Sir - We seem to want to take comfort in the belief that child abuse was just as common in the past.
Child abuse to the death is many times more common where the mother was not married to the father and the present boyfriend is not the child's father. Those household arrangements are many times more common than in the past.
We need not depend on theory. The great empirical study of slum life in Victorian England was Charles Booth's survey of the East End of London. Of child abuse he wrote: "I can only speak as I have found: wholesome, pleasant family life … affectionate relationships of husbands and wives, mothers and sons, elders and children."
From 13 volumes of observations, he concluded that this "agreeable picture" applied to 98.75 per cent of the population of East End slums - chosen by him as the worst in England. The "dangerous class" accounted for 1.25 per cent, and these few "fouled the reputation of the poor".
Would that it were 1.25 per cent today. Yet Booth is often quoted as the authority on the social disorder and moral squalor that the welfare state removed.
Norman Dennis, Director of Community Studies, Civitas, London SW1
And the difference today? The destruction of family and natural community as an intentional policy by the powers that be. Such structures were crucial in providing stability and support in the past. The introduction of the 'welfare state' may have been well intentioned, but it started the inexorable slide away from such community-based support structures. This has been exacerbated by policies intentionally designed to further fracture local cohesion, such as the ban on smoking in public houses, which has turned them from centres of the community to empty, soulless places, suitable only for the lagering-up of modern youth.
As ever, the (possibly) well intentioned have wrought havoc by thinking that they know best, and can best 'look after' us all. They can't. A return to the mutual support of years gone by is necessary, and the only way to improve much of the social malaise in our nation. But that would mean a far smaller role for the state, so will be resisted at all costs by Labour and Tory alike.