Child Abuse Essay, Research Paper
A child is just a kid. They are unable to think for themselves or even stop wrongdoing. Parents who take out anger on their kids not only place them in a dangerous position physically, but they harm them emotionally and mentally as well. Child abuse can be described as many different things. One of the more common forms of abuse is neglect. As stated by James W. Vander, in the book Human Development, “neglect is defined as the absence of adequate social, emotional, or physical care.” (Vander, 1997). This could include undernourishment, a mother not paying attention to a sick or hurt child, or even a guardian not sharing happiness with his or her child. Physical abuse is defined by Vander as “nonaccidental physical attack on or injury to children by the individuals caring for them.” (Vander, 1997). This type of abuse is where the hitting, yelling, spanking, and even sexual abuse come into play. Children are not only hurt in the present time of growing up, but in the future as well. This problem of abuse harms many individuals each day, and the repercussions are felt by all of society.
Incidence and Severity
Many people should be worried about this phenomenon because it is very severe. More than three million cases of child abuse are reported each year. That number only reveals the amount of cases REPORTED, let alone all of those that go unreported. The children who are involved live very unhappy lives, but the effects of the abuse will be discussed a little further on. Today’s society has a need to worry about these incidences because child abuse affects it as well. According to Cathy Widom, a personality analyzer, there is a strong chance that a child who was abused as a child will grow up to commit criminal acts. She found that “26 percent of the abused youngsters went on to commit juvenile crimes, 29 percent were arrested as adults, and 11 percent committed violent crimes.” (Widom, 1989). Just recently, the Chicago Tribune released a story regarding a young women who has quite a criminal background. “She pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1988 and to three counts of forgery in 1990.” It was also found that she was “a child victim of sexual assault [and] turned to prostitution and drugs.” (Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1997). The incidences of child abuse have been shown to cause much criminal activity later on in the victim’s life. This is one reason, as if any more were needed, as to why child abuse needs to stop.
State of Knowledge
There are many contributing factors that lead to child abuse. First of all, the life of the parents have a lot to do with abuse. “Research suggests that child abuse is more prevalent among economically disadvantaged families.” (Vander, 1997). But, that finding does not mean that abuse is restricted to the lower class; it is found across the class spectrum. Other factors related to the family that lead up to abuse can include: “high levels of marital conflict, interspousal physical abuse, and job loss. In addition, child abuse is more common among parents suffering from a mental illness and substance addiction.” (Vander, 1997). The above examples are just some of the reasons as to why child abuse may occur, but there are many others as well. Many instances of child abuse have much to do with how much the parent expects from his or her child. One example story goes as follows: “Henry J., in speaking of his sixteen-month old son, Johnny, said, ‘He knows what I mean when I say ‘come here’.’ If he doesn’t come immediately, I go and give him a gentle tug on the ear to remind him of what he’s supposed to do. In the hospital, it was found that Johnny’s ear was lacerated and partially torn away from his head.” (Vander, 1997). Aside from expectations, misunderstanding is another leading cause of child abuse. A mother named Kathy made this important statement: “I have never really felt loved all my life. When the baby was born, I thought he would love me; but when he cried all the time, it meant he didn’t love me, so I hit him.” (Vander, 1997). Some parents also just interpret their childs needs wrong. A child may be crying because he is hungry, and the parent will try to change it’s diaper. When the child continues to cry, the parent may get frustrated and hit the child. It is never the fault of the child when abuse occurs, although it is usually made out to be.
There are many treatment and intervention options that are available for abused children. There are many crisis centers that are available for children in desperate need. They will listen to the story and help out as much as possible. There are also many 1-800 numbers that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These hotlines provide immediate counseling for the children who need it. There will be more information about counseling and how to cope with abuse later on in this discussion.
Implication for Consumer Health
There are obviously many ways in which child abuse affects the family on a whole, but it is more important to look at the ways in which abuse affects the individual. First of all, the most apparent effects are the physical ones. A child can be severely hurt by a beating, a sexual act, or even undernourishment. Johnny, in the above story, is just one example as to how “discipline” went a couple steps too far. Sometimes, children are hurt so badly that they cannot play, sleep, or even attend school. Most times, though, the effects go far beyond the physical ramifications.
