Child abuse is the intentional use of physical force or intentional omission of care by a parent or caretaker that causes a child to be hurt, maimed, or killed. Child abuse covers a wide range of harmful actions, which generally vary with the age of the child, Infants and preschool children are most likely to suffer deliberately inflicted fractures, burns, and bruises. In 1997, over 3 million children were reported for child abuse and neglect to child protective service agencies in the United States.
This figure represents a 1. 7% increase over the number of children reported in 1996. Child abuse reporting levels have increased 41% between 1988 and 1997. In 1997, 1,054,000 children were confirmed by Child Protective Services as victims of child maltreatment. This represents 15 out of every 1,000 U. S. citizens (Wang). A recent survey commissioned by Prevent Child Abuse America found the following when surveying parents randomly by telephone. Thirty seven percent of American parents had reported insulting or swearing at their children within the past twelve months.
Fifty percent of the parents had neglected their child’s emotional needs, with sixty percent of the respondents indicating that this neglect took place “almost every day. ” Six percent had hit, or tried to hit their children with their hands or with a foreign object. One percent had kicked, bit or punched their children within the last twelve months (Wang). It may not sound alarming to say that one percent of parents report that they have kicked, bit or punched their children, but one percent of the estimated 103 million parents of children under 17 years of age still amounts to a large number of children.
If you stop and think this only accounts for the parents who admit engaging in these behaviors, who knows how many more do it and do not admit to it. There are different forms of child abuse. Among them are physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. According to the 1997 survey, physical abuse represented 22% of confirmed cases, sexual abuse 8%, neglect 54%, emotional maltreatment 4% and other forms of maltreatment 12%. The most eye-opening statistic is that more than three children die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect.
Child abuse is a real problem that plagues our society. Physical abuse, which constitutes twenty two percent of all substantial cases of child abuse, is the most visible form of abuse and may be defined as any act, which results in a non-accidental trauma or physical injury. Inflicted physical injury most often represents unreasonable, severe corporal punishment or unjustifiable punishment. This usually happens when a frustrated or angry parent strikes shakes or throws a child. Physical abuse injuries result from punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.
While any of these injuries can occur accidentally when a child is at play, physical abuse should be suspected if the explanations do not fit the injury or if a pattern of frequency is apparent. The longer the abuse continues, the more serious the injuries to the child and the more difficult it is to eliminate the abusive behavior(Sedlak). Children who have been physically abused present with a multitude of psychiatric disturbance. Some of these may include anxiety, aggressive behavior, PTSD, depressive disorder, and poor self-esteem.
If not treated for the abuse these children may become abusive parents themselves. What makes people abuse children? It is difficult to imagine that any person would intentionally inflict harm on his or her own child. Many times, physical abuse is a result of excessive discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate for the child’s age. The parent may simply be unaware of the magnitude of force with which he or she strikes a child. Most parents want to be good parents but sometimes lose control and are unable to cope.
Factors which contribute to child abuse include the immaturity of parents, lack of parenting skills, unrealistic expectations about children’s behavior and capabilities, a parent’s own negative childhood experience, social isolation, frequent family crises and drug or alcohol problems. Child abuse is a symptom that parents are having difficulty coping with their situation. One particular form of child abuse is Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaken Baby Syndrome is when a baby is vigorously shaken, the head moves back and forth.
The sudden whiplash motion can cause bleeding inside the head and increased pressure on the brain, causing the brain to pull apart and resulting in injury to the baby. This is one of the leading forms of fatal child abuse. A baby’s head and neck are susceptible to head trauma because his or her muscles are not fully developed and the brain tissue is exceptionally fragile. Head trauma is the leading cause of disability among abused infants and children(Sedlak). Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs most frequently in infants younger than six months old, yet can occur up to the age of three.
Often there are no obvious outward signs if inside injury, particularly in the head or behind the eyes. In reality, shaking a baby, even for only a few seconds, can injure the baby for life. These injuries can include brain swelling and damage, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, developmental delays, blindness, hearing loss, and death. When a child is shaken in anger and frustration, the force is multiplied five or ten times than it would be if the child had simply tripped and fallen. Shaken Baby Syndrome often occurs because a frustrated parent or care giver feels that shaking a baby is a harmless way to make the child stop crying.
