Brandt F Steele

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 03 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:541

Psychiatrist who helped define “the battered-child syndrome” and spearhead the protection movement

Brandt Steele played an instrumental role in the creation of the child protection movement, devoting his life's work to the quest for understanding child abuse and developing rational and humanistic treatments. He was well known for taking his time to interview parents and carers fully to understand each individual case.

At the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting in 1961, Steele and C Henry Kempe, a paediatrician and close colleague, organised a plenary session on what they named “the battered-child syndrome.” The session took up one morning of the programme and more than 1000 paediatricians attended it. Experts in the child abuse field remember it as a watershed moment when people realised that something had to be done to help the parents and the children.

The panel's findings were published the following year in the 7 July 1962 Journal of the American Medical Association. The journal ranked the article among the 50 most important medical papers of the 20th century. In it, the …

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