Academic journal article Family Relations

Book Reviews -- Preventing Physical and Emotional Abuse of Children by David A. Wolfe

Academic journal article Family Relations

Book Reviews -- Preventing Physical and Emotional Abuse of Children by David A. Wolfe

Article excerpt

Wolfe, David A. (1991). Preventing Physical and Emotional Abuse of Children. New York: Guilford. 168 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-89862-208-5, price $35.95. Also available in paperback.

Wolfe's book is a much needed guide to effective intervention in families. The developmental orientation of the book is a strength, and sets it apart from other treatments of this topic. Wolfe believes the tendency on the part of service workers, scholars, and the legal system to dichotomize "abusive" and "nonabusive" parents inevitably obscures the tremendous variations in parent-child relations--even among families where abuse or neglect is present. From a developmental perspective, child abuse is part of a larger continuum of socialization practices, a view that places the problem in its proper context rather than isolating it as a deviant or criminal act. This is a particularly useful approach with regard to prevention because it allows us to consider what parent-child interactions might look like before the actual onset of abuse. Interventions are then designed that are responsive to the conditions that may lead up to abuse and are based on the principle of providing the least intrusive, earliest assistance possible. The challenge, of course, lies in locating and assisting parents while they are in the early stages of difficulty with their children.

Abuse, then, is defined not in its legal sense, but as a culmination of disturbances in the parent-child relationship. Abuse, according to Wolfe, is socialization gone awry, and signifies the extremes to which a parent may go in attempting to discipline a child. Locating child abuse in the parent-child relationship, rather than in either the parent or the child, shifts our emphasis from negative child outcomes and/or parental pathology, to more processual, and perhaps more malleable, points of entry into family systems. Parental demandingness and sensitivity provide important reference points for establishing goals and boundaries pertaining to discipline, and for identifying at-risk families. Wolfe provides descriptions, based on information from the Children's Aid Society, Ontario of what behavior looks like at different points along continua of physical punishment and parental emotional sensitivity and expression. …

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