According to Gelles and Cavanaugh (2005):
“Until the early 1960’s, violence between family members was believed to be rare and committed only by the mentally ill or by disturbed and defective individuals. Only the most sensational and lurid cases of family violence received public attention, and, in general, although family violence was considered a significant personal problem, it was not believed to be widespread, nor was it viewed as a significant social problem” (p.129).
After extensive research, it appears that the wide variation of what constitutes abuse and neglect has led to disagreements of the frequencies of abuse (Gelles & Cavanaugh (2005). Even today, abuse may go unreported by witnesses because they feel it is personal matter and none of their business.
The frequencies of abuse of neglect can be difficult to decipher due to cultural perspectives. For more on this issue see Domestic Violence and The Cycle of Abuse