Voluntary Placements as a Family Support
VITA L. BERING PRUZAN
In Denmark a well-known children's; doctor, Svend Heinild, deserves to be mentioned as the person most responsible for bringing the concept of "child abuse" to public attention in the 1960s. Dr. Heinild's efforts were inspired by the influential work of the American children's doctor Henry Kempe.
In the decades that followed, the term child abuse has been discussed and received many nuances. Evident examples of child abuse such as violence against children and sexual abuse are identified as criminal acts in the penal code. In addition to these criminal offenses, a topic that has aroused much debate from time to time has been the parental right to inflict corporal punishment (revselsesret), reflecting a tradition that is deeply integrated in the Danish child-rearing culture. "Child abuse/neglect has always existed and will always exist as long as the tradition for punishment of children is part of our culture" ( Merrick, 1984).
The legal basis for a parental right to inflict corporal punishment on children dates to the Danish Law codex of 1683 (section 6-5-5). This right is still in existence, and the courts of justice define the borderline between legal punishment and illegal violence at a given time. The right of corporal punishment existed in schools and in institutions until 1967.
Through decisions over the last decades the courts have restricted the range of parental rights. The question of doing away with the right of parents to punish their children has been a matter of debate on several occasions during the last decades. Abolition of this right in the other Scandinavian countries ( Sweden in 1979, Finland in 1983, and Norway in 1987) of course caused debate in Denmark.