A speech delivered by Senator Anne Cools to the Canadian Senate on March 28, 1995.
Honorable Senators, my intention today is to focus on children as recipients of violence in the family. I shall review some of the research and findings on the troubled family and child at risk.
Honourable Senators, the understanding of human development and the human psyche is still in its infancy. In 1793 a dramatic hospital reform occurred when Philippe Pinel, a famous French doctor, took over the Bicetre Hospital. Pinel released mental patients from their manacles and chains in which they had been kept. He followed his conviction that the mentally ill acquired fresh air, liberty of movement and less bondage. The concept that mental illness was a medical disease and not demonology or satanic possession was, indeed, revolutionary.
At the turn of the century, Dr. Sigmund Freud compelled a major shift in medical thinking. He introduced the concept of the unconscious. He introduced the concept that human beings are driven by strong, hidden mental forces. He introduced the theory of neurosis; that is, the notion that psychological states in human beings are related to disturbances and distortions and to developmental difficulties in psychic growth and maturation.
In 1992, the rate of violent crime in Canada was nearly double what it was in 1977. In 1977, the police reported 583 violent crimes per 100,000 people, whereas in 1992 they reported the number of violent incidents had increased to 1122 per 100,000 people …. almost double.
At present, as in the past, male offenders are responsible for the overwhelming majority of all criminal offences involving violence in crime. Violent crime, relative to property and other criminal incidents, engenders high levels of public fear, anxiety and frustration. As a result, Canadians are increasingly expressing their concern about safety and security issues. They are expecting action from governments to bring about a demonstrable decrease in interpersonal violence. There is a growing recognition that existing levels of violence in society will not be reduced by hiring more police officers, building more prisons or developing more treatment programs for offenders. Of the goal is personal and community safety then the response to crime must seek to identify and prevent the causal factors associated with crime and violence.
Honorable Senators, I should like to read from a 1979 article which appeared in the Globe and Mail entitled, “How One Woman Works to Mend Broken Lives”, written about my agency by Rabbi Dr. Gunther Plaut. I quote Rabbi Gunther Plaut quoting me.
“What’s different about us, is that we … care about men as well. We don’t just help women who are victims … We help the men too … Violence is all around us, … We’re here to break the cycle in a few individual lives … We had a husband kick in three doors before we managed to calm him down, and finally the child emerged from the beast that he pretended to be. His greatest fear was that he would breakdown and cry. Well, we helped him to do just that.”
When we look at crime and violence, the most obvious fact that leaps to the practitioner or to the student of human deviance is the fact that in the arrest, conviction and detention of offenders, males outnumber females dramatically. Corrections Canada informs us that there are 14,500 male prisoners in federal penitentiaries and 300 females. This ratio of almost 50 to 1 – that is 50 men to one woman – is either of profound discrimination, or one that reveals a tragedy of enormous proportions that largely remains unexplained and unexplored. Some explanation and exploration are overdue.
Honorable Senators, Dr. Fraser Mustard, President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, recently asserted that the first three years of life are critical and important to a person’s development. He said: “The evidence is overwhelming … These problems are set before the kids hit the educational system. The wiring of the neurons of the cortex – that is, the cerebral cortex – occurs within the first three years. If you receive bad nurturing in that period you’re not as well equipped … A very high priority has to be with the children…”
Another great Canadian, Dr. D.O. Hebb, late professor of psychology at McGill University, in his book The Organization of Behaviour, in 1949, wrote: “… we do not know that juvenile delinquency, associated with broken homes, is due to the home environment and not just as much to the inheritance of the same emotional instability that broke up the home.”
Honorable Senators, on March 7, 1995 in a speech of International Women’s Day, I suggested that comprehension of male abuse in intimate relationships should resist the current feminist ideological constraints, and should boldly and forthrightly examine the early childhood experience of the abusing male, with especial focus on the relationship between mother and infant son. I stated that mothers’ abuse, that is child abuse of infant sons, has a powerful role in the formation of violent male adults. I have suggested, honorable Senators, that men are of women born, both biologically and psychologically.
