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Jude's avatar

Why do child abusers often single out one child in a multi-child household?

Asked by Jude (31971 points ) January 4th, 2012

I’ve been reading up on child abuse cases (for school) and have found that the parent (or parents) centers out one child (in a multiple child home). Why is that?

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12 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It is common for groups of people (families, villages) to pick a scape goat and blame them for all of the group’s ills.

RareDenver's avatar

I’m no psychologist but I should imagine it is easier for the parent to mentally justify the abuse and that the child somehow deserved it. This is easier to do if you focus on one perceived bad apple in the bunch.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, it is not uncommon, many dysfunctional families assign “roles” to each other, the scapegoat child, the good/bad, smart/stupid etc. polarities.

Often in highly narcissistic families any child that deviates from the parents ideal of perfection/ performance is scapegoated.

The less attractive child, the less smart child, etc.

Often it is a projection of the abusive parent, hating in the child those traits they cannot own within themselves.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think it’s kind of like Simone’s link on favoritism yesterday. Except, instead of being the child that the parents like the most, it’s the child the parents dislike the most. In a weird way, you could even say that child is the favorite, because the parents deem that child worthy of so much attention.

It’s a scapegoating technique, and it allows the parents to say that if they can just fix this one child, then that will be a panacea. I think that often they don’t explicitly blame the child, but rather something the child has – like, the child just has a bad attitude, or has ODD, or has ADD, or has bipolar, or has an addiction (because mental illness is so “in” right now, as opposed to, say, witchcraft or having TB), and then all they have to do is cure the bad part of the child, and everything’s better. Course, then they have trouble seeing the child as anything other than the bad part, so the child identifies as “bad” not “has a bad part”.

tranquilsea's avatar

I think it really depends on the temperament of the child and, perhaps, the birth order. The sibling of mine who got the most physical abuse was my older sister because she used to challenge my mom. The rest of us didn’t because we didn’t want the tar beaten out of us.

Blackberry's avatar

So many unfit parents :(

Pandora's avatar

I would think that it is either the child that most reminds them of themselves or the child that symbolizes everything they are not.
In the end it has more to do with self loathing than the actual child. Bullies pick on people who either remind them that they are not equal to them or who they feel is as much of a loser as they feel themselves to be.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Often the one child that gets abused is the weakest one. Hence the reason that it happens much more frequently to disabled children than to healthy children.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

The one who cannot ever be outspoken, the one that was not wanted/considered an obstacle to the parent’s progress, the one who makes them feel even worse for being what they are!

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I don’t know. Maybe they feel like people are less likely to find out if they do that.

tinyfaery's avatar

Not in my house. Everyone and everything was a target.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^^ :( Sorry to hear that!

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