All abuse victims experience some kind of mental harm just in the time that they are going through the abuse. “Depression is the most common symptom.” (Ratican, 1994). Other symptoms of the abused include: guilt and shame, relationship issues, denial, repression, and many more. These issues can cause problems not only for the child internally, but many are socially-outcasted as well. If a child has social skills that are inhibited by abuse, they are likely to be out-casted by friends. Many children are quiet, reserved, and very frightened around adults. “Children are likely to blame themselves for their victimization, and distressing events may leave them fearing a reoccurance of these events.” (Armsworth and Holaday, 1994). Children feel that whatever abuse has occurred, it is their fault. They are afraid to act out, for fear that the abuse will begin again. This living in constant fear can cause major problems in the development of social skills. Also, depending on the type of abuse, some children may be very embarrased as to what is going on in their lives. Many children become quiet and reserved, even when the situation calls for exuberance. This confusion and lack of skills can impair a child forever.
The main issue that abused children have to deal with is the long-term effects of the abuse. Many psychological problems and disorders can occur in result of abuse. “The central features are alternating phases or traits intrusive of the phenomena related to the event.” (Armsworth and Holaday, 1994). Some of these traits include flashbacks, nightmares, pangs of emotion, and recurrent recollections of the event. These traits severely alter the life of an adult who was abused as a child. It is important to look at the long-term effects in a more detailed manner.
A main difficulty experienced by an adult that had been abused is that of chronic depression. Depression may enter the lives of many, but it is found to be much more prominent in the lives of the abused. It was found that a childhood “where there was physical contact was associated with a higher incidence of depression and a greater number of depressive episodes.” (Allers et al., 1994). Studies have also shown that survivors of abuse tend to be suicidal or self-abusive. As it was stated before, many of the abused blame themselves for the actions upon them, and they continue to do so in the later years of their life.
One of the problems that has been studied in the area of abuse is the aspect of revictimization. Is a person more susceptible to abuse as an adult? “In her probability sample of 930 women, Russell found that between 33% and 68% of the sexually abused participants were raped later on in adulthood.” (Allers et al., 1994). In addition, people reported that child abuse victims are more likely to be abused later by husbands or other adult partners. There seems to be a high vulnerablity of childhood abuse survivors to be revictimized as adults. This phenomena is important because there is a link between childhood and adult abuse.
Being able to build regular social skills is a major problem in the field of child abuse. Some behaviors include “developmental immaturity, opposition and aggression, withdrawal and passivity, self-deprecation and self-destruction, hypervigilance, and dissociation.” (White and Allers, 1994). These characteristics, plus the lack of other social skills, it is quite hard to develop social relations. Many adolescents and adults are afraid to act out and even speak up, for fear that the abuse may begin again. “The essential task of learning how to modulate emotions is interrupted by an experience of maltreatment…” (Carey et al., 1996). All of these situations affect a person throughout their entire life and withhold them from leading a normal adulthood.
There have been many studies done to attempt to find a way that abuse could be stopped. There really is no way to moniter this occurance, and therefore there is no way to feasibly end it. What researchers have done, however, is to try and provide therapy to the afflicted. One of the treatment methods suggested is that of facilitating disclosure. “Sexual abuse survivors generally seek treatment for the problematic feelings and behaviors caused by the abuse rather than for the abuse itself.” (Ratican, 1994). What Ratican suggests is to help encourage disclosure by “direct inquiry, by obtaining a complete [abuse] history, …, or by asking about best and worst experiences of childhood.” (Ratican, 1994). By doing this, the victim will hopefully be able to express his or her feelings productively. “For many survivors, part of the trauma was the need to keep the secret… The survivor often needs to share the secret with his or her support system, in a group of fellow survivors, or both to experience relief of this burden.” (Ratican, 1994). Many researchers feel that classic therapy is not enough to helpan abuse victim. There needs to be much more involved than paint blobs and talking. Some feel that hypnosis and journal writing are some effective methods. All that is important is that the abuse victims get their repressed feelings out and they are able to accept what happened and move on with their adult life.