The number one reason a baby is shaken is because of inconsolable crying. Almost 25 percent of all babies with Shaken Baby Syndrome die. It is estimated that 25-50 percent of parents and caretakers are not aware of the effects of shaking a baby(Sedlak). Emotional abuse, which is four percent of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is commonly defined as the systematic tearing down of another human being. It is considered a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child’s positive development.
Emotional abuse is probably the least understood of all child abuse, yet it is the most prevalent, and can be the cruelest and most destructive of all types of abuse. Emotional abuse attacks the psyche and self-concept and because of this the victim comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection. Children who are constantly shamed, humiliated, terrorized or rejected suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they had been physically assaulted. An infant who is being severely deprived of basic emotional nurturing, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die.
Less severe forms of early emotional deprivation may produce babies who grow into anxious and insecure children who are slow to develop or who might have low self-esteem(Hopper). There are different types of emotional abuse, which are as follows: 1. ) Rejecting- Parents who lack the ability to bond will often display rejecting behavior toward a child. They tell a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted. They must also tell the child to leave, call him or her names and tell the child he or she is worthless. They may not talk to or hold the young child as he or she grows.
The child may become the family scapegoat, being blamed for all the family’s problems. 2. ) Ignoring – Adults who have had few of their emotional needs met are often unable to respond to the needs of their children. They may not show attachment to the child or provide nurture. They may show no interest in the child, express affection or even recognize the child’s presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable. 3. ) Terrorizing – Parents may single out one child to criticize and punish. They may ridicule him or her for displaying normal emotions and have expectations far beyond his or her normal abilities.
The child may be threatened with death, mutilation or abandonment. 4. ) Isolating – A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers. For example, the parents may keep a baby in his or her room, not exposed to stimulation or they may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Parents may require the child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, or restrict eating to isolation or seclusion. 5.
) Corrupting – Parents permit children to use drugs or alcohol; to watch cruel behavior toward animals or to watch pornographic materials and adult sex acts. Parents may also permit children to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, prostitution or gambling(Hopper). Other types of abuse are usually identifiable because marks or other physical evidence are left; however, emotional abuse can be very hard to diagnose or even to define. In some instances, an emotionally abused child will show no signs of abuse.
For this reason, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify and stop. This type of abuse leaves hidden scars that manifest themselves in numerous ways. Insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts, withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide and difficulty forming relationships can all be possible results of emotional abuse. It is very difficult for most people to talk about sexual abuse and even more difficult for society as a whole to acknowledge that the sexual abuse of children of all ages, including infants, happens every day in the United States.
It is not an easy phenomenon to define, primarily because permissible childhood behavior varies in accordance with cultural, family and social tolerances. Sexual abuse, which is eight percent of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is defined as the involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children in sexual activities that they do not fully comprehend and therefore to which they are unable to give informed consent and/or which violates the taboos of society (Wang). A more simplistic definition would be abuse that involves any minor child that is intended for the sexual gratification of an adult.
Sexual abuse is any misuse of a child for sexual pleasure or gratification. It has the potential to interfere with a child’s normal, healthy development, both emotionally and physically. Often, sexually victimized children experience severe emotional disturbances from their own feelings of guilt and shame, as well as the feelings which society imposes on them. Sexual abuse most commonly occurs by an individual known by the victim, parent or other family member. Rarely is the abuser a stranger.
Inter familial and incest sexual abuse is difficult to document and manage because the child needs to be protected from additional abuse and coercion to not reveal or deny the abuse, while attempts are made to preserve the family unit. Children themselves may also decide to recant their recent accusations of abuse due to fear of retaliation by the perpetrator or other family members. They may also recant out of fear of losing contact with the perpetrator who is commonly a family member or close friend tied to the family by various social means (Anderson).
At the extreme end of the spectrum, sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse or its deviations. These behaviors may be the final acts in a worsening pattern of sexual abuse. For this reason and because of their devastating effects, exhibitionism, fondling and any other sexual contact with children are also considered sexually abusive. Non touching sexual abuse offenses include – Indecent exposure/exhibitionism – Exposing children to pornographic material – Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse- Masturbation in front of a child. Touching sexual offenses include – Fondling
– Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs – Any penetration of a child’s vagina or anus by an object that doesn’t have a medical purpose. Sexual exploitation offenses include: – Engaging a child for the purpose of prostitution – Using a child to film, photograph or model pornography. In 1991, out of 832,882 cases of child abuse reported to the National Child Abuse Data System, fifteen percent was sexual abuse. The data shows the differences in sexual abuse among females verses males. The reports indicate that 12-38% of the females abused were sexually abused by the age of eighteen.
