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Family Abuse and Crime

An Ecological Perspective

The ecological perspective is an attempt to integrate the three levels of theoretical analysis (individual, social-psychological, and socio-cultural) into a single theoretical model. The theory rests on three levels of analysis: the relationship between the organism and environment, the interacting and overlapping systems in which human development occurs, and environmental quality. The ecological model proposes that violence and abuse arise out of a mismatch of parent to child and family to neighborhood and community. The risk of abuse and violence is greatest when the functioning of the children and parents is limited and constrained by developmental problems. Children with learning disabilities and social or emotional handicaps are at increased risk for abuse. Parents under considerable stress, or who have personality problems, are at increased risk for abusing their children. These conditions are worsened when social interaction between the spouses or the parents and children heighten the stress or make the personal problems worse. Finally, if there are few institutions and agencies in the community to support troubled families, then the risk of abuse is further raised. The psychologist James Garbarino identifies two necessary conditions for child maltreatment. First, there must be cultural justification for the use of force against children. Second, the maltreating family is isolated from potent family or community support systems. The ecological model has served as a perspective to examine other forms of family violence.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFamily Abuse and Crime - Risk And Protective Factors, Social And Demographic Risk Factors, Situational And Environmental Factors, Research On Victims