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Which men violent are towards children?

Press Release – Which men violent are towards children?

The news report of a 32 year old man arrested in relation to the death of an infant will not be the only incident of its type that you hear of this year – men assaulting children happens far too often. It’s tragic in many, many ways and one of the sad consequences of it is that stories like this tend to obscure a very important fact: men are good with children and good for children.

Not all men, obviously. Research shows which men are statistically likely to be safer and which are more likely to be a risk. By the way, it does not mean that a man with ‘risk factors’ will actually be violent to children, it is just the way the probability tilts.

A big factor: if a man is violent to women he is far more likely to be violent to children[1]. Even if he doesn’t physically harm the children, just witnessing the violence against their mother can create many of the same long term psychological consequences as actual physical abuse[2]. Sadly, one of those long term consequences is that those children, in turn, are likely to grow to be violent abusers themselves[3] in later life. It certainly is not their fault, but if you are looking for risk factors, a man who grew up in a violent, abusive home is more of a risk.

A third risk factor is the type of relationship the man has with the mother of the children. A child with married biological parents has less than a tenth the risk of abuse as child with a single mother with a boyfriend[4]. A 2005 study published in Pediatrics found that “[c]hildren residing in households with unrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries than children residing with 2 biological parents.”[5] Why? It seems marriage makes good men better. A man willing to enter into a committed long term relationship with the mother and the child is willing to ‘settle down’, learn the skills and be attentive to children.

I want to wade a little bit beyond the evidence and research and get into the deep water of conjecture and opinion – what is going to be our response to the idea that there are damaged, dangerous men in our world? “Mums: guard your hearts and homes! Don’t let them in and turn them out if they get in!” is too harsh, not just on men but on women as well. Just as these men are largely the products of circumstances they did not choose, so are the women who will be vulnerable to them. Their tragically low self-esteem stops them from seeing what might be obvious. For our little families to survive, our society needs to be a big family – look out for each other. Warn, protect, support.

1.Stark E., and Flitcraft, A. Women at risk International Journal of Health Services . 1988b.; 18(1):97–118.

2.Jaffe, P G., Wolfe, D A., Wilson, S.K. Children of Battered Women

3.Rosenbaum, A., & O'Leary, K. D. (1981). Children: The unintended victims of marital violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51, 692-699.

4. Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., and Li, S. (2010).Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4)

5. Schnitzer, P.G., Ewigman, B.G. Child Deaths Resulting From Inflicted Injuries: Household Risk Factors and Perpetrator Characteristics Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 5 November 1, 2005 pp. 687-693


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