It also shows that only 8% incidence of extra familial sexual abuse is actually reported and only 2% of incidence of intra-familial sexual abuse are actually reported. The data also indicated the 3-9% of males in the population were sexually abused by the age of 18 and that males constitute 20% of the reports. It is believed that the numbers are probably higher but boys may refrain from reporting the incident due to homophobic social stigma. Also, males are “expected” to be able to protect themselves from assault, boys may feel guilty if they are victimized (Anderson).
Upon researching this topic, I found a list of statistics that show the most common offenders and situations where sexual abuse occurs. The information I found is as follows: 1. 97% are males who are on the average 10 years older than their victims. 2. Females are more often perpetrators in child-care settings, including baby sitting. 3. Abuse by females may be higher than reported due to younger children confusing sexual abuse with normal hygiene care and adolescent males may not be trained to recognize sexual activity with an older female as a form of abuse. 4.
Sexual abuse by stepfathers is five times higher than among natural fathers, the most common age for onset of abuse is age 10. 5. Abuse of daughters by fathers and stepfathers is the most common form of reported incest. Commonly the mother is unavailable to the father and is usually chronically ill or depressed. The mother is commonly the victim of child abuse when young(AAPC). Sexual abuse can damage not only the victim but also the family as a whole. For example, when a stepfather or father sexually abuses the daughter and this becomes known, the mother in most cases leaves the perpetrator.
There are also some cases where the mother will be in denial of the abuse and decide to stay with the perpetrator. In either case the family as a unit is broken down and is in need of a lot of repair. The victim needs extensive counseling to deal with her feelings of shame, guilt, and betrayal. She also may need work on trust issues, especially with her mother. The questions she may have are why did you let this happen to me, and if the mother stays with the perpetrator even more issues become apparent.
The mother also grieves and needs counseling to be able to accept her part in it and help her daughter get through it. I’m not saying only sexual abuse breaks up a family. All abuse can, but when a child is sexually abused it totally strips her or him of their innocence and security and these are difficult things to get over. Child neglect, which is 54% of all substantial cases of child abuse, is the most common form of child maltreatment reported to child protective services.
It is defined as a “type of maltreatment that refers to the failure to provide needed age-appropriate care,” such as shelter, food, clothing, education, supervision, medical care and other basic necessities needed for development of physical, intellectual and emotional capacities (Hopper). Unlike physical and sexual abuse, neglect is usually justified by an ongoing pattern of inadequate care and is easily noticed by people having close contact with the child. I feel that the biggest reason for neglect is that in most cases the parents or care givers are abusing drugs or alcohol. There are different types of neglect, which are as follows:
1. Physical Neglect – accounts for the majority of cases of maltreatment. The definition includes the refusal of or extreme delay in seeking necessary health care, child abandonment, inadequate supervision, rejection of a child leading to expulsion from the home, and failing to adequately provide for the child’s safety and physical and emotional needs. Physical neglect can severely impact a child’s development by causing failure to thrive, malnutrition, serious illnesses, physical harm in the form of cuts, bruises and burns due to the lack of supervision and a lifetime of low self-esteem.
2. Educational Neglect – occurs when a child is allowed to engage in chronic truancy, is of mandatory school age but not enrolled in school or receiving needed special educational training. Educational neglect can lead to underachievement in acquiring necessary basic skills, dropping out of school and/or continually disruptive behavior. In Miami, Florida, a mother was arrested because her two daughters missed too much school. She is the first parent in the state arrested in a growing crackdown on truancy. The state’s attorney’s office said that Mindy Viera has two daughters, ages 15 and 13.
Records show that the older girl was absent 101 times, 74 unexcused; the younger girl was absent 79 times, 63 unexcused (New York Times). This is a perfect example of educational neglect. In my eyes there is no reason for any child to miss that much school unless they are severely ill, which these two children were definitely not. Maybe what Florida did is a good example to set in a way to hold someone accountable for children missing so much school. If more parents were aware that they could be arrested for their children’s truancy they would be more likely not to allow it from happening.
Mindy Viera, was made an example of that they take educational neglect very seriously and want children to remain in school. Ms. Viera allowed her children to miss school for no reason other than they did not want to go. She made excuses of why they missed school so much but what kind of excuses can she make when they are unable to acquire basic skills. 3. Emotional Neglect – includes such actions as chronic or extreme spousal abuse in the child’s presence, allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol, refusal or failure to provide needed psychological care, constant belittling and withholding of affection.
