“What's love got to do with this?” The construction of love in forensic interviews following child abuse

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The research on child abuse (CA) had had enormous impact on both policy and practice worldwide. In developing ways of protecting abused children, risk is often discussed, whereas the concept of love is clearly missing. The conceptual framework of the current study is that love is embedded in the context of abuse. Therefore, it examines the use of that concept in forensic interviews with abused children. Eighty-two interviews were selected out of all forensic interviews conducted with children sexually or physically abused by a parent in Israel in 2015, and thematically analyzed. Children spontaneously discussed the concept of love for the abusive parent in three contexts: attempting to make sense of the abusive incidents; difficulties to elaborate on the abusive incidents; and the outcomes of disclosure. Conversely, the forensic interviewers tended to avoid addressing the concept of love as raised by the children. The current study highlights how love is an essential part of the relationship of abused children with their abusive parents, and that practitioners must acknowledge its centrality in this multifaceted relationship. Finally, the findings stress the importance of further exploring the concept of love in the context of child abuse, as it has the potential to promote forensic evaluation and decision making in these cases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105223
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Child abuse
  • Children and parents
  • Forensic interview
  • Love

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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