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Parents are the Top Abusers of Own Children

Photo By Suzanne Tucker via Shutterstock

A study by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System found that 72 percent of child abusers or neglecters are the parents of the victims. Factors behind the abuse include alcohol abuse or drug abuse by the parents and domestic violence.

The report is timely following last week’s discovery of the alleged torture that the children of California couple, David Allen and Louise Anna Turpin, suffered at the hands of their parents. The malnourished children were found shackled to their beds in their home in Riverside Count, Associated Press reported.

Not excuse abusing your kids

Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, a trauma psychologist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Department of Psychology, said that based on her experience, there is usually a psychopathology with the abusive parents. She opined that some of them may be depressed, bipolar, or schizophrenic. Although some of them could have been abused as young children, Dass-Brailsford said that it is not an excuse to abuse your own kids.

There are two more diagnostic profiles that could fit the abusive parents, David Finkelhor, a professor of sociology and the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said. These are that the parents are in delusional or paranoid states that can lead to all manners of abusive or irrational behavior.

He added that these parents could also have a misguided ideology when they tell themselves that they are just protecting their kids from the corruption of an awful society. The other mindset is that children are evil and must be chastised or disciplined.

Feeding a family of 15

Time noted that in the case of the Turpins, one possible explanation is that starving the family could be the couple’s convoluted way of dealing with feeding a family of 15 people. Although David Allen used to earn $140,000 a year as an engineer at Northrop Grumman until 2011, the same year, he filed for bankruptcy and had debts of up to $500,000. Louise was a housewife, while David was apparently unemployed in the past six years.

Finkelhor said that the father may have felt that starving the family was the only way for them to survive under the pressures that society imposed on them. Beyond the responsibility of David as the main breadwinner, Elizabeth Skowron, a professor of counseling psychology and a research scientist at the Prevention Science Institute of the University of Oregon, said that Louise may not be off the hook.

She pointed out that in her group’s work, it is often the mothers who are the initiators and perpetrators of the abuse of their kids. Skowron cited NCANDS data that said 70 percent of the child abuse victims were mistreated by the mother. In a majority of the cases, it was done without the participation of the father. However, she sees in the Turpin case that David possibly collaborated with Louise.

Fortunately for the kids, their 17-year-old sister escaped from their home on Sunday and sought help from authorities. Besides being dirty and thin, the kids were reportedly forced to memorize biblical passages during homeschooling sessions which the children described as very strict, Psychology Today reported.

Torture as a form of abuse

From past cases of child abuse, experts made a study titled “Child Torture as a Form of Child Abuse,” which was published in 2014 in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma. The research included cases wherein the victims were fed caustic substances as punishment food, not given water so that the kids were forced to drink from the toilet, were chronically starved because all access to food in the house was locked away, strangled until the children became unconscious, stabbed with a knife, or hit on the head with metal objects and baseball bats.

Because of these abuses, 36 percent of the children died since some of the torture lasted up to eight years. In some cases, though, the abuse was the result of occasional unchecked anger or a loss of self-control by someone who was in charge of a child.

An act is considered torture if it is more prolonged and designed to establish domination and control over the psyche of a child. It is often done to physically and psychologically break a person.


The website estimated that one to two percent of children who were evaluated for abuse were tortured. About 93 percent of the abused kids were beaten, 21 percent suffered from fractures, 89 percent were extremely isolated, 89 percent were not given access to food or water, and 32 percent received death threats.

According to Mike Hestrin, the district attorney of Riverside County, the 17-year-old daughter planned the escape for two years with several siblings. She jumped out of a window from their home on Sunday and fled with another sibling. But the sibling was scared and eventually returned home, while the 17-year-old used a deactivated mobile phone to call 911 that led to their rescue and filing of charges against their parents.

[메디컬리포트=Vittorio Hernandez 기자]

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