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Copyright 1997 by theColegio Oficial de Psic—logos. SpainPsychology in Spain, 1997, Vol. 1. No 1, 104-118Child abuse prevention is a complex and difficult taskrequiring the introduction of changes and, mostimportant, the guarantee that those changes are in theright direction and are maintained. This is where the difficultiesset in, since it is necessary to overcome greatsocial and cultural obstacles. The classical levels of preventionhave been adapted to the abuse phenomenonaccording to the type of population to which they aredirected (Browne, 1988): a) primary prevention when itis applied to all the individuals in a given community; b)secondary prevention when measures are established inpopulations identified as high risk with respect to abuse;and c) tertiary prevention, referring to intervention madein cases of abuse detected by child care services.On the other hand, child abuse prevention is seen as atechnically possible option (McMillan et al, 1994) andan ethically recommendable alternative, since attentionfocused exclusively on treatment programmes leavesCHILD ABUSE PREVENTIONMiguel Costa Cabanillas*, José Manuel Morales Gonzalez and María García Juste OrtegaResearch Department of the Center of Studies on Child and FamilyMinistry of Social AffairesChild abuse prevention programmes, centred upon primary and secondary levels, have been instituted in recent years as anoption for mitigating this psychosocial phenomenon, attending to the child population in general, and to those with socialproblems in particular. This review proposes that these programmes should consider as a basic principle adaptation to childrenÕsneeds and to the parental capacities of those involved in child care, taking into consideration the familyÕs socio-culturalcontext. The authors present different strategies for preventing child abuse, notably: a) the development of parentalcapacities through training in child rearing and care, b) the elimination of possible social isolation of families, throughcommunity intervention services.Los programas de prevenci—n del maltrato infantil, centrado en sus niveles primario y secundario, se han constituido en losœltimos a–os como la opci—n id—nea para mitigar este fen—meno psicosocial al atender adecuadamente a la poblaci—n infantilen general, y a los ni–os en dificultad social en particular. Este articulo de revisi—n plantea que dichos programas debencontemplarcomoprincipio b‡sico la adecuaci—n de las necesidades de los ni–os y las capacidades parentales de sus cuidadores,teniendo en cuenta el contexto sociocultural en el cual la familia est‡ inmersa. Los autores exponen diferentes estrategiaspara la prevenci—n del maltrato infantil, destacando entre Žstas: a) el desarrollo de la competencia parental para lacapacitaci—n de los padres a travŽs del entrenamiento de habilidades en la crianza y educaci—n de sus hijos, b) la eliminaci—ndel posible aislamiento social de las familias por medio de una prestaci—n de servicios de intervenci—n comunitaria.The original Spanish version of this paper has been previouslypublished in Anuario de Psicolog’a Jur’dica, 1996, 87-110...........*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed toMiguel Costa Cabanillas. Subdireci—n General de Programas deServicios Sociales. Ministerio Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales. JosŽAbascal, 39. 28003 Madrid Spain.many children at risk of abuse, and sometimes arrivestoo late (Browne, 1988). Treatment programmes, aftertheir completion, do not adequately protect many childrenfrom a future continuous abuse situation, recidivismrates in protection services are relatively high, anda childÕs protection may involve its permanent separationfrom its families (Daro, 1991). In addition, recentlydevelopedinstruments for detection of child abuse typologiesstill have low reliability, leading to many falsepositive cases; thus, until it is possible to develop a suitablepotential risk profile with enough validity andreliability, programmes directed at primary and secondaryprevention become a core reference for confrontingthe phenomenon (Browne and Saqi, 1988). Hence, mostof the studies developed on child abuse prevention in thefamily environment point to the need to establish as afundamental content in the programmes the whole set ofparental abilities for the first years of a childÕs life, transmittedthrough assistance in the home (Larson, 1980;Olds et al., 1986, Barth, 1991). Fundamental in thisregard is the identification of communities with a highrisk of abuse, and the organisation of the supply ofhealth and social services in the population accordingly104VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN


(McMillan et al., 1993). On the other hand, various researchprojects on the evaluation of abuse prevention programmeshave studied their economic profitability. It isbeginning to be confirmed empirically that the exclusivefocusing on the treatment of abuse cases involves avery high expense in terms of public resources, preventionbeing more beneficial in economic terms. (Daro,1991)In order to better understand proposed strategies forabuse prevention, we will first consider some epidemiologicaland socio-historical aspects of the child abusephenomenon.CHILD ABUSE: EPIDEMIOLOGICAL AND CON-CEPTUAL CONSIDERATIONSEpidemiological importance. Data from a problemEpidemiological research is faced with two serious problemswhen trying to quantify and characterise the abusephenomenon. On the one hand, the difficult conceptualproblem of its definition and, on the other, the no lessdifficult one of access to information about a phenomenonthat, in most cases, generally occurs ÒindoorsÓ, inthe private family domain. However, several epidemiologicalstudies have been carried out in the past fewyears in order to estimate the magnitude of the problem,mainly because the official figures collected by childprotection services only show the most severe cases, inwhich it has been necessary for them to intervene. Thiskind of