I have also suggested, senators, that mothers are the gate-keepers of children’s emotional and mental well-being. The definition and identification of child abuse is difficult. The Minister of National Health and Welfare, Marc Lalonde, in the 1976 Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, Welfare, and Social Affairs entitled “Childs Abuse and Neglect” attempts a definition by saying: “I would like to say at the outset that I am most pleased the Committee’s terms of reference include the neglected as well as the abused child. As many others who have studied the problems of children have recognised, it is neither easy nor desirable to separate physical abuse or battering from other, more subtle forms of child abuse and neglect … Child neglect, in the legal sense, constitutes all those conditions listed in a provincial law and under which a court may find a child neglected, or “in need of protection”. Thus the child whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for him adequately ..child battering, to use a well-known analogy, represents the tip of the iceberg of child abuse and neglect.”
In the same report, the Honourable Warren Allmand, then Solicitor General of Canada, stated:
” A first concern and one which plagues everyone dealing with child abuse is that of definition. What exactly is child abuse? Is it merely the physical abuse of a child? Does it include sexual abuse and exploitation? And what about the effects of long-tern emotional abuse or sensory deprivation? It seems to me that a definition of child abuse as merely physical abuse of children does not nearly go far enough. There is enough evidence at present regarding psychosomatic dwarfism or the “failure to thrive” syndrome to suggest that emotional abuse is a least as important as physical abuse … If we had to arrive at a common definition of child abuse I would recommend that you consider the one used in the United States’ Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act .. where child abuse and neglect is taken to mean:
… the treatment or mental injury, sexual abuse, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health, or welfare is harmed or threatened thereby.”
Both of these ministers were probing deeply. Honourable Senators, one of the great geniuses who first saw the relationship to violence and child formation was the author Charles Dickens. Dickens, in his great masterpiece, Oliver Twist, wrote about the association between poverty, orphan children, neglected children and their association with crime. In 1841, he explained his reasons for writing Oliver Twist saying”
“It appeared to me that to draw a knot of such associates in crime as really do exist, to paint them in all their deformity, in all their wretchedness, in all the squalid poverty of their lives; to show that as they really are, forever skulking uneasily through (sic) the dirtiest paths or life, with the great black, ghastly gallows closing up their prospects; it appeared to me that to do this would be an attempt to do something which was greatly needed and which would be a service to society.”
Honourable Senators, for 150 years, we have known about the relationship and association between poverty, child neglect, family instability, alcohol, and criminal behaviour. In 1889, street arabs, street urchins, guttersnipes, waifs and such neglected children were very visible on the streets of Toronto. Street arabs or waifs were abandoned children who lived on the streets, guttersnipes were children on the streets who begged, borrowed or stole for their troubled and alcoholic parents. It was estimated that these children on the streets numbered 600 to 700 boys and 100 girls. Honourable Senators, I ask you to note again the ratio of boys to girls.
Toronto’s John Kelso, instrumental in the Toronto movement for preventing cruelty to animals, was also instrumental in the movement for child protection. In the late 1880s, Ontario’s efforts to protect children gained momentum. In 1888, under Liberal Premier Sir Oliver Mowat, Ontario passed the Children’s Protection Act giving authority to commit neglected children to authorized children’s homes. Again in 1893, Ontario passed an act for the prevention of cruelty to and better protection of children.
John Kelso’s work with child protection, with governments and with the Children’s Aid in society in Toronto and Ontario is legend. These activities advanced to 1908 with the passage by Sir Wilfred Laurier’s Liberal government of the Juvenile Delinquents Act, which states in section 31: “This act shall be liberally construed to the end that its purpose may be carried out, to wit: ?That the care and custody and discipline of a juvenile delinquent shall approximate as nearly as may be that which should be given by its parents, and that as far as practicable, every juvenile delinquent shall be treated, not as a criminal, but as a misdirected and misguided child, and one needing aid, encouragement, help and assistance.”
You will remember, honorable Senators, Laurier was a great admirer of the great Liberal principles and was greatly influenced by Gladstone, a notable Liberal reformer.
Where a child was adjudged to have committed a delinquency, he was not to be dealt with as an offender, but as one in a condition of delinquency and therefore requiring help, guidance and proper supervision. Delinquency was a state or condition in the youth wherein the youth was deemed to require parental care.
The Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908 was to assist the child whose primary problem was a lack of proper care from his parents. It was preferable to prove delinquency in the child rather than delinquency in the parents; that is, neglect by the parents.
The government in its intervention assumed the role of the parens patriae, that is, the state as parent. The Juvenile Delinquents Act was also an initiative to bring these matters into federal jurisdiction, a very difficult constitutional question indeed.
Honorable Senators, today my point is abuse and aggression in the family, its expression in the family and its consequences for society. In 1978, a subcommittee of the Standing Senate Committee on Health, Welfare and Science undertook a study on childhood experiences as causes of criminal behaviour. The committee’s report, “Child at Risk”, a fine piece of work, concluded: “Good parenting is of overwhelming importance to the developing personality of the child. Close affectional ties with an adult in early life and consistent loving and care and nurturance in the early years are essential to optimal development of the child. It seems there is really no alternative to tender loving care. Whatever can be done to help parents to do the job of parenting well will at the same tome be preventing future criminal behaviour.”
Some citations for the 1980 Senate report “child at Risk” are:
- The Committee has been convinced by expert witnesses that much of the violent crime committed by adults can be traced to a breakdown of parenting in the early childhood period…
- It is not only the battered child but the neglected one as well who runs a high risk of becoming a violent adult…
- Several psychiatrists who appeared before your Committee agreed that violent criminal behaviour is a direct result of abuse and neglect in the first three years of life…
- The unsocialized, aggressive child is likely to be the product of a home in which it is an unwanted or illegitimate child, and has met with rejection from the mother…
- 5. It is generally accepted that “maternal deprivation has a detrimental effect on character development”…
Honourable Senators, while it has not been determined that all abused children become violent adults, it has been established that almost all violent adults were abused and neglected children.
I should like to review some literature and share some findings which indicate that mothers are perpetrators of abuse upon children at least equally with fathers. The Health and Welfare Canada report of 2989 entitled “Family Violence: A Review of Theoretical and Clinical Literature” cites Breines and Gordon as having stated in 1984, that physical abuse of children is the only form of family violence in which women are the perpetrators as open as men.
The report also states that Richard Belles, in 1979, cited studies that the abusers are often female. In one 1969 study of Bennie and Sclare, this was found in seven out of ten cases examined, and in another of Steele and Pollock in 1968, in 50 out of 57 cases.
Other studies – Zalba in 1971 and Gill also in 1971 – showed women to be abusers in 50 per cent of the cases.
The Health and Welfare Canada report also states that Bell, in 1986, found evidence that mothers are more likely than fathers to be abusive; that Benedict et al, in 1985, identified the mother as the abuser in 38.7 per cent of cases, and the father in 18.4 per cent, rising to 31 per cent when stepfathers and boyfriends are included; that Creighton, in 1979 found that mothers or mother substitutes are the suspected abusers in 44 per cent of cases, and fathers or father substitutes in 46.5 per cent.
Ralph Weisheit, in a 1986 article entitled “When Mothers Kill Their Children”, found in a study of 460 female offenders in prison between 1940 and 1983 for homicide, that 39 were institutionalized for killing their children. Finally, Richard Gelles, in 1978, found that mothers’ violence toward children was significantly higher than that of fathers, reported at least one occurrence of violence during the course of raising the child.
D. Craig Allen of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, recently sent me data from the Child Abuse Register of his home state of Iowa that shows that, of the children abused by biological parents between January 1984 and June 1987, some 64.5 per cent were abused by mothers.
Closer to home, here are recent Canadian and Ontarian data on child abuse:
On child abuse morbidity, University of Toronto’s Dr. Cyril Greenland, in a 1986 analysis of 100 child abuse or child neglect deaths, CAN from 1973 to 1982 in Ontario from the chief coroner’s office, entitled “Identification and Management of High Risk Cases”, reported that: “Natural parents were the perpetrators in 63 per cent of the deaths; mothers were involved in 38 deaths, fathers in 13 deaths and both parents in 12 deaths.”
About the child victims, he continued:
The risk of death due to CAN is highest in the first year of life. The Ontario data, confirmed by most other studies, show that well over half of the victims died before the age of 12 months. An additional 25 per cent … died before the age of two years. Only five per cent of the victims were over the age of five years.
