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Child abuse is the physical or psychological/emotional mistreatment of children[citation needed]. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.[1] Most child abuse occurs in a child's home, with a smaller amount occurring in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing a child from his/her family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm".[2]

Contents

Types

Child abuse can take several forms:[3] The four main types are physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect.[4]

Neglect

Neglect is where the responsible adult fails to provide adequately for various needs, including physical (failure to provide adequate food, clothing, or hygiene), emotional (failure to provide nurturing or affection), educational (failure to enroll a child in school), or medical (failure to medicate the child or take him or her to the doctor).

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. It can involve striking, burning, bruising, choking or shaking a child. Shaking a child can cause a condition called shaken baby syndrome, which can lead to intracranial pressure, swelling of the brain, diffuse axonal injury, and oxygen deprivation; which leads to patterns such as failure to thrive, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, bulging or tense fontanels, altered breathing, and dilated pupils. The transmission of toxins to a child through its mother (such as with fetal alcohol syndrome) can also be considered physical abuse in some jurisdictions.

Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the infliction of physical injuries or actions that place the child in obvious risk of serious injury or death to be illegal. Beyond this, there is considerable variation. The distinction between child discipline and abuse is often poorly defined. Cultural norms about what constitutes abuse vary widely: among professionals as well as the wider public, people do not agree on what behaviors constitute abuse.[5]

Some human-service professionals claim that cultural norms that sanction physical punishment are one of the causes of child abuse, and have undertaken campaigns to redefine such norms.[6]

The use of any kind of force against children as a disciplinary measure is illegal in 24 countries around the world.[7] See corporal punishment in the home for more information.

Child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation.[8][9] Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, physical contact with the child's genitals, viewing of the child's genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography.[8][10][11]

The effects of child sexual abuse include depression,[12] post-traumatic stress disorder,[13] anxiety,[14] propensity to re-victimization in adulthood,[15] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.[16] Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.[17] Child sexual abuse is also strongly connected to the development of complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.[18][19]

Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.[20][21][22][23][24] Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.[20]

Psychological/emotional abuse

Out of all the possible forms of abuse, emotional abuse is the hardest to define. It could include name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or destruction of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation.[25]

Victims of emotional abuse may react by distancing themselves from the abuser, internalizing the abusive words, or fighting back by insulting the abuser. Emotional abuse can result in abnormal or disrupted attachment disorder, a tendency for victims to blame themselves (self-blame) for the abuse, learned helplessness, and overly passive behavior.[25]

Prevalence

According to the (American) National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, in 1997 neglect represented 54% of confirmed cases of child abuse, physical abuse 22%, sexual abuse 8%, emotional maltreatment 4%, and other forms of maltreatment 12%.[26]

A UNICEF report on child wellbeing[27] stated that the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among industrial nations with respect to the wellbeing of children. It also found that child neglect and child abuse were far more common in single-parent families than in families where both parents are present.

In the USA, neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care. Researchers found over 91,000 cases of neglect in one year (from October 2005 to 30 September 2006) using information from a database of cases verified by protective services agencies.[1]

Neglect could also take the form of financial abuse by not buying the child adequate materials for survival.[28]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, "female parents acting alone" were most likely to be perpetrators of child abuse.[29]

Causes

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes.[30] Understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem of child abuse.[31] Parents who physically abuse their spouses are more likely than others to physically abuse their children.[32] However, it is impossible to know whether marital strife is a cause of child abuse, or if both the marital strife and the abuse are caused by tendencies in the abuser.[32]

Substance abuse can be a major contributing factor to child abuse. One U.S. study found that parents with documented substance abuse, most commonly alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, were much more likely to mistreat their children, and were also much more likely to reject court-ordered services and treatments.[33]

Another study found that over two thirds of cases of child maltreatment involved parents with substance abuse problems. This study specifically found relationships between alcohol and physical abuse, and between cocaine and sexual abuse.[34]

