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Battered Child/Spouse Syndrome

Battered-child Syndrome, Battered-spouse Syndrome

A condition created by sustained physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, which creates a variety of physical and emotional symptoms.

Violence of any kind is traumatic to victims, and the thought that someone could exert extreme violence against a loved one or a child is repulsive. Battered-child syndrome and battered-spouse syndrome are both the result of repeated violence—beatings, choking, sexual assault, verbal abuse, or any combination. The resulting trauma leaves its victims with physical and emotional scars, which can show up in a variety of symptoms that can come on gradually or suddenly. Often the symptoms are similar to other, less dangerous conditions. Sometimes there are no visible symptoms. From a legal perspective, this makes both syndromes difficult to prove. The fact that there is heated disagreement about these syndromes, what they represent, and in fact whether they are true syndromes at all, only adds to the difficulty.

Although both syndromes stem from the same violent behavior (and in some cases, the same perpetrator), they need to be treated separately.


Cook, Philip W. 1997. Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

U.S. Department of Justice. 2002. Battered Child Syndrome: Investigating Physical Abuse and Homicide. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Walker, Lenore E. 1979. The Battered Woman. New York: Harper & Row.

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