Children, Families and Violence: Challenges for children's rights

Publication Date02 Dec 2010
AuthorTara Collins
SubjectEducation,Health & social care,Sociology
Journal of Children’s Ser vices • V olume 5 Issue 4 • Dece mber 2010 © P ier Professional Ltd 57
Book reviews
The international community marked the 20th
anniversary of the adoption by the UN of the
on 20 November, 2009. The most successful
international human rights treaty ever (with 192
ratifications) has growing significance for law, policy
and practice as well as for framing and approaching
all issues related to children, including violence.
As Jaap Doek (2009), former chair of the UN
Committee on the Rights of the Child, expresses:
The fundamental change the CRC brought to this
field was that violence against children is not only
morally and socially unacceptable, but a violation
of her/his fundamental right to respect for and
protection of her/his inherent human dignity and
physical and mental integrity and to equal protection
under the law’ (p776). Accordingly, the publication
of Children, Families and Violence is a very welcome
addition to benefit the work of researchers,
students, policy-makers, service providers and
advocates who are engaged in identifying and
elaborating the essential connection between
violence and child rights.
This book starts by examining the risk factors
for raising violent children. These are explored
in two ways: the ecological framework, which
describes various influences on the individual
in relation to his/her environment; and the
rights-based approach, which recognises the
comprehensive obligation to respect rights in
processes and outcomes. In relation to child
protection, typical approaches focus on the harm
to individuals and less often on rights violations.
Yet, a child’s rights perspective can transform our
understanding of situations and particularly the role
of children and others around or influencing them.
It provides a framework to understand violence at
various levels as well as the importance of rights to
provision and participation alongside protection.
To this end, chapters discus s neurological
elements, p arenting styles, fa mily violence,
policy inte rventions, cultural contexts and the
requirements for respecting ch ildren’s rights.
As such, the book is an excellent reference
tool that collates relevant research about issue s
as diverse as the effects of toxic substances ,
corporal pu nishment, abuse, pa rtner violence and
maternal de pression. While the authors do not
blame paren ts for violence, they acknowledge
the need to focus on the context of familie s and
the support s they may need since ‘violence br eeds
violence’ ( p21).
The authors’ recommendations recognise that
public support for early childhood education, child
rights education and child participation is significant
for overcoming violence. Especially interesting is
the critique of research on the child’s resilience
to overcome significant risk exposure. They note
that the early literature tended to blame the victim,
suggesting that a lack of resilience reflects a weak
child, and that this disregards the contexts of child
development. They argue that resilience ‘depends
not simply on the child, but largely on the nature of
the family’s social context’ (p126). This challenges
myopic political responses such as punishment
for children who make mistakes, rather than
recognising the need for stronger family policies.
The book then explores the significance of child-
friendly policies that support children and families.
It compares the policies of Nordic countries with
those of North America, arguing that while there
is a tendency to consider ‘best practices’ from
countries with historical, political and language
similarities, much can be learned from Scandinavia.
Children, Families and Violence: Challenges for children’s rights
Reviewed by: Tara Collins
Marie Curie Fellow in Child Rights, Equality Studies, School of Social Justice, University College Dublin,
Book details:
Authors: Katherine Covell & R Brian Howe, 2009
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
287 pages, £39.99 (pb)
ISBN: 978 1 843106982

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