detection is called the Òtip of the iceberg of childabuseÓ effect (Starr, 1990), suggesting that the numberof cases estimated with such a procedure is well belowthe real figure. As an example, while US social serviceagencies have reported an annual incidence of between1.25% and 1.5% of the child population (Helfer, 1987),the latest survey on family violence (1986) showed similarfigures for severe abuse (1.9%), though this percentagerose to an annual 10.7% when light cases were considered(Strauss and Gelles, 1986).Concentrating on studies made in our country (Spain),we find disparate figures, oscillating between 0.5% and1.5%. The first study on abuse incidence was made inthe autonomous community of Catalonia, and collectedthe cases detected during 1988 by professionals belongingto different institutions and services throughout theCatalonian territory (InglŽs, 1995). To the data collectedin the study the authors applied a correction factorin order to estimate at the level of the general populationthe annual incidence rate, and obtained 0.509% inchildren between 0 and 16 years old. The second studyaimed at ascertaining the prevalence of abuse in thepopulation of the province of Guipœzcoa during 1989(De Paœl et al., 1995), and the source were professionalsattending children but working in the councils of thisprovince; it was estimated that 1.5 % of children under15 suffered abuse. In The most recent study, made in theautonomous community of Andalusia during the firsthalf of 1993 from similar information sources to thosein previous studies, an annual incidence rate of 1.4% forunder-18Õs was estimated for 1992 (Moreno et al.,1995). As mentioned in a recent review of the data byPalacios (1995), it has been found that these differencesin the estimation of the problemÕs magnitude cannot beexplained by age differences in the reference populations,nor by the information sources used, but rather bymethodological differences in the projections made forthe estimation of the rates in global populations, evenmore so when -as shown by this author- the percentagesof typological differences in child abuse are very similarin the incidence studies mentioned previously (seeTable 1).Correct Treatment / Abuse: A historico-culturalperspectiveThe definition of abuse, as we have said, is one of themain problems facing researchers and experts in the subject.Its definition implies a social judgement with respectto what is considered adequate for childrenÕs development.The difficulty arises just because there is a lackTable IMain distribution of abuse typologies accordingto incidence studies made in SpainType of abuse Catalonia (1988)* Andalusia (1992)**Negligence . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.85% 7.22%Physical abuse . . . . . . . . . 2.7 % 2.2 %Emotional abuse . . . . . . . . 4.36 % 4.55 %Sexual abuse . . . . . . . . . . 0.21 % 0.36 %Begging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . --- 1.43 %Corruption . . . . . . . . . . . . --- 1.6 %Work exploitation . . . . . . . 0.93 % 0.94 %Prenatal abuse . . . . . . . . . 0.31 % ---Parental incapacity . . . . . . --- ---Sexual exploitation . . . . . . 0.07 % ---Chemical/Pharmacologicaladministration . . . . . . . . . 0.5 % 1.5 %Source: Generalitat de Catalu–a (*).Junta de Andaluc’a, Direcci—nGeneral de Atenci—n al Ni–o, (**).VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN105


CORRECTTREATMENTFigure 1Socio-historical perspective in abuseSOCIALJUDGEMENTABUSEPerspectiva hist—rica y social: Socio-historical perspectiveKNOWLEDGECULTURE ANDABOUTVALUES ABOUTCHILDHOODCHILDHOODof social agreement on what might be considered a dangerousand unacceptable way of bringing up children. Itbecomes difficult to draw a line between what is abuseand what is not, or between an abusing family and a nonabusingone. In any case, the social judgement establishedto evaluate as good or bad, as optimal or abusing, acertain rearing practice is made within a cultural-historicalframework and in terms of two dynamic vectors orforces which constantly interact (see Figure 1). On theone hand there is the scientific knowledge accumulatedby researchers and professionals about the growth, developmentand developmental needs of children; on theother, there are beliefs, values and social criteria expressedthrough written and non-written norms relating towhat the minimum levels of care and attention should bewith respect to children.Indeed, it is between these two vectors that reciprocaltransactions and relations contributing to the configurationof the state of infancy in a given epoch are established.There is no doubt that the more advanced researchbecomes and the more childrenÕs needs become known,the greater is the development of a culture in whichvalues related to the proper treatment of children hold aprominent place. Also, the more this kind of culture ispromoted, the more research and the development ofknowledge about infancy will be promoted. In this historicaland social context, social criteria established withregard to good and bad treatment (abuse) will be progressivelymore demanding in accordance with the positivedevelopment of knowledge about and values regardingchildhood. Indeed, this development is historical,in that it changes with the passage of time, and it issocial, since it varies according to the socio-culturalreference group. For instance, while a hard slap on theface from the teacher to the pupil may have been considerednormal (or even a sign of the teacherÕs professionalzeal) in our own environment thirty years ago, todayit is considered an abuse. Similarly, taking as a referenceother cultural contexts, western societies considerunacceptable certain, quite deeply-rooted, practices inAsian and African countries, such as trepanation of theclitoris in adolescence. Thus, the limits and range of theabuse concept will always be subject to the developmentof knowledge and of values and culture, which in turndepend on history, education, and social referencegroups.ChildrenÕs reference: their needsCurrent scientific knowledge