Child Abuse Essay, Research Paper
Official definitions of child abuse and child neglect differ among institutions, government bodies and experts. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1988 defines child abuse and neglect as the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, or exploitation, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child under the age of eighteen, or except in the case of sexual abuse, the age specified by the child protection law of the State by a person who is responsible for the child?s welfare is harmed or threatened thereby. The act defines sexual abuse as the use, persuasion, or coercion of any child to engage in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct, rape, molestation, prostitution, or incest with children. The Department of Health and Human Services define different types of abuse.
Physical Abuse is characterized by inflicting physical injury by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, or otherwise harming a child. Although the injury is not an accident, the parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. The injury may have resulted from over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child?s age.
Child Neglect is characterized by failure to provide for the child?s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from home or not allowing a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision. Educational neglect includes permission on chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age, and inattention to a special educational need. Emotional neglect includes such actions as chronic or extreme spouse abuse in the child?s presence, permission of drug or alcohol use by the child, and refusal of or failure to needed psychological care. It is very important to distinguish between willful neglect and a parent or caretaker?s failure to provide necessities of life because of poverty or cultural norms.
Sexual Abuse includes fondling a child?s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and sexual exploitation. To be considered child abuse these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of the child. If a stranger commits these acts, it would be considered sexual assault and handled solely by the police and criminal courts.
Mental Injury includes acts or omissions by the parents or other persons responsible for the child?s care that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. In some cases or emotional/psychological abuse the parental act alone, without any harm evident in the child?s behavior is sufficient to warrant Child Protective Services (CPS) intervention.
Many of the psychological symptoms of abuse can be contradictory ? aggressive in one child, overly compliant behavior in another. Others are, extremely dependent, clinging behavior for another, or a child who is overly mature and attends to the emotional needs of a parent who is incapable of meeting his or her own needs. These different behaviors are possible symptoms of abuse. No one behavior on the part of a child, however, is conclusive evidence of abuse.
Neglect is an act of omission rather that a physical act of commission. While the consequences of child neglect can be just as serious as abuse, neglect receives far less attention. In addition to failing to adequately feed or clothe a child, more devastation kind of neglect is when the parent is psychologically unavailable to the child. A 1984 studied found that abusive mothers were actively involved with their babied but were tense and interfering; neglectful mothers were withdrawn and uninvolved, showed little or no affection, and did not often interact with the child.
Child neglect occurs in a parent who blames external forcers for his or her problems. The child is seen as a source of trouble that the parent, out of ignorance, may not be able to cope with. Unable to handle the situation, the parent may give up and ignore the child.
This affects the child later in life. A Family Violence Researcher found that neglect increases the probability of low social integration, which in turn increases the probability of all types of criminal behavior, including assaults on spouses or parents. In other words, the more neglect suffered in childhood, the lower the degree of social integration, especially as the neglected person ages. The correlations in social integration are consistent, especially in men.
Drs. Isabel Worlock and Bernard Horowitz believe that several historical factors and the relation ship between child neglect and poverty are the major reasons child neglect received far less attention that child abuse. Worlock and Horowitz noted that child abuse was originally defined by a group of doctors as the ?battered child syndrome? and later reported it as an ?illness?. Child maltreatment was presented as a medical problem rooted in the psychological problems of a ?disturbed? parent. As a result, many abuse centers still focus treatment on mental health problems for parents.
The association between poverty and child neglect is very strong, and an unknown amount of maltreatment is a consequence of poverty rather than the result of intentional harm. Worlock and Horowitz blame this on the failure to make the huge investment indeed to improve the general condition of those living in poverty. It is a lot easier and lots less expensive to focus on the children who suffer from sever child abuse. A beaten child, they claim, gets more media attention that a child who is suffering from neglect. Worlock and Horowitz observed, ?Child abuse is a form of overt violence and public interest and concern with violence had become a major preoccupation.?
Worlock and Horowitz concluded that the necessary response ?would include the provision of adequate income, health care, decent housing, safe neighbors, employment programs and other resources that are requisite for a positive family environment.? They argue that, while the current cost may be considered high, the cost in the future will be far higher.
Child abuse is a multifaceted and complex problem. Child abuse is not only a physical violence against children, but also child neglect and sexual abuse. I have learned the characteristics of an abused child. While these characteristics are pretty broad, they convey that, besides the physical signs, some types of behavioral signal that something might be wrong. In addition, I found out the characteristics of parents who are more likely to abuse their children. I also discovered that the first laws against child abuse were passed in the United States as early as 1909. Also, I learned about the modern legislation that is intended to prevent child abuse and punish the abusers.