We have already seen, from numerous other articles that I have published on this site, when a parent is abusive towards their child, the adverse psychological effects upon that child can be most profound, not least because such a child is being harmed by the very person who is supposed to care for, protect and nurture him/her; this constitutes a devastating betrayal, the psychological reverberations of which may, without effective therapy, endure for a lifetime and, even, considerably shorten the abused individual’s life expectancy.
If questioned on the matter, most people would probably guess that fathers are more likely to act abusively towards their children than are mothers (in part because males are more likely, in general, to commit crime and are more likely to be violent). However, when maltreatment of children is being considered as a whole (taking into account mental/psychological/emotional abuse and neglect) the study outlined below suggests that, contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, mothers are more likely to abuse their children than are fathers.
The study (conducted by the DHSS – the Department of Health and Human Services) showed that, in the cases of children who had been abused by one (as opposed to both) parents, 70.6 per cent reported having been abused by their mother and the remaining 29.4 per cent reported having been abused by their father. However, it should be pointed out that a caveat of the study concerns the fact that it is unclear from the data / statistics included whether or not the researchers controlled an important extraneous variable, namely that, in the case of single-parent families, the child or children are more likely to be in the custody of the mother rather than in the custody of the father. Clearly, if this factor was not taken account of by the statistical analysis of the data, it is likely that approximate 7:3 ratio derived from it (i.e. the ratio of abusive mothers : abusive fathers) is too heavily biased against mothers.
Nevertheless, it can at least be inferred that mothers make up a very significant proportion of parents who abuse their children – a fact that society, at the present time, is perhaps not ready to properly acknowledge.
Not all mothers are natural, instinctive care-givers to their children.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).