!

Lollydaydream Mon 11-Feb-13 23:59:51

I do not think for a second that children are more badly behaved en masse than a generation or two ago. It is rose tinted glasses and over reporting.
There clearly has been a shift in how we treat, or aspire to treat, children, over a greater period. I often wonder how much this is due to our ability to control the size of our families. It clearly is harder to control a large family and whereas now in general you only have a large family if you plan it and have an aptitude for managing children in the past it wouldn't have been a choice and parents would have been under greater strain. Also in simple, generalising terms we now choose to have our children, rather than them 'happening' to us; does that not put us more in a position where we feel we have chosen to have them and must do the best we can for them.

stopgap Tue 12-Feb-13 00:03:59

Another working-class product of the 70s and 80s, and my parents were handy with screaming, slapping, occasional bad language and lots of mean comments. My husband had a middle-class upbringing, never slapped in his life, and he is far less prone to agitated outbursts over trivialities.

I also recall pupils having their mouths washed out with soap and water, as well as teachers lobbing board dusters, kids dragged across desks and plenty of slapped lower legs. Most of this, sadly, took place when I was at primary school.

sashh Tue 12-Feb-13 04:54:34

Abviously I am generalising but AIBU to wonder why things have changed so much

A whole generation of parents who decided, 'my child will never experience what I did'.

Every generation has thought that, but we now have things discussed on TV and radio, things on the internet, friends we can phone (not every house had a land line in the 1970s) so this is the first generation or two that has the power to change things, not just the desire.

HollyBerryBush Tue 12-Feb-13 05:57:52

One of the other parents at mini soccer, so thats 10 years ago, was a retired headmaster, said the biggest abuse of children was time. Parents no longer have time for them. They throw money and gadgets but never time. That largely is why society is so much more dysfunctional than we remember it simply because of parental guilt at having no time therefore poor behaviour is endemic, chastisement is rare, punishment never followed through. A lost generation where there are few boundaries but a lot of demands for 'rights'.

He'd seen a lot in his 40 years.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 06:18:58

I don't think normal families washed mouths out with soap or took belts to children in the past.

And I think the people who did then probably still do now.

NopeStillNothing Tue 12-Feb-13 06:54:52

Well I'm your age OP and it certainly wasn't the "norm" when I was growing up to go to school with marks on your body! I'm quite shocked that the school ignored it so recently.

Most generations experience a dramatic shift in parenting styles. It's due to children growing up and realising the mistakes of their parents.

It's a good thing.

Goldenbear Tue 12-Feb-13 07:27:03

I can't say that your description aptly describes my experience and my childhood was more like 30 years ago. My parents childhood was in the 50's and early 60's and their personal set ups where not like this either.

I had one friend in the 80's who was smacked around the face once in front of me and on her bum- I was horrified and wasn't allowed to play around her house as a result. I went to a private school from 2- 11 and in that setting the punishments where things like standing against a wall in the playground facing the wall. If you messed around at lunchtime you had to sit on your hands - oddly, for a set time. In the classroom you were sometimes kept in at break.

I have to say the teenage children in my locality are really polite, far more so than where I went to secondary school in South London. I remember lots of violence, especially racial. My brother's friend was badly beaten up by a load of racist teenagers.

I also remember 3 households along my road where domestic violence was occurring. A man chucked a tv out of the top window in one of these DB incidents but myself and my mum and Dad where away, my 15 year old brother had stayed home and was allowed some friends to stay, they all went over to help the woman and the police were called. Another man regularly beat his wife and children. My Dad told me about the Local GP who regularly raised a hand to his wife to.

Tee2072 Tue 12-Feb-13 07:37:10

This thread makes me glad I didn't grow up in the UK.

I'm 44. None of this was acceptable in the US when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. We learned about child abuse in school and how to help our friends if we suspected.

PolkadotCircus Tue 12-Feb-13 07:59:04

So true Holly.

I think coaxing and begging(just why would anybody do that with a child) or even the worst of the lot ignoring and indulging dreadful behaviour are incredibly damaging.All are relatively new ways of parenting I guess so we're just starting to see the fallout.

Calm,firm but authoritative parenting is supposed to be best, the calm bit I could work on a bit from time to timegrin.

