Abuse Myths

!Hola! Everybody,
Well, my mattress will be delivered on Wednesday and my cable installed on the same date. Whew! Moving can be stressful. Remind me not to accumulate too much bullshit, so that next time I won’t have to move so much stuff. I have waaaaay too many books. This weekend, I’ll be sifting through the thousands of books in order to decide which to give away.

I will also be deciding on a color scheme “flow” for the apartment. The entry way will be “Latino/a Tropical,” and I’ve yet to decide if the living room will carry the “tropical” look of the entryway, or if I’m going with a Northern Italian gold scheme. The living room is dark enough that the gold won’t be garish. The hard part will be deciding on the bedroom, the darkest room of an already dark apartment. The problem being that I’ve decided to buck decorating rules and make use a cool color scheme for my “cool” kitchen. I’m going with an ultramarine color wash in wide stripes along with a sea-themed stencil (in white or yellow). The kitchen cabinets will color washed in the same blue.

So, if my entryway and living room will “festive” and kitchen a cool blue, the bedroom has to act as a transition. I want the bedroom colorwashed in terracotta (the room is waaaay too dark). I don’t think that’s a transition color, but fuck it. I’ll use an African or Taino Indian-themed stencil underneath the ceiling molding in the bedroom.

Anyone reading me can already tell I’m in a lot of transition. I have a new position at my job, a new living space, and, yes, I’m exploring a new romantic relationship (I know, I know: I haven’t spoken much about that last one, but I’m keeping this one close to the vest right now). That’s a lot of “news.” I need to step back and keep my focus, but all these things are very exciting.

* * *

Abused Children Grow up to be Abusers

It is overly simplistic to say that violence creates violence. The question today being if abused children grow up to abuse their own children. Are victims of child abuse more likely than other people to turn into abusive parents? Yes. However, it is also true that the vast majority will not become abusers themselves.

When I looked into the literature exploring this issue the first thing I noticed that a good number of the studies were so poorly designed that they are worthless and irrelevant. Most of the studies didn’t include control groups of children, matched for family income and education, who were not abused. Then there’s the whole issue of classifying the abused. Many definitions were subjective and relied on unreliable memories.

Still, one can come away with several insights into the issue. There is little question that, as a group, abused (and also neglected) children tend to be more aggressive than their peers. In addition, they are more likely to get into trouble with the law when they grow up. One leading researcher on this topic collected thousands of juvenile court cases, and tracked these children — along with a control group — into adulthood. Of those who were abused or neglected, 28.6% had a criminal record by the time they were in the twenties. That compares with 21.1% of those who were not abused or neglected but who had the same age, race, sex, and socioeconomic background. While the difference is statistically significant, it still stands that the majority of abused children do not commit crimes.

What about abusing their own kids? After a critical exploration of the available research, one researcher estimated that between a quarter and a third of abuse victims will become abusive parents. Again, this can be viewed two ways: a 30% rate of abuse is about six times higher than that for the general population — an enormous difference. However, the idea that abuse is inevitably passed along from generation to generation is simply not true. In fact, not only do the vast majority of people who were abused as children manage to avoid doing the same to their children, but most parents who are abusive were not abused as children.

Why do some battered children break the cycle while others do not? There are a variety of reasons that seem to play a role: It matters how severe the abuse was and how early it occurred, how smart the child was, and how she or he perceived the episode. In addition, it’s also important to look at the circumstances of the grown children — how much social support they receive, how they feel about having children, how openly they’ve confronted the facts of their own abuse, and so on.

In the final analysis, however, no amount of information about someone’s history will ever allow anyone to predict with any certainty who will turn out to be a healthy, loving parent and who will strike fear into his or her children.

I am not suggesting that we should underestimate the traumatic effects of having been abused. Even if only a minority wind up abusing their children or turning to crime, it’s still not clear how many others carry their pain with them in the form of depression, addiction, self-destructive behavior, or dysfunctional relationships. However, it is just as important that we avoid the “common sense” wisdom about the cycle of abuse, lest we turn this belief into truth. The fact is that adults who were maltreated have been told so many times that they will abuse their children or be inept parents that for some it has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Love,

Eddie

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