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Elder mistreatment, ageism, and human rights

  • Simon Biggs (a1) and Irja Haapala (a2) (a3)

Background: Elder mistreatment, social ageism, and human rights are increasingly powerful discourses in positioning older people in society, yet the relationship between them has rarely been subjected to critical investigation. This perceived relationship will have implications for how mistreatment is understood and responded to.

Method: Critical gerontological approach based on narrative and textual analysis.

Results: Reports of public attitudes toward mistreatment suggest that it is thought to be more common than scientific evidence would suggest; however, reporting is much lower than prevalence. While the discourse over mistreatment has tended to focus on interpersonal relationships, ageism has emphasized social attitudes, and human rights have concentrated on relations between the state and the individual.

Conclusions: In this paper, a series of models have been examined which mark a tendency to restrict and then attempt to reintegrate individual, interpersonal, and social levels of analysis. It is concluded that a focus on the processes of transaction across boundaries rather than contents would facilitate both integrative modeling and deeper understanding of the qualities of abusive situations.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Professor Simon Biggs, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia. Phone: +61-3-94831368; Fax: +61-3-9417 2691. Email:
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S. Biggs and I. Haapala (2010). Theoretical development and elder mistreatment: the management of socio-emotional boundaries. Ageing International, 35, 171184.

S. Biggs , J. Manthorpe , A. Tinker , M. Doyle and B. Erens (2009a). Mistreatment of older people in the United Kingdom: finding from the first national prevalence study. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 21, 114.

I. A. Connidis and J. A. McMullin (2002). Sociological ambivalence and family ties; a critical perspective. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 64, 558567.

I. Doron and I. Apter (2010). The debate around the need for an international convention on the rights of older persons. The Gerontologist, 50, 586593.

F. Mégret (2011). The human rights of older persons: a growing challenge. Human Rights Law Review, 11, 3766.

R. E. Morgan and S. David (2002). Human rights: a new language for aging advocacy. Gerontologist, 42, 436442.

M. Nussbaum (2003). Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: sen and social justice. Feminist Economics, 9, 3359.

J. R. Parra-Cardona , E. Meyer , L. Schiamberg and L. Post (2007). Elder abuse and neglect in latino families: an ecological and culturally relevant theoretical framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 46, 451470.

K-L. Tang (2008). Taking older people's rights seriously: the role of international law. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 20, 99117.

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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics
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