about childrenÕs developmentalevolution and needs (Schaffer, 1979, 1991;L—pez, 1995a) allows us to establish some conclusionsof strategic importance in relation to abuse and its prevention.a) There exists a clear and solid psychological foundationfor considering childhood as an active entitywith specific needs that change according to development.These needs, which define children asindividual and specific subjects -for example, differentfrom adults- has been the basis for what iscalled the cross-cultural concept of childhood.Table II shows childrenÕs needs related to feedingand hygiene, as well as to aspects of their psychosocialdevelopment during early infancy.b) The adequate or inadequate satisfaction of suchneeds appears as an important reference point, andas a sound empirical basis for establishing a socialjudgement on abuse. We must stress that the needsspecified in Table II are framed in the context ofdeveloped countries with an established welfarestate. Whilst in developing countries the basicchildhood needs (food, hygiene, education, sociosanitaryprotection, and others) are still not satisfiedand, on the whole, this implies an extreme vulnerabilitywith respect to abuse, in the developed countrieswe consider as necessary for childhood welfareintermediate or higher level needs (UNICEF,1995). These higher order needs proposed by suchcountries (cognitive, emotional and social needs)reflect current knowledge on childrenÕs developmentfrom an integral perspective (L—pez, 1995a),and involve modifications in the provision or satisfactionmodality of the basic needs themselves. Inthis sense, it can be observed how the way in whichthe different basic needs categories in Table II aredefined also reflects the presence of psychosocialneeds, in that it not only describes what the needs106VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN


are, but also how to satisfy them. Recently, L—pez etal (1995) reviewed in detail the main indicatorschild attention services may use in order to evaluatethe rate of satisfaction of childrenÕs differentdevelopmental needs, and so determine the existenceof potential risks of child abuse. (Table II).c) ChildrenÕs development and socialisation does notoccur in a vacuum but, on the contrary, becomes progressivelyconfigured in close relation to and interdependencewith its environment (Bronfenbrenner,1986; Frones, 1994). An environment which isstructured according to social groups and scenarios(family, school, adults, peer group, services) of differentimportance depending on the psychosocialand developmental stage. Current transactionalmodels on child development speak of the existenceof a mutual interaction of an emotional as well ascognitive character between the child -with his/herown individual characteristics- and the environment-mediated by family and peer group relations(Bronfenbrenner, 1987; Samerof and Chandler,1975). It is currently assumed, for example, thatsocialisation in a parent-child relational context is aprocess of reciprocal influence, which has someimplications for childrenÕs development as well asfor parentsÕ behaviour with regard to them which, inturn, conditions the childÕs development (Brody,1994).d) The family is taken as the main primary socialisationscenario and, consequently, as a primary sourceof welfare for the child. It is in the family whereall the nutrients for satisfying the childÕs early basicneeds converge. Hence, the family represents anopportunity for socialisation and development.Table IIChildrenÕs Needs from 0 to 6 years oldCATEGORIESFeedingSleepHygienePsychomotorbehaviourAffective andsocial contactSPECIFIC NEEDSCalm environment with a more or less fixed and regular timetable.Feeding adapted to rhythm of growth and development: milk in first months, vegetables and fruits in months 4 and 5, varied and progressivelysolid from the first year until adult food in 2nd-3rd year.To touch and manipulate (instrumentally and manually) foods in order to get to know them through every sense; to try and eat aloneand to learn how to use spoon and fork independently.To have a bedroom with adequate conditions of light, ventilation, temperature and isolation.To sleep at fixed hours according to sleep rhythm: mean average of 13 to 17 hours in the first year, 10 to 12 hours from 1 to 6 years.Wide cradle with security measures (first year) and bed from 1-2 years.Care and consolation when child wakes up in distress.Daily bath/shower allowing play, conditioning personal hygiene as a source of pleasure: bath during three first years with regularnappy (diaper) replacement.Calming methods for sphincter control (non-stressful techniques), giving stimulation to their success in personal cleanliness abilitiesfrom the first year and providing time to get dressed and undressed unaided.Security to explore their environment according to developmental rhythm (house, district, school) with daily walks.Periodic paediatric reviews.Stimulation of success in psychomotor abilities: movements as a result of external stimulation in the first year (reflexes, head, turning,dragging themselves along, crawling, walking) and head control; from 1 to 3 years, displacement movements for postural control.To feel, identify, name and represent parts of the body according to body-scheme development.To interact with objects and others through the body (hands and feet); use of the hands in the first year to reach objects and recognisethem with every sense, and to throw objects to be returned to them by others.To play through movement (revolving, dragging themselves along, running, jumping, pedalling), body parts (hands, feet, head) andmusic (dancing), experiencing the environment and discovering the meaning of things.To bodily express their emotions and feelings, and to verbalise action from imitation or representation.To be rocked, hugged, stroked and kissed.To have a family providing love and approval with a stable figure of attachment.To be calmed when distressed, through body contact and language.To receive and give affection and satisfaction.To be with adults and peers, interacting with them through play.To feel that the adult is receptive to what they want to transmit, learning pro-social behaviours.To overcome fear of being alone for a few moments.To participate -according to developmental level- in family and school decisions.Source: AuthorÕs design, after Merino et al., 1995.VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN107


