According to sociobiology, genetic preservation is at the core of human behavior. Because it is inherent in our genetic structure to ensure survival, individuals are predisposed to take measures to guarantee their genetic survival. In other words, they favor strategies and methods that will increase the likelihood of their family lineage being carried on. This is done through positive and negative methods. Positively, people have children so that their genetic tree can be extended to further generations. Negative methods of preserving genetic lineage also exist and include violence and aggression toward people who are not blood relatives. Based on these theories, it could be assumed that stepchildren are more likely to be abused by parents than biological children. In fact, some research has provided evidence of a 5-fold increase in risk of child abuse for step-children compared to biological children.
There is abundant evidence that children living in stepfamilies are more likely to experience sexual abuse. And children living with unmarried parents are also at risk for abuses including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. However, it has not been clearly established if stepchildren are injured as a result of their abuse more often than biological children. To get a better look at abuse rates among biological and stepchildren, Stewart J. D’Alessio of the Deaprtment of Criminal Justice at Florida International University recently examined data from more than 130 cities that was used as part of a larger study on abuse incident reporting. He looked at the biological status of the children, as well as the socioeconomic condition of their environment, as it has been suggested that disadvantaged communities have higher levels of stepchildren abuse.
D’Alessio found that children living in disadvantaged communities were more likely to experience abuse than those in socioeconomically advanced environments. He also found that the age of the perpetrator was influential of abuse. Younger parents were more likely to abuse children than older parents. However, there was no evidence suggesting that stepchildren were at increased risk for injury. “Contrary to expectations,” said D’Alessio, “Our results showed that the effect of a child’s genetic status on the likelihood of physical injury was in the opposite direction as predicted by sociobiology.” In fact, the stepchildren were less likely to be physically injured than the biological children. D’Alessio notes that these findings raise more questions for future research, and that that exploration should consider that many incidents of abuse are never reported. Methods to ascertain more reliable and valid abuse rates should be investigated in future work in this area.
D’Alessio, Stewart J., PhD, and Lisa Stolzenberg. (2012). Stepchildren, community disadvantage, and physical injury in a child abuse incident: A preliminary investigation. Violence and Victims 27.6 (2012): 860-70. ProQuest. Web.
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