There have been experts expressing the idea that child abuse is a major contributing cause of adult violence for hundreds if not thousands of years. The problem is the message isn't getting through to the majority of the public. Some of the best organized research is the newest including work done by James Garbarino and Joanne Scaglione but others have done research much earlier.
(First posted on Tripod on September 29 2009)
Alice Miller has done some of her most important work at least 20 years ago. Vincent Bugliosi has cited some research in the seventies that indicated that child abuse was a contributing cause of violence, there is even some work in the Warren report from 1964 that supports this concept. They described how rough upbringing made both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby problem adults, even if the rest of the report proves to be flawed this part has been proven to be accurate. Sigmund Freud has done a lot of research on this subject over 80 years ago. A lot of the details of his work have been challenged but the fact that child abuse and bullying leads to latter abuse has only been reinforced. There is even work written by novelists up to at least 2 hundred years old supporting some of these solutions. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens both support some of the conclusions on this page. These weren't written by psychologists but the novelists clearly knew more about human behavior than most people.
The problem is that the message that is getting through to the public is being controlled by people who cater to emotions and political beliefs more than to research. There are plenty of research papers that are being presented to the public but they are often contradictory and they are rarely explained in detail so that the public understands the work behind them. The beliefs the public seem most likely to adopt tend to be those that are repeated over and over again in a forceful way. These beliefs are rarely ever held up to appropriate scrutiny. What we need are more scholars that are communicating with the public in a better manner. There needs to be a better effort to explain to the public how these scholars come to their conclusions and the public needs top be taught to think things through instead of rushing to conclusions. As long as the information the public receives from the highest profile leaders and orators is designed to manipulate emotions without checking facts then efforts to prevent violence will be severely limited by ignorance.
Both Lonnie Athens and Dorothy Otnow Lewis wrote about some of the political obstacles the encountered when trying to investigate the causes of violent behavior. They both wrote about how in the 70s and early 80s there was little or no grant money available for this kind of research. Dorothy Otnow Lewis helped finance her work by taking legal fees for testifying in criminal trials. She often testified for the defense about mitigating circumstances. She was criticized for trying to earn money getting criminals off at times. This doesn’t seem to be a reasonable allegation since most of these criminal defendants had little money and some of the money she earned went to researching violence. There appears to have been more financial incentive for those who attempted to maintain the status quo which involves blaming the defendant and declining to look much farther for possible mitigating circumstances or for the true causes of violence and how to prevent them. Fortunately there seems to be some indication that this may be beginning to change. Some of the more recent books coming out seem to indicate that there may be more research going on into the subject.
One of the reasons that may have helped to spur the more recent research into the subject was the school shooting outbreak that began in the late nineties. This could be the only possible silver lining to these school shootings, as far as I can tell is that the only possible benefit that we could receive from them is to learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately the research still isn’t getting through to the majority of the public. There are more research books on the library shelves for those that care to look for them but the majority of the public doesn’t generally do this. The majority of the public still relies on the Mass Media for a lot of their information and the Mass Media isn’t trying to get this message across to the public. What we need is a better effort to get the message across to the public.
(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)