However, it is also within the family where shortcomingsand unsatisfied needs show up very early,and make an immediate impact. In this sense, thefamily also constitutes a risk for childrenÕs developmentand socialisation. The specific behaviour ofattachment figures (mother, father, elderbrother/sister, grandparents, etc.) is the most relevantand decisive factor in the provision of a securebasis through which the child explores the environmentand interacts with it in a confident way, gainingaccess to adequate learning; on the other hand,it may be a decisive factor in providing extremeinsecurity and uncertainty which impairs adequatedevelopment and socialisation. In fact, child abusecan be conceived as the manifestation of a seriousimpairment in parentsÕ relationships with children,which results in retardation and disruptions in thechildÕs development (Belsky, 1984). Thus, it is notsurprising that the behaviour of parental and attachmentfigures is an important aspect in any childabuse prevention strategy. It is for this reason thatprevention programmes must analyse those factorsconditioning lack of sensitivity on the part ofparents and attachment figures with respect to childrenÕsneeds and abilities. Such programmes wouldbe designed from a suitable starting point for orientingtheir goals both towards strengthening thedevelopment of abilities in the child that allow foradequate socio-emotional learning and towards thepromotion of parental abilities (Wolfe, 1993).e) Finally, family context is not an isolated entity. Onthe contrary, it is both a tributary and an activeagent, direct or indirect, of its socio-economic andcultural environment, through the influences andtransactions maintained with that environment. It isfor this reason that the wider context will be analysedand described.Social and cultural reference: attitudes, opinions,beliefs and values about childhood.The cultural context, attitudes and values constitute anobject of study in anthropology, sociology and socialpsychology, which is difficult to specify and no less difficultto operationalise when we try to measure it or,more ambitiously, to exert some influence on it for preventionpurposes. However, regardless of the difficultiesand methodological challenges, the social and culturalframework is an inevitable reference, even more so whenwe try to define a comprehensive panorama on abuseprevention, and most of all, if we take into account thenormative and cultural context which sanctions or toleratescertain educational and rearing practices. Someconsiderations that should be borne in mind are thefollowing:a) The normative and social framework -given that itadmits or sanctions certain practices- constitutes asource of risk or of prevention with respect to childabuse. Garbarino (1977), an expert in the field,identifies two social conditions necessary for childabuse. On the one hand, there must be a cultural justificationfor the use of force against children and,on the other, the abusing family must be isolatedfrom other families which can provide access toinformation on infancy, and from community supportsystems. Moreover, there is some consensusthat abuse and abandonment prevention, as well asearly detection of risk situations, will only be successfulif efforts are directed at producing a greaterinvolvement of society (Dhooper, Royse and Wolfe,1991). The hypothesis is that a society which hasmore information about childrenÕs needs will beless tolerant of abusing behaviour and will developmore adequate rearing practices. This hypothesishas been used as a foundation for -among manyother things- developing information campaigns forthe global population with respect to rearing andchild abuse.b) Changes introduced by prevention programmes inrearing guidelines are more likely to succeed andbe maintained in the future if they are sustained byexisting social support systems. Most of the significantchanges occurring in society do not comefrom specific efforts directed at changing individualbehaviours, but as a result of more global andcultural changes. Clinicians, and those who are insome way dedicated to intervention for purposesof educational or social change at the ÒmicroÓlevel (individuals, small groups and family) mayoften feel satisfied with the specific changes resultingfrom their intervention. However, every psychotherapyproject or programme for change,regardless of its theoretical background, is facedwith the problem of how to maintain in the longterm the results and changes effected. This will bedifficult without a supportive social and culturalenvironment. Professor Garbarino uses the car andbirds metaphor to illustrate the problem: when weare driving along the road in a car we see how weproduce immediate changes, such as the birdsflying away from the electric wires as we pass. But108VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN


if the driver looks in the rearview mirror he/shewill see how the birds soon return to their perches.In applying this metaphor to social changes, wemean to suggest that after the intervention ofexperts and professionals with their sophisticatededucational strategies there are changes in rearingtechniques which, on occasions, may be quitespectacular in their effects on many risk families.However, as professionals begin to leave thosefamilies to their own devices, and they continue tolive and behave in the ways dictated by their dailylife and conditions, it is likely that the risks whichjustified the intervention will again impose themselves.A comprehensive prevention strategyshould consider influencing in some way or theother those variables that contribute to the stabilisingof social life.c) Normative and social life also contributes to establishingexpectations about childhood, some ofwhich may be inappropriate and produce risk situations.There is empirical evidence (Morton,Twentyman and Azar, 1988; Azar, 1989; Milner,1993) concerning the role of parentsÕ unreal expectationsabout their childrenÕs behaviour in the developmentof rearing practices with a high risk ofabuse. These expectations may have their origin inerroneous beliefs about what a child of a certain agecan or cannot do. The prevention hypothesis in thiscase would be that the problem could be alleviatedthrough the identification of the nature and sociallocation of the most frequent erroneous beliefs andthe dissemination of correct or more appropriateinformation in society with respect to childrenÕsdevelopmental evolution.d) The identification of these beliefs and attitudeswithin society is not always easy. Surveys and studieson attitudes and opinions applied in Spain inthe last few years reflect a positive change in thepopulation as far as a greater rejection of violenceand abuse is concerned (Juste et al., 1991; Torreset al., 1994). In Table III the change occurring inthe Spanish general population with regard to theirown experience of abuse can be observed. Itshould be noticed that attitudes and opinions arenot consistent predictors of behaviour, so that,when considering survey information, we shouldbear in mind that subjectsÕ responses tend to drift-consciously or unconsciously- toward the idealmodels they hold as a socially-desirable referent,which could be a general socio-cultural model, orof the group to which he/she belongs or wants tobelong. Data provided by surveys on family violenceraise doubts as to whether the results reflecta real change in attitudes in the population or thesocial and cultural stereotypes existing in thesociety at a given moment (Strauss and Gelles,1986). Despite such doubts, both social representationsand opinions or attitudes declared by agiven society about phenomena such as childabuse can be considered as contributing to theknowledge of what is accepted or rejected, and isfelt to be appropriate or inappropriate, with regardto the matter in question. A recent qualitativestudy on the attitude towards childrenÕs educationand child abuse reveals how parents and teacherstoday reject disciplinary practices based on corporalpunishment, but accept other forms of psychologicalpunishment based on removal of affectiondue to bad behaviour, justifying it as a good for thechild (Juste et al, 1995). Thus, behavioural andexpressive forms that are positively evaluated orrejected, what is expected or not expected of peoplebelonging to a certain age, gender, occupation,religious, or civil status group, among othervariablesconstitutes the background of what is establishedas customary, as possible and as desirable.All of this makes up the social ideology, the socialfabric of expectations and values.e) Especially important for its preventive potential isthe role of the mass media -particularly television-Table IIIPersonal experience of abuse during childhoodRemembers having Smacks on Thrashingreceivedthe face1990* 1995** 1990 1995Never . . . . . . . . . . . . 37.2 51.1 81.9 84.5Rarely . . . . . . . . . . . . 45.0 33.7 12.7 6.2Rather frequently . . . 13.7 9.0 3.4 2.1Very frequently . . . . . 2.8 2.2 0.6 1.0Does not remember --- 3.9 --- 6.0No answer . . . . . . . . 1.2 0.1 1.4 0.2Source: Centro de Estudios del Menor y la Familia. Drawn up by the authorsfollowing studies made for the Spanish Ministry of Social Affairs. on *ÓRepresentaciones de la infancia y los malos tratos sufridos por ellaÓ(Representations of childhood and abuse suffered in it) (Gabinet DÕStudisSocials, 1990), (N=1200) and ** ÒActitudes y opiniones ante el maltratoinfantil dentro del ambito familiarÓ (Attitudes and opinions on child abuse inthe family environment) (Centro de Estudios del Menor y la Familia, en colaboraci—ncon el Centro de Investigaciones Sociol—gicas, 1995), (N=3494).VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN109


in the configuration of beliefs and attitudes. Thus,in the past few years numerous TV programmes andseries for different age groups have been shown thatare oriented towards the promotion of positivesocial values, such as parent-child dialogue and therejection of violence within the family. However,we often find at the same time that the media ingeneral contribute to fomenting perceptions andideas of abuse which far from represent a realisticway of coping with the problem. There is generalagreement among specialists (JimŽnez et al., 1995)in considering that the mass media deals with abusein a simplistic way, focusing upon the most dramaticaspects, and failing to take account of the socialrisks that aid an understanding of the problem.(Table IV).f) Finally, it is worth noting the role of written normsand laws in the configuration of social values andbehaviour patterns in relation to childhood andchild abuse prevention. The Childhood RightsConvention and the most recent normative evolutionin developed countries, together with a greaterknowledge about children, are contributing to theestablishment of a current of opinion among professionalsthat considers children as citizens withrights, and not as mere objects of legal protection,and that advocates the need to establish politicalmeasures specifically directed at children as a socialgroup, rather than exclusively as part of the familyunit (Wintersberger, 1994). Thus, a certain consensusis forming in relation to values and rights inchildhood (Melton, 1991), which even affect theprinciples orienting the machinery of social attentionto childhood. These principles are reflected inthe acrostic ÒCONVENTIONÓ (see Table IV. NB, inSpanish, the first letter of each item forms the wordÒCONVENCIONÓ), recalling the historic milestoneof the ÒChildhood Rights ConventionÓ. This socioculturalreconceptualisation of childhood also leadsto a reconsideration of both traditional indicatorsfor the assessment of