Research into child abuse and its interpretation has been bedevilled by controversy over questions of definition and appropriate approaches. It is suggested in this paper that different questions require different approaches, and that the use of both sociological and medical models may be justified depending on the nature of the research issue. Possible future social science research activity based on this distinction is described in relation to definition, the acceptability of violence in society, the perception of punishment, the establishment of standards of care and decision-making by professionals. Specific recommendations concerning future research into prevention and treatment using a more medical approach are also outlined.
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