Child Abuse 2 Essay, Research Paper
Child abuse is the intentional act that result in physical or emotional harm to children. It
covers a wide range of behavior, from actual physical assault by parents or adult caretakers, to
neglect of a child s basic needs. There are several different types: physical, sexual, and emotional
abuse and physical or emotional neglect and children experience more than one form.
The extent of child abuse is difficult to measure and is recognized as a major growing social
problem, especially in industrialized nations. There is no single explanation for child
maltreatment. The effects on a child endures are astronomical. They could last a lifetime
and be passed to the next generation of children.
There are several different types of child abuse, and some children experience more than one
form. Physical abuse includes deliberate acts of violence that injure or even kill a child.
Unexplained bruises, broken bones, or burn marks on a child may be signs of physical abuse.
Sexual abuse occurs when adults use children for sexual gratification or expose them to sexual
activities. Sexual abuse may begin with kissing or fondling and progress to more intrusive sexual
acts, such as oral sex and vaginal or anal penetration. Emotional abuse destroys a child s self-
esteem. Such abuse commonly includes repeated verbal abuse of a child in the form of shouting,
threats, and degrading or humiliating criticism. Other types of emotional abuse are confinement,
such as shutting a child in a dark closet, and social isolation, such as denying a child friends.
The most common form of child abuse is neglect. Physical neglect involves a parent s failure
to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care to a child. It may also include
inadequate supervision and a consistent failure to protect a child from hazards or danger. Emotional
neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker fails to meet a child s basic needs for affection and
comfort. Examples of emotional neglect include behaving in a cold, distant, and unaffectionate way
toward a child, allowing a child to witness chronic or severe spousal abuse, allowing a child to use
alcohol or drugs, and encouraging a child to engage in delinquent behavior. Another form of neglect
involves failing to meet a child s basic education needs, either by failing to enroll a child in school
or by permitting a child to skip school frequently.
Many people have difficulty understanding why any person would hurt a child. The public
often assumes that people who abuse their children suffer from mental illness, but fewer than 10
percent of abusers have mental illnesses. Most abusers love their children but tend to have less
patience and less mature personalities than other parents. These traits make it difficult to cope with
the demands of their children and increase the likelihood of physical or emotional abuse.
However, there is no single explanation for child maltreatment. Child abuse results from a
complex combination of personal, social, and cultural factors. These may be grouped into four
primary categories: (1) intergenerational transmission of violence, (2) social stress, (3) social
isolation and low community involvement, and (4) family structure.
Intergenerational Transmission of Violence
Many children learn violent behavior from their parents and then grow up to abuse their own
children. Thus, the abusive behavior is transmitted across generations. Studies show that some 30
percent of abused children become abusive parents, whereas only 2 to 3 percent of all individuals
become abusive parents. Children who experience abuse and violence may adopt this behavior as
a model for their own parenting.
However, the majority of abused children do not become abusive adults. Some experts
believe that an important predictor of later abuse is whether the child realizes that the behavior was
wrong. Children who believe they behaved badly and deserved the abuse become abusive parents
more often than children who believe their parents were wrong to abuse them.
Stress brought on by a variety of social conditions raises the risk of child abuse within a
family. These conditions include unemployment , illness, poor housing conditions, a larger-than-
average family size, the presence of a new baby or a disabled person in the home, and the death of
a family member. A large majority of reported cases of child abuse come from families living in
poverty. Child abuse also occurs in middle-class and wealthy families, but it is better reported
among the poor for several reasons. Wealthier families have an easier time hiding abuse because
they have less contact with social agencies than poor families. In addition, social workers,
physicians, and others who report abuse subjectively label children from poor families as victims
of abuse more often than children from rich families.
Alcohol and drug use, common among abusive parents, may aggravate stress and stimulate
violent behavior. Certain characteristics of children, such as mental retardation or physical or
developmental disabilities, can also increase the stress of parenting and the risk of abuse.
Social Isolation and Low Community Involvement
Parents and caretakers who abuse children tend to be socially isolated. Few violent parents
belong to any community organizations, and most have little contact with friends or relatives. This
lack of social involvement deprives abusive parents of support systems that would help them deal
better with social or family stress. Moreover, the lack of community contacts makes these parents
less likely to change their behavior to conform with community values and standards.
Cultural factors often determine the amount of community support a family receives. In
cultures with low rates of child abuse, child care is usually considered the responsibility of the
community. That is, neighbors, relatives, and friends help with child care when the parents are
unwilling or unable. In the United States, parents often shoulder child-care demands by themselves,
which may result in a higher risk of stress and child abuse.
Certain types of families have an increased risk of child abuse and neglect. For example,
single parents are more likely to abuse their children than married parents. However, single-parent
families usually earn less money than other families, so this may account for the increased risk of
abuse. Families with chronic marital discord or spousal abuse have higher rates of child abuse than
families without these problems. In addition, families in which either the husband or wife dominates
in making important decisions such as where to live, what jobs to take, when to have children,
and how much money to spend on food and housing have higher rates of child abuse than families
in which parents share responsibility for these decisions.
Effects on Children
The consequences of child abuse and neglect can be devastating and far-reaching. Physical
injuries can range from bruises, scrapes, and burns to brain damage, permanent disabilities, and
death. The psychological effects of abuse and neglect can last a lifetime and may include a lowered
sense of self-worth, an inability to relate to peers, reduced attention span, and learning disorders.
In severe cases, abuse may result in psychiatric disorders like depression, excessive anxiety, or
dissociative identity disorder, as well as an increased risk of suicide . Behavior problems often
develop after abuse, including violence and juvenile crime.
Children who are sexually abused initially may show an unusual interest in sexual organs.
They may demonstrate abnormal behavior, such as public masturbation or public display of their
genitals. Long-term effects may include depression, low self-esteem, and sexual problems, such as
avoidance of sexual contact, confusion about sexuality, or involvement in prostitution.
Despite being abused, the majority of maltreated children do not show signs of extreme
disturbance, and many can cope with their problems. A number of factors help insulate children
from the effects of maltreatment. These include high intelligence, good scholastic achievement,
good temperament, and having close personal relationships.
The growing social problem must some how become manageable. Stricter laws must be
enforced to prevent this ordeal. The impact of abuse is too painful to cope with during one s lifetime.
Society as a whole must join together to protect the children s future, otherwise, they
could become prone to greater violence and pass it on to their next generation.