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The following speech was given at the National Parenting Conference in Boulder, Colorado, on September 25, 1997.
During the past three decades, I have spent much of my scholarly life examining primary sources such as diaries, autobiographies, doctor's reports, ethnographic reports and other documents that document what it must have felt like to have been a child--yesterday and today, in the East and the West, in literate and preliterate cultures.
In several hundred studies published by myself and my associates in The Journal of Psychohistory, we have provided extensive evidence that the history of childhood has been a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes--and the further away from the West one gets--the more massive the neglect and cruelty one finds and the more likely children are to have been killed, rejected, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused by their caretakers.
Indeed, my conclusion from a lifetime of psychohistorical study of childhood and society is that the history of humanity is founded upon the abuse of children. Just as family therapists today find that child abuse often functions to hold families together as a way of solving their emotional problems, so, too, the routine assault of children has been society's most effective way of maintaining its collective emotional homeostasis. Most historical families once practiced infanticide, erotic beating and incest. Most states sacrificed and mutilated their children to relieve the guilt of adults. Even today, we continue to arrange the daily killing, maiming, molestation and starvation of children through our social, military and economic activities. I would like to summarize here some of the evidence I have found as to why child abuse has been humanity's most powerful and most successful ritual, why it has been the cause of war and social violence, and why the eradication of child abuse and neglect is the most important social task we face today.
THE TASK OF THE FUTURE
That all social violence--whether by war, revolution or economic exploitation--is ultimately a consequence of child abuse should not surprise us. The propensity to reinflict childhood traumas upon others in socially-approved violence is actually far more able to explain and predict the actual outbreak of wars than the usual economic motivations, and we are likely to continue to undergo our periodic sacrificial rituals of war if the infliction of childhood trauma continues. Clear evidence has been published in The Journal of Psychohistory that the more traumatic one's childhood, the more one is likely to be in favor of military solutions to social problems.
* According to the World Health Organisation, up to 53,000 children are murdered worldwide each year.
* Between 80 and 93 per cent of children suffer some form of physical punishment in their homes; a third are punished using implements.
* In 2002, the WHO estimated that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced some form of forced sexual intercourse or violence.
* 218 million children worldwide are labourers, 126 million of whom work in hazardous environments.
* 1.8 million are involved in prostitution or pornography and 1.2 million have been trafficked.
* Up to 275 million witness domestic abuse annually.
* Eight million worldwide are in residential care.
* There are 250,000 child soldiers in the world.
* According to Amnesty International, 40 per cent of soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are children. 11,000 have still yet to be disarmed.
* One billion children live in countries where it is legal to beat pupils.
* Save the Children says a million children worldwide have been imprisoned.
SOURCES: WHO, UN, AI and Save The Children
DeMause believes that his detractors are not largely moved by any evidence, but rather are unconsciously motivated to attack those who would challenge the idea of "good parenting" throughout the many of cultures