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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Constructions of Maltreatment: Child Exposure to Domestic Violence and Its Penalization in California Law

  • Author(s): Henry, Colleen
  • et al.

Social constructionists argue that human behaviors or conditions only become social problems when they are recognized, labeled, and action is taken against them by a group of people or society. While domestic violence or intimate partner violence has been recognized as a social problem since the 1970s, only recently has child exposure to domestic violence received similar recognition. Through review of changes made to California Law between 1995-2013, policy statements, and case law, this article examines how child exposure to domestic violence is recognized, labeled and acted upon in law, and argues that the recent penal response to child exposure to domestic violence in California Law signals a conceptual shift in what acts and omissions constitute child maltreatment and an expansion of the existing child protection legal framework.

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