Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What is Battered Child Syndrome?

As a New Jersey Family Lawyer, I am all to well aware that physical and emotional abuse is heartbreaking and unfortunately occurs in many households. Victims of such abuse can be of any age, sex, race, or religion, but it is always the most difficult situation when the victim is a child. Being able to identify abuse is typically the hardest part in child abuse cases because too often I have seen parents unable to stop their spouse from abusing their child. Some are afraid of falling victims to abuse themselves, while others are just simply in denial. No matter the case, it is vital to address child abuse immediately by contact this New Jersey Family Attorney filing an emergent application with the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  But what exactly is Battered Child Syndrome?  Let’s explore.

The battered child syndrome is a medical diagnosis of physical abuse caused by other than accidental means. It was first described in a landmark article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1962. The impact was so tremendous that twenty- two years later; the journal ran another article looking back at the initial piece.

In the more recent article, written by Marilyn Heins in 1984, the first recorded case of child abuse in the country was discussed. The first recorded case occurred in none other than New York in 1874. A church worker calling on an elderly lady in a tenement learned than an eight-year-old girl was being starved and beaten by her foster parents. The church worker tried feverishly to remove the girl from the abusive home, and ultimately was successful. The girl was moved to an orphanage, The Sheltering Arms, and the foster mother was convicted of assault and battery, and sentenced to jail for one year.

While this was only the first recorded case, child abuse has unfortunately been occurring in our society for a much longer period of time. Child abuse typically follows a common cycle, similar to battered women’s syndrome, starting with the abuse itself. A child might be abused by his or her parent either physically, sexually, or emotionally. Physical abuse can be hitting, pulling hair, or any other violent act involving aggressive physical contact. Sexual abuse can be verbal assault or molestation. Emotional abuse can be yelling, name-calling, or repeated threatening. Sexual abuse is typically the most common in child abuse cases, molestation being the number one type of abuse. During the abuse phase it is the abusers intention to show the child who is in control.  

The next phase of the abuse cycle is the guilt phase. The abuser starts to feel guilty, but not because he or she has mistreated the child. During this phase, most parent abusers start to realize the severity of their behavior and the possibility of it being reported. The abuser wants to remain in control, not have to face consequences for his or her abusive behavior. Excuse making is the next phase of the abuse cycle. This part of the cycle is when the abuser begins to rationalize his or her behavior. It is very common for abusers to apologize for their behavior and promise the other spouse, not the child that the abuse will never happen again. It is also becoming more common for abusers to deny that the abuse even took place.

The normal behavior phase is typically the last phase, until the cycle repeats itself. Here, the abuser will do anything to regain the child’s trust. A parent abuser might buy gifts for the child or let him or her eat her favorite dessert every night of the week. No matter what, the abuser needs to make sure that he or she remains in control. By showering the child with temporary gifts, the child will try to forget what has happened, until it happens again.

If you know of a child who is a victim of abuse, please contact my office immediately so that we may protect the innocent.  Thank you.