The Toronto Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse, in its 1994 report entitled “Ontario Incidence of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect”, tells us that in 1993 there were 46,683 child maltreatment investigations by all 54 Children’s Aid Societies. The study defines child maltreatment as any one of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or emotional maltreatment. The findings are as follows: the total substantiated cases of child maltreatment – mothers were perpetrators in 49 per cent and fathers in 31 per cent of the cases. In the category of child neglect, mothers were perpetrators in 85 per cent of the substantiated cases. In the category of child physical abuse, biological mothers were perpetrators in 39 per cent of the substantiated cases, and biological fathers in 40 per cent of cases. In the category of emotional maltreatment, mothers were perpetrators in 79 per cent.
This study found that:
..boys were most strongly over-represented in the area of physical abuse, especially in the zero to three-year-old category, where boys accounted for 59 per cent of investigations … and male children aged four to eleven years accounted for 55.5 per cent. The single largest number of investigated families, 35 per cent, was the single mother family.
Honourable Senators, these data speak for themselves where these defenceless children cannot.
On the matter of mother-only families, Biller in 1981, found that early father absence has a strong association with delinquency, committal to training school and recidivism among males. Wilson and Hernstein report that a longitudinal research study of children in a predominantly black area of Chicago found that children raised in mother-only families were, by the third grade, more likely to be aggressive.
In 1989, Toronto’s Peter Silverman’s examination of abuse and neglect concluded that more physical abuse occurs in single parent households led by females. James Wilson, in an article in 1994 entitled “What to do About Crime”, confirms this. He said: “The evidence … is quite clear: even if we hold income and ethnicity constant children (and especially boys) raised by a single mother are more likely than those raised by two parents to have difficulty in school, get into trouble with the law, and experience emotional and physical problems.”
Honourable Senators, violence and aggression are the nemesis of child neglect. Wilson and Hernstein, the foremost authors on crime and violence in the United States, in their book Crime and Human Nature, wrote that:
” … All the boys from quarrelsome families with erratic discipline, but only one-fourth of those from cohesive families with consistent discipline, were convicted of a crime. Interestingly … it was the mothers’ behaviour that made the greatest difference in the boys’ criminality.”
Before our Senate Subcommittee on Childhood Experiences, Dr. Robert ten Bensel, Director, Maternal and Child Health at the University of Minnesota, said this about dangerous offenders: “I have never met a violent juvenile delinquent who was not abused as a child … Secondly, all the criminals at San Quentin prison who have been studies had violence upbringing as children.”
That study was attributed to Gelles-
Thirdly, all assassins, or individuals who have attempted assassinations in the United States during the past 20 years had been victims of child abuse: There is a 100 per correlation.
That again was attributed to Gelles. About dangerous sexual offenders, he also testified: “If you look at the problem of sex murder…you find that they all came from broken families and suffered cruelty and brutality, usually at the hands of a woman, plus acting out, as a child, vandalism, arson, and cruelty to animals. You see the pattern over and over again. There is cruelty to animals, cruelly to kids, and if a woman has beat up on you, then you are more likely to become a sex murderer.
This is not Anne Cools speaking; this is one of the foremost thinkers in the field.
Honourable senators, the impact of family aggression on these little people, little boys and girls, is immeasurable. The panic fear and anxiety that awakens in their heads, minds, and bodies eludes most of us. Absolute terror grips them, and all of this in their precognitive and prerational minds. Their little crouched bodies, their little shoulders, taut as drawstrings, are filled with pain and anguish. As these little people’s undeveloped psychological systems are strained, as their nerve endings are eroded by behaviours they cannot comprehend or control, the damage is indicted by uncaring or uncontrolled large persons who tower over them.
Meanwhile, these little people acquire other sets of impulses, impulses which are largely ungovernable, impulses that operate quite differently as a function of their gender, impulses that in the male child become uncontrollable, violent and even homicidal. These little people’s pain is incalculable. When these damaged little people become big people, the pain and suffering they will indict on others is unspeakable. When all languages fail, the language of human suffering and tragedy will speak.
1 have seen the crouched person of the physically abused child, and the blank, listless unresponsive person of the neglected child.