programmes, and of sociodemographicstatistics, as children become the principalunit of analysis at both the family and themacrosocial level. (Jensen and Saporiti, 1992).Even the separation from official statistics of secondarydata about children as units of observation hasbeen proposed. This can be of great utility for bothresearchers and planners in the assessment of thelife conditions of children (Wintersberger andQvortrup, 1992).Abuse preventionAnne H. Cohn Donnelly (1991), director of the USNational Committee for Child Abuse Prevention, reviewedinternational abuse prevention efforts over the previousdecade. In her review she also set the challenge forthe new decade, which was summarised as to do more ofthe same that has been done (public education, socialcommitment, legislation, development of preventionservices) and to take on new challenges (impact of drugaddition on parenthood, special attention to parentsliving in poverty or social difficulty, violence in themass media, and orienting child protection agenciestowards their original function of helping families).In our view, and continuing the line of argument we arepresenting, child abuse prevention must be oriented byTable IVDecalogue of Basic Principles of the System of SocialAttention for the Child: CONVENCION- To provide assistance for any child and adolescent within the state territory,regardless of their gender, culture or nationality.- To orient the planning and development of attentional system activitiestowards the needs of children and adolescents.- To normalise and guarantee a situation whereby every child or adolescentmust be listened to, and have the right to actively participate in theattention provided.- To ensure children and adolescentsÕ dignity when providing care andservices.- To set up conditions allowing children and adolescents to recognise thelimits facilitating non-prejudicial behaviour with respect to themselvesand others.- To make children and adolescents who are separated from their parentsaware of their personal and family history, and to guarantee respect fortheir culture and origins.- To ensure that attention provided to children and adolescents is of acontinuous nature, and to guarantee their protection, welfare and properdevelopment.- To increase and improve attention promoting and preserving the stabilityof children and adolescentsÕ family environment, avoiding as far aspossible institutionalisation; and, in the case of separation, to guaranteetheir right to return to their parents, or to their integration in a newand definitive home, as soon as possible.- To organise the protection of children and adolescents so that it can beexercised even when there is opposition from parents or guardians and,in the case of separation, to provide children with a better educationand quality of life than they had in their own home.- Children and adolescents have the right to expect governments andpublic services to publicise and observe the Childhood RightsConvention and to ensure and guarantee its accomplishment andfollow-up.110VOLUME 1. 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the satisfaction of the childÕs needs in their socio-culturalcontext, and always based on a thorough knowledgeof the variables explaining child abuse. There would bethree means or strategies which, in general terms, matchthose proposed by Anne H. Cohn Donnelly: to create asocio-cultural context sensitive to childrenÕs needs, toimprove parentsÕ competence in providing and satisfyingthose needs, especially where children are in specialsituations of high social risk, and, finally, to improvethe competence of services providing assistance forparents, children and families in their general developmentand their coping with everyday life problems.A starting point for preventive action: research.Preventive action continues to need guidance from researchand theoretical developments which aid understandingof the phenomenon of violence. We will hardly beable to orient prevention if we do not know the answersto some of the basic questions: Why do people behave inthe way they do? Why are there people who, in certaincircumstances, behave violently, while others do not?What are the most probable risk factors or variables thatcan cause violent acts in such circumstances ? What isthe best way to protect children from the effects or consequencesof abuse? Why are there children who are notaffected by adversity and violence, even when it is present?- and so on. Research and theoretical developmenton violence are seen as basic nutrients on which to establishthe orientation and direction of preventive actions.It is true that, today, there is a great deal of research andmany theoretical models, and some of the answers tothese questions are beginning to be sketched, but it is noless true that there is still a long way to go. Many of theexisting theoretical models, especially the so-called ecologicalmodels (Belsky, 1980: Bronfenbrenner, 1987) arerather organisational models for orienting preventiveactions, but they need to be fed by other more basicparadigms in order to respond to many of these questions.Other models (Cichetti and Lynch, 1993; Morton,Twentyman and Azar, 1988; Azar, 1989; Milner, 1993),though providing partial explanation levels, have shownthe need for continuing basic research on child abuse, inorder to specify existing relations between differentlevels in conceptual models (Cicchetti and Lynch,1993). It is also necessary to adapt these models to thesocio-demographic particularities of each communityand evaluate the specific weight for each main risk factorinvolved in child abuse according to cultural characteristics,and so to orient preventive action at communitylevels (Morales et al., 1994).Creating a social and cultural context sensitive tochildrenÕs needsa) Development and dissemination of knowledge aboutchildhood and childrenÕs rights. The childÕs unavoidablebiological and social dependency upon adultsestablishes an original inequality which makesabuse and exploitation possible. A basic strategythat