However, the process of a condition evolving into a social problem is a different story.
Child abuse, for example, came to the attention of the public in the 1870s when the abuse of a specific young girl was "discovered." The case was made by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that this young girl should not be abused because she was technically an animal .
Whether this is indeed true or fiction, it points to the fact that until parties make claims about the deleterious nature of a condition, it is not a social problem.
As a form of family violence, elder abuse has existed for millennia, although it did not gain public attention until fairly recently.
Anthropologists have described some cultures and societies that abandoned or killed the elderly during times of structural inequalities and tensions .
The picture of a frail elderly parent dependent upon their adult child caregiver was disseminated, and because there was no statute for elder abuse at that time, lawmakers and service providers turned to the child abuse model with its mandatory reporting laws .
In 1974, an amendment to the Social Security Act created the Adult Protective Services (APS).
Out of this practice came the adage "rule of thumb." As recently as the 1970s, a Pennsylvania town had an ordinance that prohibited a husband from beating his wife after 10 p.m. Until the feminist movement focused on the plight of battered women, minimal empirical attention was given to this condition.
However, academic research flourished during this time .
The focus on child abuse waned until the 1960s when Henry Kemp "rediscovered" child abuse, and his article "The Battered Child Syndrome" legitimized it as a social problem [40,94].
The characteristics of this medical syndrome included traumatic injuries to the heads of young children, typically younger than 3 years of age.
To understand the emergence of elder abuse as a social problem, it is helpful to first look at family violence in order to place elder abuse in an historical context.