Child Abuse Most Likely in Out of Wedlock Cohabitation
NEW YORK - Six-year-old Oscar Jimenez Jr. was beaten to death in California, then buried under fertilizer and cement. Two-year-old Devon Shackleford was drowned in an Arizona swimming pool. Jayden Cangro, also 2, died after being thrown across a room in Utah.None of this is new.
In each case, as in many others every year, the alleged or convicted perpetrator had been the boyfriend of the child’s mother — men thrust into father-like roles which they tragically failed to embrace.
Every case is different, every family is different. Some single mothers bring men into their lives who lovingly help raise children when the biological father is gone for good.
Nonetheless, many scholars and front-line caseworkers interviewed by The Associated Press see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader trend that deeply worries them. They note an ever-increasing share of America’s children grow up in homes without both biological parents, and say the risk of child abuse is markedly higher in the nontraditional family structures.
“This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. “Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, ‘What’s the harm?’ The harm is we’re increasing a pattern of relationships that’s not good for children.”
The existing data on child abuse in America is patchwork, making it difficult to track national trends with precision.
However, there are many other studies that, taken together, reinforce the concerns. Among the findings:
- Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri abuse reports published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005.
- Children living in stepfamilies or with single parents are at higher risk of physical or sexual assault than children living with two biological or adoptive parents, according to several studies co-authored by David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.
- Girls whose parents divorce are at significantly higher risk of sexual assault, whether they live with their mother or their father, according to research by Robin Wilson, a family law professor at Washington and Lee University.
One of our routine exercises with students is to ask them “what is the strongest factor that is likely to result in child abuse.”
They always give the politically correct answer: “That the parent was abused.”
We then distribute a graph bases on British data (which is more complete than U.S. data) showing that children living with their biological mother and a live-in boyfriend are 33 time more likely to be abused that children living with their married biological parents.
In fact, the same data show that a child whose mom’s live-in boyfriend is living in the household is 73 times more likely to be fatally abused than a child with married biological parents.
Of course we then ask students: “why didn’t you know this? Why has this information been withheld from you?”
The reason, of course, is that it’s politically incorrect to question people’s sexual behavior -- even if it has nasty social consequences.
And this from people who will happily attack people for merely owning an SUV.