may contribute to its neutralisation is the developmentof processes (research and disseminationof information) that allow us to become more familiarwith childrenÕs needs, and to establish, withinthe social fabric, new, emerging values about childhood.In this sense, public administrations and universitydepartments should continue, and evenincrease, their efforts to develop research on childhoodin general and on children at risk in particular.The set of relevant information about childhood thatis being developed, as well as the ChildÕs RightsConvention, should be a topic for seminars, debates,conferences, educational activities and social awarenesscampaigns, and should also be matters ofconcern for the different professionals directly orindirectly involved in child services.b) Elimination of norms and conditions promoting andlegitimating violence in society. This involves questioningthe current social order, since it impliesreducing or alleviating existing socio-economic inequalities.In this sense, struggling against violencemay mean pursuing the utopia of abolishing inequalities.Without trying to dodge this more globalperspective on social change, which may meanhaving to touch on matters such as economic andemployment policies and the arms market, it is clearlynecessary that, in an active manner, throughlegislation programmes and initiatives and moreinformation on childrenÕs needs, some steps aremade towards the elimination of physical punishmentas a child-rearing practice and in schools, andtowards the outlawing of violence in those mediathat glamorise and legitimate it.c) Active and collective participation in family life.Participation of all members in everyday family lifeis one of the most solid bases on which to establishspace for the development of harmonious co-existence,in that the family constitutes the prime scenarioof socialisation. With regard to active andcollective participation in family life we understandthat there is a necessity, on the one hand, for thepromotion of actions to eliminate potential inequalitiesthat may exist in its core for reasons of sex,VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN111


etween father and mother and between brothersand sisters; and on the other hand, for the implantationin family scenarios values of respect for diversityof options and opinions each of the membersmay hold, and for the fomenting of collective participationin decision-making, always according tothe limitations imposed by the childÕs level of development.All of this, in turn, implies the use of otherpractices and new learning in relation to improvingcommunication and the negotiation and resolutionof problems of everyday co-existence.The development of parental competenceParentsÕ capacity for the rearing and education of childrenis not an exclusively private, family matter. In thissense, the development of parental competence is consideredfrom a dual perspective. On the one hand, it involvesthe definition of specific educational principles andstrategies orienting training programmes. On the other, itimplies eliminating the isolation of families at risk, sothat they can gain access to the most advanced attentionalvalues and criteria relating to childhood that exist intheir social and cultural context.a) Principles and criteria orienting parental trainingprogrammes. Change in parental behaviour,through training programmes, has been one of themost frequently-used strategies for the preventionof physical abuse and abandonment. Most of theprogrammes that aim to improve parental capacityor competence are based on a series of principlesand conditions which, after a review of the relevantliterature (Heider, 1958; Rosenthal and Jacobson,1968; Bandura, 1986; Cerezo, 1992; Wallace, H.and Miller, B, 1993; Cerezo et al, 1995; DÕOcon etal., 1995) we have summarised in Table V. In anexcellent review, McMillan et al (1994) concludethat integrated programmes, in which home supportservices and other community services are combined,are the most effective kind for high risk families.The interested reader may consult other interestingreferences (Olds et al., 1986; Cerezo, 1992;Butler et al., 1993; Arruabarrena and De Paul,1994).b) Reduction of social isolation in high risk families.Social isolation is one of the risk variables describedin child abuse literature. What society demands,culturally and socially, with regard to what is consideredto be proper treatment of children, ceases tohave an effect if the isolation of a family makesthese cultural patterns inaccessible. Moreover,Table VThe 20 principles and necessary conditionsfor competent parenthood1. To make compatible the tasks involved in parenthood with parentsÕsocial and occupational world.2. For parents and children to share some time in pleasant activities.3. To improve access to social networks, community services andsocial and health services for all members of the family.4. To reduce, where necessary, the load of child care.5. To maintain a peaceful family atmosphere.6. To give continuity and stability to care and to the attachment orparental relationship.7. To make the contingencies of the parent-child relationship predictablefor the child. This implies a degree of behavioural coherence onthe part of parents or attachment figures.8. To have opportunities for natural or structured learning of tasksinvolved in parenthood.9. To improve parentsÕ knowledge of child development and of thedemands involved in parental roles.10. To improve the coherence and consistency of disciplinary patterns.11. To improve parentsÕ ability to cope with stress derived from childcare and to deal with child behaviour. To improve the ability to perceivethe subtle rules of the parent-child relationship according to themoment and the circumstances.12. To improve the binding, emotional ties and empathetic communicationbetween parents and children.13. To supervise using clear limits and norms that underline achievementsand are based on positive feedback. To provide a family andsupervisory atmosphere that is understanding