Child abuse

Marie Doutaz, MA






Sept 19, 2017

Overview of the concept of the child  

Traditions and Religion

 History and Disciplining youths: the phenomenon of youth and the origins of youth

Property, Persons and Rights

Cultures of child-saving as moral projects







As Procacci (1991:51) details:

We have rediscovered in the insane, the beggars, the paupers, the criminals, the women and children, the heretics...the multiplicity of social islands to be dealt with on a local level, of modes of behaviour to be combatted, encouraged or promoted


1. The Child as a Problematic Concept


A central and recurring theme in the studies is the problematic nature of being a young person and the even more problematic nature of becoming adult.


Much of the literature about youth has inherited assumptions from identity formation

 The focus on youth is not on the inherent characteristics of young people themselves, but on the construction of youth through “social” processes.


As a relational concept, youth  refers to the social processes whereby age is “socially constructed, institutionalised and controlled in historically and culturally” specific ways.

The meaning and the experience of age, and of the process of ageing, is subject to historical and cultural processes

Definitions of childhood throughout history have been influenced by social institutions as well.


Significant role of institutions and of changing economic and political circumstances and their impact on youth.


2. Views of Childhood in the Middle Ages

a) Tradition and Religion

Humans were viewed as innately evil, soiled by original sin, children were also considered moral agents, and therefore in need of shaping


b) Family

The father's authority as patria potestas, the sovereign of the household, was clear and unchallenged.

 Children were not humans  --property

c) Work

With industrialization children were further exploited as an economic asset

Child Labor in Pakistan


Child labor

Child Labor in PakistanMore

Pinned from




The History Place - Child Labor in America

Miners: View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Co. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrated the utmost recesses of the boys' lungs. A kind of slave-driver sometimes stands over the boys, prodding or kicking them into obedience. South Pittston, Pennsylvania.






d) School


It is estimated that about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend residential schools.

A history of residential schools in Canada


Law and the Child

-Patria potestas (the power of the father);

-Parens patriae (the state as parent);

-the best interests of the child;

-the child as a person before the law



Views of Childhood (Youth)


ii. children as persons


child saving



3. Context of Youth


The relationship between adults and young people can be described as a  senior junior relationship with deep historical roots.

Power in society, as well   as in the family, has been awarded according to age.

Seniority decides the status of individuals.



homogenization or standardization of youth

disciplinisation (Foucault, 1974), civilizing (Elias,   1939)   colonialisation (Habermas, 1981).

The process aimed to internalize new structures of authority, norms and practices with the young



Moreover, juvenile laws were historically designed to intervene and redirect youths in trouble within a framework of “child saving” or child protectionism.


J. J. Kelso,  Toronto Children’s Aid

Society in 1891.



Youth crime legislation in Canada (Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908, Young Offenders Act of 1984 and the current Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002) was always philosophically grounded in the doctrine of parens patriae, which held that the state could intervene as a “kindly parent”.


The Juvenile Delinquents Act (1908 - 1984)

-- a separate justice system for youths

-- boys and girls between seven and eighteen years of age.

The Juvenile Delinquents Act was based on a child welfare model of juvenile justice. A central concept of child welfare philosophy is parens patriæ, which places a moral obligation on the state to act as a surrogate parent when a child is neglected or misguided


The overarching principle of the “best interests of the child”?


Section 2.(c) of the JDA reads:

 "juvenile delinquent" means any child who violates any provision of The Criminal Code..., or of any Dominion or provincial statute, or of any by-law or ordinance of any municipality, for which violation punishment by fine or imprisonment may be awarded; or, who is liable by reason of any other act to be committed to an industrial school or juvenile reformatory under the provisions of any Dominion or provincial statute.


definition of ‘juvenile delinquent,' "any child guilty of sexual immorality or any similar form of vice..."


Offences for which adults could not be charged, but for which those under sixteen years of age could, were referred to as ‘status offences,' and encompassed a wide variety of behaviours including truancy, incorrigibility, drug use, and as mentioned above, sexual immorality




Dispositions set out by the Juvenile Delinquents Act were meant to meet the special needs of delinquent youth.

The doctrine of parens patriae in effect negated the need for due process, while the medical model negated the value of due process.

Further, it was argued by some critics that the label, ‘juvenile delinquent,' which was applied to thousands of children for a wide range of behaviours, was stigmatizing.


Canada  followed the lead of the United States and legislated legal rights for youths.

The Young Offenders Act (1984)

These debates centered on social welfare— 'doing good' ideology vs criminal model— 'doing justice' ideology


Diversion and alternative measures

Criticism was raised by the police about the change in minimum age from seven to twelve years of age

 The least possible interference with the freedom of youths.

The criminal or "doing justice" perspective is based in classical criminological thought.

Young people ought to be afforded the same legal protections as adult criminals.

YOA was based on a hybrid model composed of child welfare and justice models


Not tough enough. These critics point to the so called epidemic of violent youth crime in the United States and Canada.


The Youth Criminal Justice Act, 2002

The YCJA focuses on the use of extrajudicial measures or police warnings and cautions to deal with non violent, less serious offenders, while concentrating the resources of the formal justice process on young offenders charged with more serious, violent offences.


The YCJA "is based on an accountability framework that promotes consequences for crime that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence"





parens patriae,

doing justice” and “doing good” approaches





Top 10 Reasons why Child Labor is Bad