By Lloyd DeMause

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 re-inflict 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. Technologically, the human race is now quite able to satisfy its needs--if we can live together without violence. But unless we now employ our social resources toward consciously assisting the evolution of childrearing, we will be doomed to the periodic destruction of our resources, both material and human. To Selma Freiberg's dicta that "Trauma demands repetition" I would only add "repetition in social behavior." We cannot be content to only continue to do endless repair work on damaged adults, with more jails and police and therapists and political movements. Our task now must be to create an entirely new profession of "child helpers" who can reach out to every new child born on earth and help its parents give it love and independence.

Such a parent outreach movement is already under way in a few cities, and special issues of The Journal of Psychohistory have been published to document its operation. A special issue on "Changing Childhood" is the most recent to be published, showing the success of parent outreach projects in several states. The success of parenting centers such as the one pioneered in Boulder, Colorado, for instance, has been astonishing. Through parenting classes and home visiting by paraprofessionals, they have measurably reduced child abuse, as shown by careful follow-up studies and by reduced police reports and hospital entrance rates. All this has been accomplished with very small monetary outlays, since these parent outreach centers operate mainly with volunteer labor, while it has the potential to save trillions of dollars annually in the costs of social violence, police enforcement, jails and other consequences of the widespread child abuse of today.

Such a parent support movement would resemble the universal education movement of over a century ago. People then objected to providing universal education, by saying, "Well, yes, perhaps free education is useful for all children--but that would require hiring millions of teachers. How can we afford it?" We, too, admit that we will eventually need millions of parent helpers to teach parents how to bring up children and produce non-violent adults. But the teaching of parenting is just the unfinished half--the most important half--of the free education movement of the past, with its goal the empowerment of children to realize their innate capacities for love and work.

Changing childhood is a communal task. And it works. In 1979, Sweden passed a law saying that hitting children was as unlawful as hitting adults! Imagine the audacity! Children were people, just like adults! Parents who hit their children weren't put into jail--that would just deprive the children of their caretakers. But the parents were taught how to bring up children without hitting them. And at the same time, high school students were taught how to bring up children without violence. By now, 20 years later, these high school students have their own children, and...surprise! They don't hit them! To those who object to the cost of communities helping all parents, we can only reply: Can we afford not to teach parenting? What more important task can we devote our resources to? Do we really want to have massive armies and jails and emotionally crippled adults forever? Must each generation continue to torture and neglect its children so they repeat the violence and economic exploitation of previous generations? Why not achieve meaningful political and social revolution by first achieving a parenting revolution? If war, social violence, class domination and economic destruction of wealth are really revenge rituals for childhood trauma, how else can we remove the source of these rituals? How else end child abuse and neglect? How else increase the real wealth of nations, our next generation? How else achieve a world of love and laughter of which we are truly capable?

It appears we have our work cut out for us.

SEE RELATED: Creating a Community Parenting Center, By Robert B. McFarland, Journal of Psychohistory 32(4) Spring 2005

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