Copyright (c) 2000 Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review
ESSAY: Battered-Child Syndrome: Is It a Paradigm for a Child of Embattled Divorce?
22 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 335
H. Patrick Stern, M.D. *, Michael W. Mellon, Ph.D. **, Beth O. Butler, L.C.S.W., Suzanne E. Stroh, R.N.P., Nicholas Long, Ph.D. and Jerry G. Jones, M.D.
The concept of the battered-child syndrome resulted from an evolution of scholarly work exploring unexplained physical injuries of children. 1 The first paper relating fractures of long bones to subdural hematomas in children was published by Caffey in 1946. 2 In 1953, Silverman published a paper on intentional infliction of injuries to children. 3 In 1955, Wooley and Evans blasted the medical profession for not accepting that injuries were being committed willfully to children. 4 Kempe published his research on child abuse during the 1950s. 5
A classic 1962 article reframed society’s concept of physical abuse of children. 6 The authors cautioned “there is reluctance on the part of many physicians to accept the radiologic signs as indications of repetitive trauma and possible abuse.” 7 Fortunately, Kempe and others’ work in identifying the battered-child syndrome led to a tremendous increase in professional recognition and treatment of the physical abuse of children.
This article will review the impact of divorce on children, especially in high conflict families, and present some key historical developments leading to the present management of child abuse. Using the battered-child syndrome as a paradigm, clinical criteria which raise the suspicion of psychological abuse will be proposed for a child of embattled divorce. The potential for improvement of the care of children experiencing high conflict divorce and drawing attention to the concept of psychological abuse of children will be discussed.