Psychologist James Garbarino, PhD, once interviewed a murderer so violent, six correctional officers were needed to control him when he appeared in court. The offender
had killed two inmates while in prison. But when Garbarino
asked the man to reveal something about himself that would
surprise others, he confessed that he cried himself to sleep every
“I always try to impress upon a jury that they’re not looking
at a big, scary man, but really the untreated, traumatized child
who inhabits that big, scary man,” said Garbarino, a psychology
professor at Loyola University Chicago.
Garbarino’s story was one of many that challenged
conventional thinking about violence at a conference
cosponsored by APA and the American Bar Association in
May. The event, with the theme “Confronting Family and
Community Violence: The Intersection of Law and Psychology,”
brought psychologists, attorneys, judges and others together to
discuss new ways to prevent child abuse, respond to troubled
children and prevent family violence in the first place.
Understanding child maltreatment
Family violence is rampant in our society, said George W.
Holden, PhD, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist
University in Dallas.
An estimated 676,000 children each year suffer from child
maltreatment, which typically takes the form of physical,
psychological or sexual abuse or neglect. But those confirmed
cases are “a woeful underestimate of the problem,” said Holden.
For one, many cases are still not reported. And that number
doesn’t include the 10 percent of children who research suggests
are exposed to intimate partner violence at home. For a quarter
to half of them, such an environment can cause signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Other reactions include attachment
problems and disruptions in eating and sleeping routines in
toddlers and anxiety, depression and aggression among older
children, Holden said.
What’s more, many children face multiple challenges
BY REBECCA A. CLAY
simultaneously. “One of the major new insights in the last 15
years is the concept of polyvictimization — that is, children
being multiply victimized,” Holden said, adding that the
A conference co-sponsored by APA and the American Bar Association
calls for paradigm shifts in preventing and treating child abuse.
protect kids New ways to