Honourable senators, in the formative years, the child’s mental and sensory stimulation is essential, and the child’s personality structure is moulded. Aggression, physical and verbal, parents’ emotional unevenness, and family instability play a major role in negative formations
The responses to my statements on March 7, 1995, were overwhelming and supportive, including from many academics, psychologists, professionals, practitioners, field workers and researchers. Dr. Debra Pepler, Director, LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution at York University, wrote in support: “Our research on children of battered women,… reveals that there is a wide range in the adjustment of children who have witnessed their mothers being abused.
Some children exhibit extreme behaviour problems, whereas others are remarkably well adjusted in spite of substantial adversity. The factor most clearly differentiates the well adjusted children from those who are poorly adjusted is the mothers’ report of verbal aggression (e.g. yelling and screaming) to her children. As you have stated, we have found that mothers who can somehow manage to be loving, positive, and nurturant with their children even though they, themselves, are highly stressed, promote the healthy development of their children.
Dr. Reena Sommers of Family Violence Research, St. Boniface General Hospital, wrote in support: “The real issue of family violence has been totally obscured by special interest groups headed by feminists. Their perspective ignores… important elements of this serious social problem. Among these are the abuse of children by mothers as well as fathers, the abuse of women by other women, and as well, the abuse of men by women. General population research examining family violence has consistently shown that there is no statistical difference in the rates of abuse perpetrated by men and women against each other or against their children.”
Dr. Andrew Brink, former Coordinator, Humanities and Psychoanalytic Thought Program, Trinity College, University of Toronto, wrote to me supportively saying: “I completely agree with your remarks on mothering and violence in boys…Newer studies to support your statement are emerging from the Attachment Theorists, following from the work of the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby.”
Dr. John Bowlby, honourable senators, was a major clinician and scholar.
One of the major contributions Dr. John Bowlby left for humanity was a definitive study and work on maternal privation, which he did for the World Health around 1950 or 1951. It was an exceptional piece of work.
Dr. Jim O’Brien, a psychiatrist in Nova Scotia, telephoned the CBC Radio program As It Happens on March 10, 1995, and said: “I did a small prospective study. In a four year period, I asked every new female patient who came to see me if there was violence in the home. Fifty-five said yes. Of that 55.55% said the violence came from their mothers and 35 per cent said that the violence came from their fathers and the rest said both.”
In Toronto, CFRB Radio ran a talk show on March 8, 1995 about my remarks and held a survey. They put the question to their listeners: “When you were growing up, which parent was more abusive – your mother or your father?” Of 200 respondents, 62 per cent said mothers and 38 per cent said fathers. I was informed that 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the callers to the Lowell Green talk show on CFRA Radio in Ottawa agreed with me.
I am also informed on March 9 1995, MacLean Hunter Broadcast News placed a question to their viewers with regard to my remarks, “Do you agree”?
Of the 273 respondents, 57 per cent agreed and 43 per cent disagreed.
Honourable senators, certain feminist ideologues, too few to number, claim insult and injury from what I said. Some even attacked me personally in brutish Philistine and uncharitable statements. These loud persons, in their feminine aggression, are unaware that they have merely transported that peculiar aggression from the home to the workplace, even to politics.
The term “violence against women” is a term that has taken currency only in recent years. It is coloured, and camouflages the real issues of aggression and all its ugliness.
Dr. Murray Strauss, Dr. Richard Gelles, and Dr. Suzanne Steinmetz, foremost scholars on domestic violence, frequently report that violence is equally perpetrated by males and females against their children and against each other. The National Family Violence Surveys conducted by Gelles and Straus find this. However, I shall leave the issue of spousal violence for another day.
Honourable senators, I will close by urging balance in the family violence discussion. In recent years, the primordial, the primeval and the phyloyears, the primordial, the primeval and the phylogenetic have been dominant in this discourse. This fact has been buttressed, if not engineered, by the tyranny of political correctness and its various consorts. In many instances, unreason. When unreason prevails, truth is the first casualty, if not the first fatality.
Honourable senators, sole proprietorship by gender of aggression, violence, love or charity is repugnant to human nature and to human intelligence.