with regard to mistakes.To interpret failures in a kind manner, as an opportunity forimprovement.14. To avoid rash judgements and evaluations of childrenÕs behaviour.To take an interest in the circumstances in which oneÕs childÕs behaviourtakes place.15. To listen attentively and make questions denoting interest in andconcern about what children do.16. To be aware of and recognise childrenÕs achievements and effortsand for them to notice this recognition. To anticipate childrenÕs successas being probable.17. To give children the opportunity to make choices. To be guided bythe principle of not doing things for them if they can do them bythemselves. To avoid telling them what to do, and instead to encourage,through questions, reflexive processes so that they themselvesdecide what to do.18. To improve parentsÕ knowledge and ability with regard to homemanagement.19. To deal with anger and to express it appropriately. Irritation tends tobe harmful for children; parents should learn to avoid or adequatelyexpress their anger.20. To improve parental ability for coping with the stress derived fromthe rearing and care of children with special needs.112VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN


social isolation favours the fact that primary socialisationscenarios become even more private, leadingto arbitrary decisions about what is good andbad for those who still do not have the competenceto decide for themselves. Furthermore, the moreisolated the family, the more difficult to detect areabuse and/or negligence (TABLE V).Integrating families within the social networks of thecommunity in which they live is the best method forcorrecting the perverse effects to which isolation leads.However, the great problem we are facing is that, on theone hand, these social networks often do not exist, or areextremely difficult to generate. In our country (Spain),with the exception of the strong neighbourhood movementin the seventies, during the transition to democracy,there is no well-structured social fabric. On theother hand, families in high social risk situations are preciselythose which usually find themselves involved insocial exclusion processes. Thus, the answer to this problemis not easy and -as nearly always- transcends thecapacities of child protection services. Some lines ofaction are seen as highly relevant for confronting theproblem of isolation:- Redefining urban design and neighbourhood spaces.Cities, districts and residential areas in general arebehaviour scenarios which, as such, can promote eithersocial and neighbourhood cohesion or segregation.The verticality of cities with large, isolatedapartment blocks, with no common spaces or facilitieswhich bring together neighbours, parents andchildren from different families, results in the typicalurban image that impedes the development of socialand neighbourhood networks. Individual decisions toshare interests and experiences with other peoplemust, at least, have the same opportunities as thedecision to become isolated.- Normalising the childhood and family services network.Specific programmes and services for the pooror for minority cultural groups at social risk may,paradoxically, stigmatise the very population it istrying to help. Assistance services or programmes forFigure 2Traditional model for services provision: extent of prevention.OBJECTIVESINDIVIDUAL GROUP ORGANISATION COMMUNITY SOCIETYPRIMARYSECONDARY XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXTERTIARY XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXabused children, or those at risk, must be linked to anormalised network of services and resources accessiblefor the general population. In some cases, familiesmay become socialised through their children,who have access to services used by children fromdifferent social strata.- Reducing social exclusion processes through policiesof employment, housing, and integration of minoritycultural groups.- Promoting the feeling of community (Sarason, 1974)by processes of decentralisation of power and ofdecision-making in local affairs. An essential featureof the community concept is the control and powerdimension (Sue and Zane, 1980). By control andpower we understand the individualÕs capacity toinfluence decisions affecting his/her own life. InSeligmanÕs original learned helplessness concept(1975), power, control or influence refers to the relationshipthat is established between actions andresults. Helplessness or powerlessness may occurwhen results are independent of an individualÕsactions. In this sense, to foment the feeling of communityis equal to promoting the individualsÕ feelingof power and control in the community where theylive, which, in turn, implies involving them in decision-makingon matters affecting them.Improving the competence of servicesThe need for a global and anticipatory approach to preventiveaction leads us to ask serious questions about theprevailing style of services, whereby the responsibilityfor protection against abuse is deposited, reactively andalmost exclusively, in the hands of the social services.Below are some of the most relevant observations in thisregard:a) Actions and measures oriented to children at riskmust be situated within the development of integralplans and programmes for the child. Many of thedesirable actions mentioned earlier require the jointaction of different sectors. As Albee (1992) -one ofthe international authorities on prevention- wouldsay, the best child abuse and suffering preventionprogramme would be that which could ensure thatevery child born anywhere was healthy, welcomedby parents with a secure economic status whojointly planned his/her conception, birth and development.Obviously, such a desideratum, which weshare, cannot be imagined other than through theimplementation of intersectorial policies in whichsanitary, educational and social services are adequa-VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. 1997. PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN113

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