In 2009 CBS News reported that child abuse in the United States had increased during the economic recession. It gave the example of a father who had never been the primary care-taker of the children. Now that the father was in that role, the children began to come in with injuries.[35]

Effects

Children with a history of neglect or physical abuse are at risk of developing psychiatric problems,[36][37] or a disorganized attachment style.[38][39][40] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[41] as well as anxiety, depressive, and acting out symptoms.[42][43] A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment.[44][45] When some of these children become parents, especially if they suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative symptoms, and other sequelae of child abuse, they may encounter difficulty when faced with their infant and young children's needs and normative distress, which may in turn lead to adverse consequences for their child's social-emotional development.[46][47] Despite these potential difficulties, psychosocial intervention can be effective, at least in some cases, in changing the ways maltreated parents think about their young children.[48]

Victims of childhood abuse, it is claimed, also suffer from different types of physical health problems later in life. Some reportedly suffer from some type of chronic head, abdominal, pelvic, or muscular pain with no identifiable reason.[49] Even though the majority of childhood abuse victims know or believe that their abuse is, or can be, the cause of different health problems in their adult life, for the great majority their abuse was not directly associated with those problems, indicating that sufferers were most likely diagnosed with other possible causes for their health problems, instead of their childhood abuse.[49]

The effects of child abuse vary, depending on the type of abuse. A 2006 study found that childhood emotional and sexual abuse were strongly related to adult depressive symptoms, while exposure to verbal abuse and witnessing of domestic violence had a moderately strong association, and physical abuse a moderate one. For depression, experiencing more than two kinds of abuse exerted synergetically stronger symptoms. Sexual abuse was particularly deleterious in its intrafamilial form, for symptoms of depression, anxiety, dissociation, and limbic irritability. Childhood verbal abuse had a stronger association with anger-hostility than any other type of abuse studied, and was second only to emotional abuse in its relationship with dissociative symptoms. More generally, in the case of 23 of the 27 illnesses listed in the questionnaire of a French INSEE survey, some statistically significant correlations were found between repeated illness and family traumas encountered by the child before the age of 18 years.[50] These relationships show that inequality in terms of illness and suffering is not only social. It also has its origins in the family, where it is associated with the degrees of lasting affective problems (lack of affection, parental discord, the prolonged absence of a parent, or a serious illness affecting either the mother or father) that individuals report having experienced in childhood.

New research illustrates that there are strong associations between exposure to child abuse in all its forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. The strongest evidence comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE's) series of studies which show correlations between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high-risk health behaviors and shortened lifespan. [51] A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse,[52] makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public-health issue that should be addressed by the healthcare system.

Consequences of physical abuse

Children who are physically abused are likely to receive bone fractures, particularly rib fractures,[53] and may have a higher risk of developing cancer.[54]

Prevention

April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983.[55] U.S. President Barack Obama continued that tradition by declaring April 2009 Child Abuse Prevention Month.[56] One way the Federal government of the United States provides funding for child-abuse prevention is through Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (CBCAP).[57]

Resources for child-protection services are sometimes limited. According to Hosin (2007), "a considerable number of traumatized abused children do not gain access to protective child-protection strategies."[58] Briere (1992) argues that only when "lower-level violence" of children ceases to be culturally tolerated will there be changes in the victimization and police protection of children.[59]

Treatment

A number of treatments are available to victims of child abuse.[60] Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, first developed to treat sexually abused children, is now used for victims of any kind of trauma. It targets trauma-related symptoms in children including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, and anxiety. It also includes a component for non-offending parents. Several studies have found that sexually abused children undergoing TF-CBT improved more than children undergoing certain other therapies. Data on the effects of TF-CBT for children who experienced only non-sexual abuse was not available as of 2006.[60]

Abuse-focused cognitive behavioral therapy was designed for children who have experienced physical abuse. It targets externalizing behaviors and strengthens prosocial behaviors. Offending parents are included in the treatment, to improve parenting skills/practices. It is supported by one randomized study.[60]