This pattern of behavior can lead to poor self-image, alcohol or drug abuse, destructive behavior and even suicide. Severe neglect of infants can result in the infant failing to grow and thrive and may even lead to infant death. I covered most of this previously in the section on emotional abuse but I will elaborate more, further in the paper, on the idea of spousal abuse while the child’s present and the effects of it. 4. Medical Neglect – is the failure to provide appropriate health care for a child although financially able to do so.
In some cases, a parent or caretaker will withhold traditional medical care during the practice of religious beliefs. These cases generally do not fall under the definition of medical neglect, however, some states will obtain a court order forcing medical treatment of a child in order to save a child’s life or prevent life threatening injury resulting from the lack of treatment. Medical neglect can result in poor overall health and compounded medical problems. I found a case that to me demonstrates medical neglect or abuse but it does not follow the guidelines that were just described. The case is as follows.
Kathy Bush of Florida was sentenced to prison for making her daughter so sick that the girl’s gall bladder, appendix and part of her intestines had to be removed. By 1996, Jennifer, the daughter, had been hospitalized 200 times and had undergone about 40 operations. Doctors treated her for seizures, infections, and symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Kathy Bush gave her daughter excessive dosages of seizure medication, tampered with her feeding machine and fabricated symptoms on her medical chart. Bush had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and her daughter suffered medically as a result (New York Post).
Neglect seems to be the largest type of child abuse today. It seems that social service agencies are taking children away from their parents due to neglect. Not only does neglect hurt the child but it also may result in the separation from a child’s biological family. If the child is taken from his or her parents due to neglect they may be put in foster care if no other family member is suitable. So, what this says to me is that the child suffers enormously because they endure the abuse over time then the abuse may stop but then they may be taken from the parents and put with complete strangers.
Then they may suffer separation anxiety. Domestic violence is yet another form of child abuse. What is domestic violence? Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners. The U. S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of reported assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women(Carlson). Domestic violence is a widespread problem with long-term consequences to the victim and all family members as well as to the abuser.
Violence in the home has been listed as a major factor contributing to the growth of reports of child abuse and neglect. Domestic violence often includes child abuse. Children may be victimized and threatened as a way of punishing and controlling the adult victim of domestic violence. They may also be injured unintentionally when acts of violence occur in their presence. Often episodes of domestic violence expand to include attacks on children. However, even when children are not directly attacked, they can experience serious emotional damage as a result of living in a violent household.
Children living in this environment come to believe that this behavior is acceptable. The estimated overlap between domestic violence and child physical or sexual abuse ranges from 30 to 50 percent. Some shelters report that the first reason many battered women give for fleeing the home is that the abuser was also attacking the children. Victims report multiple concerns about the effects of spousal abuse on their children(Strauss). In researching this topic, I came across facts and figures on kids and domestic violence. The facts and figures are as follows:
– Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where there is domestic violence. – Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality for males. – More than 3 million children witness acts of domestic violence each year. – Children witnessing domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide, are 24 times more likely to commit sexual assault, are 60 times more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior, and are 1000 times more likely to be abusers. – The more conflict between divorcing parents, the greater the child’s distress and dysfunctional behavior.
– Child abuse usually begins after domestic violence. – In general, 70% of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children. – 80% of men who abuse their female partners threaten to abuse their children. – The more severe the abuse of the mother, the worse the child abuse. – Over 3 million children are at risk of exposure to parental violence each year. – Boys who witness family violence are more likely as adults to abuse their partners than are boys from non-violent homes. Girls who witness their mothers being abused have a higher rate of being abused as adults.
– As violence against women becomes more severe and more frequent in the home, children experience a 300% increase in physical violence by the male batterer. – Children from violent families can describe abusive incidents their parents never realized they had witnessed (Carlson). I found these figures to be very disturbing, especially because they are true. The subject of domestic violence goes hand and hand with child abuse. What are the similarities between families involved in domestic violence and families involved in child abuse? The two populations share several similarities.
