Child Physical Abuse

  • R. Kim Oates


Although child abuse did not become widely recognized by the medical and other professions until the late 1960s and early 1970s, the abuse of children has been a feature of most societies for many centuries. The Punch and Judy puppet play, which originated in the mid-17th century (Opie & Opie, 1951), tells how Judy gave Mr. Punch her baby. Despite being gently rocked by Mr. Punch, the baby begins to cry. This makes Mr. Punch rock the baby harder, becoming violent. Finally, when the crying persists Mr. Punch loses control, hits the baby, and kills him. A popular English nursery rhyme dated from the 18th century (Opie & Opie, 1951) describes “an old woman who lived in a shoe” who, because of her frustration at having to care for so many of her children, “whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.” Even before this time, many cultures had used infanticide as an accepted method of family planning, it also being accepted practice to dispose of weak, premature, or deformed infants (Bakan, 1971).


Child Abuse Physical Abuse Foster Care Child Protection Skull Fracture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Kim Oates
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics and Child HealthUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Medicine and Child Protection UnitThe Children’s HospitalCamperdownAustralia

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