Child-parent psychotherapy was designed to improve the child-parent relationship following the experience of domestic violence. It targets trauma-related symptoms in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, including PTSD, aggression, defiance, and anxiety. It is supported by two studies of one sample.[60]

Other forms of treatment include group therapy, play therapy, and art therapy. Each of these types of treatment can be used to better assist the client, depending on the form of abuse they have experienced. Play therapy and art therapy are ways to get children more comfortable with therapy by working on something that they enjoy (coloring, drawing, painting, etc.). The design of a child's artwork can be a symbolic representation of what they are feeling, relationships with friends or family, and more. Being able to discuss and analyze a child's artwork can allow a professional to get a better insight of the child.[61]

Ethics

One of the most challenging ethical dilemmas arising from child abuse relates to the parental rights of abusive parents or caretakers with regard to their children, particularly in medical settings.[62] In the United States, the 2008 New Hampshire case of Andrew Bedner drew attention to this legal and moral conundrum. Bedner, accused of severely injuring his infant daughter, sued for the right to determine whether or not she remain on life support; keeping her alive, which would have prevented a murder charge, created a motive for Bedner to act that conflicted with the apparent interests of his child.[63][64][62] Bioethicists Jacob M. Appel and Thaddeus Mason Pope recently argued, in separate articles, that such cases justify the replacement of the accused parent with an alternative decision-maker.[65][62]

Organizations

There are organizations at national, state, and county levels in the United States that provide community leadership in preventing child abuse and neglect. The National Alliance of Children's Trust Funds and Prevent Child Abuse America are two national organizations with member organizations at the state level.

Other organizations focus on specific prevention strategies. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome focuses its efforts on the specific issue of preventing child abuse that is manifested as shaken baby syndrome. Mandated reporter training is a program used to prevent ongoing child abuse.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Leeb, R.T.; Paulozzi, L.J.; Melanson, C.; Simon, T.R.; Arias, I. (1 January 2008). "Child Maltreatment Surveillance: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/CMP/CMP-Surveillance.htm. Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  2. ^ Herrenkohl, R.C. (2005). "The definition of child maltreatment: from case study to construct". Child Abuse and Neglect, 29(5),413-24.
  3. ^ "Child Abuse and Neglect: Types, Signs, Symptoms, Help and Prevention". helpguide.org. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm. Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  4. ^ A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (HHS), USA, 2003.
  5. ^ Noh Anh, Helen (1994). "Cultural Diversity and the Definition of Child Abuse", in Barth, R.P. et al., Child welfare research review, Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 28. ISBN 0231080743
  6. ^ Haeuser, A. A. (1990). "Banning parental use of physical punishment: Success in Sweden". International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect. Hamburg. 
  7. ^ "States with full abolition". Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. http://endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/progress/prohib_states.html. 
  8. ^ a b "Child Sexual Abuse". Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2 April 2008. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childsexualabuse.html. 
  9. ^ "Guidelines for psychological evaluations in child protection matters. Committee on Professional Practice and Standards, APA Board of Professional Affairs". The American Psychologist 54 (8): 586–93. August 1999. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.54.8.586. PMID 10453704. "Abuse, sexual (child): generally defined as contacts between a child and an adult or other person significantly older or in a position of power or control over the child, where the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the adult or other person.". 
  10. ^ Martin J, Anderson J, Romans S, Mullen P, O'Shea M (1993). "Asking about child sexual abuse: methodological implications of a two stage survey". Child Abuse & Neglect 17 (3): 383–92. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(93)90061-9. PMID 8330225. 
  11. ^ Child sexual abuse definition from the NSPCC
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Further reading

External links


Simple English

Child abuse is the abuse, mistreatment or hurt done by adults to children. It often means abuse done by a child's parents or another caregiver.

Types of child abuse









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