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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, February 23, 2009

IU professor's book advocates "first principles" in child maltreatment law

Feb. 23, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's time for the U.S. legal system to re-emphasize "first principles," including protection of individual and family rights, in laws dealing with the abuse and neglect of children, Indiana University Bloomington faculty member Roger J.R. Levesque writes in a new book.

Roger Levesque

Roger Levesque

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Levesque, professor and chair in the Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the author of Child Maltreatment and the Law: Returning for First Principles. It is the first book-length attempt to integrate principles of family law with developments in U.S. civil and criminal justice.

The book, published by Springer, examines trends and developments in legal regulation of family life and legal responses to child maltreatment, and concludes with a call for affirming foundational principles and developing legal mechanisms that better recognize and respect basic rights.

Levesque describes how the child welfare system developed as an alternative to the criminal system, which was seen as not sufficiently focused on the welfare of children. But especially in the past 20 years, he said, civil law has reacted to dramatic cases of child abuse and neglect by making it more likely that authorities will intervene in family relations.

"The system is a lot more interventionist, and less protective of people's rights," he said.

Levesque says the child welfare system is less focused than it should be on causes of child maltreatment, such as poverty and a lack of education about effective parenting. "The system has started to discriminate against certain groups -- for example, minorities and the poor," he said.

He adds that informal processes for resolving child welfare disagreements, such as alternative dispute resolution, can be unfair to families who don't have strong legal representation or a sophisticated understanding of the law.

Levesque received his law degree from Columbia University School of Law and his doctorate in cultural psychology from the University of Chicago. Before joining the IU Department of Criminal Justice, he was a professor of law and psychology at the University of Arizona and was a fellow in the Law & Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

His previous books include Adolescents, Media, and the Law (2007), which recently won the American Psychology-Law Society Outstanding Book Award, and Not by Faith Alone: Religion, Law and Adolescence (2002), which won the Society for Research on Adolescence Outstanding Book Award.

To speak to Levesque, contact Steve Hinnefeld at IU's University Communications, 812-856-3488 or