ABUSE OCCURS WHENEVER there is a substantial failure of one person to act towards another with the care appropriate to their relationship. Adults have a duty of care in many aspects of life, both at work and at home, and society expects them to exercise that obligation responsibly and safely. The closer and more dependent the relationship (and they don't get much closer than that of the parent-child), the greater the responsibility to provide care and the greater the risk to the child if care is not provided.
Judgements about what does and does not constitute reasonable care are crucial; decisions about the actual or likely risk to a child depend on them. While the Children Act 1989 does not define what it means by reasonable parental care, there is broad agreement that it should include:
|■ Provision of adequate nurture|
|■ Maintenance of physical health|
|■Protection from violence and abuse|
|■ Adequate communication and emotional responsiveness|
|■Adequate expectations to achieve socialisation|
While some forms of abuse are clearly damaging, for example withholding food from a child, other abuse may be less obvious and more difficult to define. Judgements about whether a child is at risk depend on views of what does and does not constitute acceptable care and opinions about this vary over time and across cultures. While it is important to be sensitive to the wide diversity of parenting styles