Child Abuse as a Family Problem
The debate about child abuse is relatively new in Finland. Prompted by discussions of child abuse in the United States and Great Britain, in the 1970s and early 1980s opinion polls were taken and predictions were made, following estimates and models borrowed from abroad, about the extent of child abuse in Finland. Child Abuse, by Ruth S. Kempe and C. Henry Kempe ( 1981) was translated into Finnish in 1981. In Finland, too, it was mostly medical professionals and researchers who initially published articles and expressed their worries about child abuse ( Korpilahti, 1981, p. 62).
It is important to note that concerns about child abuse in Finland emerged at the same time that the problem of wife battering was gaining recognition, also stimulated by debates that were being carried on abroad. Contrary to their international and even Nordic counterparts, however, feminists in Finland did not initiate the discussion about wife battering. Rather it was the activists working in the areas of social and health care who were responsible for raising public consciousness about this problem. The similarities between child abuse and wife battering were emphasized as they both usually took place in the homes of the victims and in both cases the abusers were people the victims knew well and were dependent on. Linking these problems by emphasizing their similarities placed child abuse and wife battering within the common framework of "family violence." Thus the efforts to explain and treat these private forms of violence focused on the family as a unit of emotional, social, and interactive ties.
In terms of wife battering, the framework of family violence ignores the gendered nature of the problem as the family system is considered more the focal point of intervention than individual actors within the family (even though it is the individual actors, mainly males, who are the abusers). This family-oriented framework however has not been criticized to any great extent.