An Apparent Correspondence Between Abuse and Corruption In Maps

From violent child discipline to spousal abuse, child abuse predicts corruption.

As so often happens for me, article ideas come to me in serendipity. I was just minding my own business on Twitter this morning when I saw this map from Transparency International, an organization dedicated to documenting and stopping corruption around the world:

From their website:

From villages in rural India to the corridors of power in Brussels, Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.

As a global movement with one vision, we want a world free of corruption. Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality.

They appear to be a great source of information on corruption, and they are now celebrating their 25th year in existence. But that map. I’ve seen something like that before. I’ve seen it in maps of child abuse. I can tell you that it’s hard to find a good map of the overall ratings of countries based on child abuse data. Here’s one from The Economist:

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When we compare the two maps above, we see a very rough correlation between corruption and child abuse. Where you see blue, you see very safe places for children, with a corresponding lack of corruption in the other map above. Where you see orange, you see higher rates of abuse, less child safety. Now it’s not an exact correlation, but it’s close enough to recognize a pattern.

The correlation is much stronger when we look at the abuse of women. The map below is from Wikipedia and shows the prevalence of physical abuse of women around the world:

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Here we can see that there is a very strong correlation between corruption and the lack of physical security for women. I think we have a better map here because there is much better self-reporting of abuse. Adult women have a greater capacity to report abuse than children do.

I also found a map that explains why in some countries, little or no data is reported. The Child Rights International Network has tallied which countries have non-governmental organizations observing children’s access to justice:

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Here we also see a rough correlation between corruption and children’s access to justice. Where there is less access to justice for kids and few or no observers, there is a rough correlation to corruption, after all, if adults are corrupt and unaccountable, then children will model that behavior.

Child abuse data is hard to collect and there isn’t much money in it. Furthermore, there is a clear lack of incentive to collect it as there is a great deal of shame around child abuse.

But it is clear to me from these charts that there is a correlation between child abuse and corruption later in adult life. This is probably not a very popular topic since we tend to think that corruption arises out of nowhere and as a culture, we’d much rather punish those who are corrupt than to acknowledge that corruption is learned behavior from a caregiver or other models in the lives of children.

In my experience of the news, current events and as a parent, I’ve never, ever seen punishment solve a problem. I believe in restraint, not punishment. That is to say that it’s proper to restrain someone who poses a danger to themselves or others, and with adults and adolescents, that might involve incarceration. The problem with punishment is that punishment, in and of itself, doesn’t teach any productive or useful skills.

Child abuse is partly about punishment. Corporal punishment and psychological punishment are adult imposed solutions to problems encountered by children. They don’t actually teach the skill of problem-solving to kids. Corporal punishment teaches totalitarian style governance. So if you want your kids to be free…

Child abuse, from human trafficking to slavery doesn’t teach any skills, either. Rather, the people who commit those kinds of crimes are imposing the fate of their own childhood upon others. They either saw it modeled as normal behavior or were abused themselves. This is a cycle of abuse and the only way for us to stop it is to disclose the abuse, document it and teach people the skills required to get their needs met without infringing on the rights of others.

With compassion, practice, and disclosure, we can do better.

Write on.

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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