In legal culture, as in areas of expert knowledge, especially those of sociology and psychology, the international debate about the physical and psychological violence inflicted by parents on their children has reached considerable proportions, being expressed in a broad variety of opinions, appraisals and proposals for plans to intervene on behalf of the victims and against the perpetrators of this violence. Setting out to describe this debate and making ample reference to foreign literature, the article highlights the presence of a substantial degree of agreement in legal culture about the need for the law to forbid parents expressly to subject their children to humiliating and degrading treatments when exercising their function of care and upbringing. The opinions expressed in areas of expert knowledge, on the other hand, appear to be more conflicting and controversial with regard both to the semantic scope of the concept of family violence and to an understanding of the social and cultural factors underlying parents’ violent behaviour towards their children. This disparity of opinions is reflected in practice in the choices of potential models for treating and for counteracting such behaviours (politically, socially, administratively and judicially). The article stresses in particular the need not to neglect the correlation, detected in numerous empirical research projects, between disorganisation and social vulnerability and a degree of exercise of parental responsibility considered to be morally insufficient.
Keywords: Physical and psychological violence, Parental responsibility, Legal culture, Expert knowledge