Life crisis as a precursor to child abuse.
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Life crisis as a precursor to child abuse.

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    A number of theories have been proposed on the causation of child abuse, and many of these theories assign some role to stress. Stress is variously conceptualized as a continuous state resulting from poverty, poor housing, and the like, or as an immediate crisis such as an argument or the breakdown of an appliance. An alternate perspective on stress identifies it with life change events which require readjustment in the lifestyle of a person. When an excessive number or magnitude of such life change events occur, the person affected may be said to be in a state of life crisis. Such states of life crisis have been found to be associated with the onset of physical illness and with the occurrence of accidents and injuries. In this study, a questionnaire was administered to 35 abusing parents and 35 matched controls who had experienced problems with their children but had not been abusive. The two groups were compared for their life change scores on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale for the year before their abuse or problems began with their children. The mean score of the nonabusers was 124, which does not indicate a life crisis. For the abusers, the mean score was 234, which indicates a moderate life crisis. These means are significantly different at the .001 level by the t test. The role of symbiosis, an emotiontional attachment in which a person seeks to be taken care of by another person, was also explored. It is argued that abusive parents are competing with each other and with their children for the role of being cared for. This kind of behavior seems to make the person particularly vulnerable to life changes, which in turn produce stress. Support for this view was found in the responses to the questionnaire. Prevention strategies aimed at reducing change and stress might include better provision of crisis-intervention services, measures aimed at reducing unemployment or lack of opportunity, effective health maintenance services, and greater provision of counseling and mental health services. Use of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale in a preventive program of early intervention is also possible.
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