Representations of the ‘damaged’ child: ‘child saving’ in a British children’s charity ad campaign

O'Dell, Lindsay (2008). Representations of the ‘damaged’ child: ‘child saving’ in a British children’s charity ad campaign. Children and Society, 22(5) pp. 383–392.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1099-0860.2007.00114.x

Abstract

This article discusses the representation of abused children as 'damaged', drawing on a series of three advertising campaigns for a British children's charity. The pictures and text of the advertisements seek to elicit readers' concern for abused children by portraying them (a) as passive agents in their development and (b) as signifiers of the dangers of the world and the safeness of the home. The portrayal of abused children in the advertisements serves to reinforce a perception of the vulnerability of all children and the need for adult supervision and 'care'. Without seeking to dismiss the seriousness of abuse or of the work done by children's charities, the article questions the implications of these representations of childhood and 'damage', and argues that the dominant representation of abused children drawn on in such campaigns oversimplifies many complexities in the worlds and the lives of children who have been abused.

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