physical abuse is always wrong and can never be condoned.

One factor of great concern is that aggressive adults are the most effective models for aggression, and dependent children the most effective learners. Parents as negative models are the conductors of trans-generational abuse. Ultra strict parents, without realising it, may be laying the foundations of abuse. The underlying tendency for abuse sown in children is reinforced by social factors, such as violence on TV, video games, and violent films or comics. There seems to be little limit now on the range of violence and physical abuse in movies.
I come from a generation where physical abuse was taken as the norm. It was not unusual for a parent, in his or her anger, to cut a stick from the ditch, and beat children for disobedience. Physical abuse in school was euphemised as corporal punishment, and in my school days a beating at school would normally be reinforced by another one that evening! My father was firmly opposed to beating children, and I never suffered this extra punishment. Schools were places of terror for many pupils. I saw small children aged 5 or 6 being beaten and pinched, and having their hair pulled by frustrated teachers. I remember one girl wetting the floor with terror at the prospect of a beating. Unfortunately, we learned that physical punishment was acceptable. I was slapped at school, and when I became a teacher I slapped my pupils. There was no excuse for this, and I greatly regret ever hitting a student, or any of my own children. It was control by fear, and it taught children that physical abuse was acceptable. Both teachers and parents trampled on the boundaries of young people. Young people can be exasperating and provocative in school, but beating them is not the answer.
Physical child abuse is the deliberate infliction of physical injury to a child. It involves striking children, burning, poisoning, deliberately causing them ill health, perhaps by giving them harmful substances, and shaking, pushing, pinching, or biting them. Sometimes even the unborn suffer physical abuse if the mother ingests drugs such as alcohol or other substances. These can cause serious neurological and physiological damage to the unborn child. The shaken baby syndrome, whereby a frustrated caregiver shakes the baby roughly to stop it crying, is also physical abuse. The baby’s neck muscles cannot support its head, and the brain bounces inside its skull leading to neurological problems and even death. Child fatalities due to physical abuse are common. A small study in America (in Lucas County, Ohio in 2007) shows that a third of fatalities from domestic violence were children. Sometimes the fatal behaviour is directed directly at infants. Some writers suggest that 10% of all sudden infant deaths might be due to suffocating.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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