A Social Approach for Understanding a Social Problem
A social or critical perspective keeps the contextual, relational, and linguistic constitution of social issues to the fore, and is also mindful of the political and social consequences of particular linguistic constructions in social life. This perspective is important for the study of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, as much public and professional commentary has a tendency to individualize the problem, ignoring the political and cultural context in which the abuse and its management takes place, and the professional and political discourses in which the subject is narrated. The topics discussed in this chapter and the questions they raise provide a corrective to the more individually focused work discussed in . The chapter aims to put the “social” back into a consideration of social problems, and in this regard three main topics are central to this endeavor. The discursive constitution of social problems stresses the importance of language and power relations in how social problems take their form. The changing understanding of child abuse situates the abuse of children in the context of evolving understanding of childhood and of sexuality and the family. The section on creating offending identities places discussion of the child sexual offender in the context of wider international debates on how identity is constructed and on crime and criminal policy in general.
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