OTheHugeManatee Tue 12-Feb-13 08:24:38

Polkadot - I think you're right. It's conceivable that a generation who grew up with liberal, child-centric parents will think 'my parents let me down by never giving me boundaries' and lead a backlash returning to much stricter methods with their own DC.

It's also suggestive that narcissistic personality disorder has been on the rise in recent years. Psychologists think NPD can have it's roots in over-praising and lack of boundaries.

I think future generations of psychotherapists will have entirely new challenges to deal with in a client population who lacked for nothing material but received no discipline, no guidance and only scraps of time from their overworked, guilty, well-intentionedly liberal parents and feel terribly let down as adults.

Morloth Tue 12-Feb-13 09:15:35

My parents didn't do any of that stuff, I am 36.

I can remember a smack though and I remember what I did to deserve it, (I was about 8) and bloody hell did I deserve it, I deliberately pushed Mum to breaking point, I can remember doing it really really clearly.

The kids I see around me now are pretty much like the kids were when I was a kid. Kids don't change much IMO, the toys do and the activities do, but kids are pretty much kids.

cory Tue 12-Feb-13 09:23:11

"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?"

Are you sure they are growing up more badly?

If I had to choose between spending the day with a bunch of 12th century teenagers and a bunch of 21st century ones, I'd choose the 21st century bunch every time.

(The churchmen of the Middle Ages admitted openly that the Crusades were very much about the fact that young people were out of control: since they were obviously going to kill somebody whatever you did, it was better if they did their killing somewhere else.)

Even the things my granddad got up to with his brothers and told as funny stories afterwards would land you in court these days, and he grew up a very law-abiding citizen.

The kind of fighting and attacking smaller children that was routine in playgrounds in my childhood would get you expelled these days.

I think our tolerance for bad behaviour has diminished enormously, so we perceive more bad behaviour.

The police went round our local youth club the other month and asked for the culprits after a neighbour had called them out.

Their crime? They had been kicking a ball in a cul de sac.

We got a letter home because our ds immediately confessed that he had been there. It was quite clear from the letter that nothing had been damaged and nobody had been hurt or harrassed: the neighbour was upset because he saw a group of 12yos playing in the street and the police took his concerns seriously.

Imagine that happening 40 years ago!

cory Tue 12-Feb-13 09:25:08

As for teachers, they were not necessarily respected because they had the right to corporal punishment: I have spoken to several teachers of that generation and they mention the culture of playing tricks on teachers (tin tacks on chairs anyone?) and covert cheekiness that could easily send a new teacher into a breakdown. The only difference was- it was the teacher who got blamed for not controlling the class.

Remember that scene in Goodbye Mr Chips where the dying headteacher has to take classes because the teacher cannot control the class and they are pouring water down his neck ("silly fool, got hysterical" is the HT's comment). No sympathy for the teacher, no sense that maybe there is something wrong with the behaviour of boys who will do. This is a nostalgic book about a successful private school teaching privileged boys.

And what about Kestrel for A Knave, for a portrait of a state school in the 60s? The author had been a teacher, he was describing what he had seen.

fromparistoberlin Tue 12-Feb-13 09:29:26

perceptions of EVERYTHING have changed, why single out child abuse?

we no longer have a death penalty
we no longer burnh witches
we no longer send babies to boarding school (opps we still do that one)

EarlyMorningBaconDemon Tue 12-Feb-13 09:38:48

I've been told that my upbringing was abusing - and I am a bit hmm about it because, to me, it never seemed like it!

I was smacked when I did something wrong, and was sent to my bedroom. If I didn't want to eat, then I sat at the table in silence until everyone else had finished, and I wasn't allowed anything in substitute - so if I didn't eat the food placed in front of me, I went hungry and it was my decision. If I didn't stay within earshot of the house, I wasn't allowed a video at bedtime.

Really basic stuff, or so I thought! Apparently it's abuse?

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 09:42:31

cory that's shocking, no wonder we have a rubbish football team and lazy kids!

I was brought up with my mum telling me to ignore the No Ball Games signs on the only grasses patches in our scheme, I've allowed my own son to play on these areas. People need to get a grip!

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