New Book Looks At Abusive Families

December 09, 1997

ITHACA, N.Y. -- With more than 3 million American children reported abused or neglected each year and three children dying from such maltreatment each day, researchers have been focusing on issues of prevention, protection and rehabilitation more than ever in recent years.

To shed light on how and why families become abusive and what it takes to help such families care for their children or, failing that, to protect children from harm, Cornell University experts have authored a new book Understanding Abusive Families: An Ecological Approach to Theory and Practice.

James Garbarino and John Eckenrode, co-directors of the Family Life Development Center (FLDC) at Cornell, professors of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology and both authorities on child maltreatment, took the lead in writing Understanding Abusive Families (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1997) in collaboration with the staff of FLDC. FLDC is an interdisciplinary unit with the mandate to help prevent family stress, with an emphasis on abuse prevention. It sponsors a variety of programs to identify, reduce and prevent child maltreatment, including trainings, demonstration projects and research.

Taking a developmental approach and tracing the change in the dynamics of abuse from infancy through childhood to adolescence, the book explains the internal and external pressures that contribute to maltreatment. It also explores the ecological perspective on maltreatment, examining the interdependence of individuals, families and society and provides recommendations to break the vicious cycle of abuse by calling for fundamental changes in the basic cultural, social and economic attitudes that allow children to be physically and psychologically harmed.

Intended for researchers, clinicians and policy-makers, the book includes cutting-edge information on:

-- the scope and history of maltreatment, including current patterns of incidence and prevalence;

-- the community context of child abuse and the issue of social support;

-- psychological and sexual maltreatment;

-- child abuse in foster care and institutional families; and

-- special issues involved in adolescent maltreatment.

The 273-page resource book includes extensive references and a name and subject index.

"Understanding Abusive Families presents a useful overview of the child abuse problem and a cogent plea to stop doing business as usual. If we heeded this plea as a nation, we could begin to help children get beyond the scars of abuse," said Anne Cohn Donnelly, executive director of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.

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EDITORS: For a review copy, contact Jossey-Bass at (415) 433-1740 or fax at (415) 433-0499.

Cornell University

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