Giving Voice to Experiences: Parental Maltreatment of Black Children in the Context of Societal Racism

Bernard, Claudia A.. 2002. Giving Voice to Experiences: Parental Maltreatment of Black Children in the Context of Societal Racism. Child & Family Social Work, 7(4), pp. 239-251. ISSN 13567500 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper seeks to explore the ways in which black children who have been maltreated within their families come to voice to tell their stories. A discussion of black children's recovery from maltreatment necessitates understanding how they interpret and name their experiences as abusive. Research indicates that while many factors mediate the effects of abuse on children's development, telling your story about childhood trauma is critical in the healing process for promoting psychological well-being. However, what does the naming and speaking of trauma entail for black children when the broader context of their lived realities is embedded in racism that confers on them a stigmatized status? Where black children's lived experiences encompass the complexity of societal racism as a mutually reinforcing and contradictory reality in their lives, their capacity to name the maltreatment they experience will be particularly problematic. Essentially, parents' issues silence children and can encourage them to block out painful emotions, ultimately putting their emotional and psychological well-being at risk. Taking race and gender as benchmarks for analysis, the complexities involved in giving voice to childhood maltreatment are discussed to consider how these dynamics contribute to black children's resilience and adaptive behaviours in the aftermath of abuse.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS) > Social Work


November 2002Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Mar 2009 15:42

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 15:56

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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