Both forms of abuse cross all boundaries of economic level, race, ethnic, heritage, and religious faith. Neither child abuse nor domestic violence is a phenomenon of the Twentieth Century. Children have been physically traumatized, deprived of the necessities of life, and molested sexually by adults since the dawn of human history. Traditionally, parents claimed ownership of their children and society hesitated to interfere with the family unit. Similarly, society in the past has sanctioned the belief that men have the right to use whatever force is necessary to control the behavior of women.
Those in intimate relationships as well as those who abuse children often are repeating learned behaviors. Both forms of abuse are identified by patterns. Neither domestic violence or child abuse is an isolated event. Both occur with some regularity, often increasing and becoming more serious. Adults who were abused as children have an increased risk of abusing their children, and adults who grew up in a violent home are more likely to become perpetrators or victims of domestic violence.
For a number of reasons including shame, secrecy and isolation, both types of abuse are under reported(Strauss). Domestic violence and child abuse also differ in some significant ways. Parental stress is an important factor in instances of child abuse, but this link has not been established in cases of domestic violence. Reported perpetrators of child maltreatment, are equally men and women, but the majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are men. How much a society values its children can be measured by how well their children are treated.
The fact that more than three children a day dies from physical abuse or chronic neglect in the United States calls into question America’s commitment to its young, especially as many of these deaths are preventable. According to information from 34 states representing 67. 3% of the U. S. population under the age of 18, an estimated 1,215 child maltreatment deaths were confirmed by child protective service agencies in 1995. Over three children died each day last year as a result of parental maltreatment(Chaffin). So, what can we do to prevent child abuse from occurring?
Improving the ability of child protective service agencies to assist their client by reducing caseloads, expanding training of caseworkers, and funding more treatment services for victims will help reduce fatalities. Child protective services, however, cannot prevent all fatalities single-handedly. Other formal institutions such as schools and hospitals as well as informal, personal networks should play an active role in identifying and assessing families at risk of abusive or neglectful behavior. Also, alcohol and drug treatment services need to be expanded and made more accessible to pregnant and parenting women.
One of the most promising prevention strategies for reducing early childhood injuries is the provision of comprehensive home health visitors to all expectant and new mothers, or at the very least, to mothers in high-risk neighborhoods. Such services offer instruction and support regarding prenatal care, parenting skills, household management, and coping with environmental dangers. A program that does all of these things to help parenting mothers is called the parent aide program. Parent aides are professionally trained individuals who become a friend and role model to parents who need help in dealing with life’s daily challenges.
Parent aides teach parents to be more loving and responsible to their children. They provide support and encouragement model normal ways of parenting. They provide genuine and caring friendships, focus on the good qualities of the parents, serve as an outside social control to stop abuse immediately, and address special needs of the family by referring them to community agencies when necessary. Child protective workers, community professionals and parents recognize the effectiveness of the parent aide service model. Parent aides help parents learn to build their self-confidence, self-esteem and coping skills.
Many parents benefit by understanding the developmental needs of their children, while learning how to manage their home environment more effectively. Parent aides also teach parents how to make social contacts and to use community resources. As supportive, caring individuals, parent aides often make the critical difference in enabling parents to succeed. This form of primary prevention demonstrates not only a social commitment to a child’s well being from the point of birth, but also a strong commitment to the welfare of society(Chaffin). It is also important to prevent domestic violence because of link to child abuse it has.
Domestic violence and child abuse proliferate in an environment that accepts the lesser status of women and children. Keeping the violence in secrecy allows this behavior to continue. Educating the public about the extent of the problem establishes a foundation that permits victims to come forward. Prevention efforts are as follows: 1. Educate health and child welfare agencies about the prevalence of domestic violence and its effects on children. 2. Involve the community in a multi-disciplinary approach to provide intervention and prevention services to those families in need. 3.
Educate the public about domestic violence and child abuse and the long-term costs to society. 4. Provide access to self-help groups and other supportive services for all perpetrators, victims, and survivors of abuse. 5. Educate all that work with children and families, including teachers, service providers, and health care professionals about the interplay between domestic violence and child abuse(AAPC). The biggest key to help families that play victim to domestic violence or child abuse is to work on the family as a whole. Counseling is an essential piece to help the family come together as a unit.
Child abuse affects the entire family, either by witnessing it or being a victim of it. It is important to remember just because the abuse may stop does not mean the problem is gone. In order to prevent children, that are victims of abuse, from growing up and abusing their children, it is imperative that the victim receives supportive services. We as a society need to work together to prevent abuse from happening. The United States needs to make a stronger commitment to their children otherwise we will not have a future generation.