Child Abuse and Neglect
Abstract This paper will discuss child abuse and neglect and the lasting effects left on a child. The main types of abuse and neglect explained are emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, medical neglect, educational neglect, emotional neglect, and physical neglect. Included are some warning signs of these different types of abuse and neglect and the legal definitions of each. It is important to understand that all of these forms of abuse and neglect are different and contain varying symptoms, signs, and effects.
In addition, the paper discusses suggestions on how to mediate some of these forms of abuse and neglect, including better reporting programs and better parental education. With each different form of abuse and neglect children are left with a multitude of problems and obstacles to face in the future. Throughout the paper and use of statistics, it is evident that child abuse and neglect is a much more serious problem than most of the public is aware.
Child Abuse and Neglect A Review of the Literature Between 1,460 and 2,555 children die every year due to child abuse and neglect; meaning that on average, between four and seven children die daily. In a classroom of 20 children, 13 will have been abused or neglected (Childhelp, 2013). These statistics should be shocking to anyone. Child abuse and neglect is an extremely understated problem in American society.
The federal definition of child abuse and neglect is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation” or “an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 93). Although this is the set definition, there can be different variations of it depending on specific state laws. Child abuse and neglect occur in many varying forms and do not always appear in the same manner.
Some types of abuse and neglect include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, educational neglect, medical neglect, emotional neglect, and physical neglect. This paper will discuss the signs of these various forms of child abuse and neglect as well as provide insight to the effects on children. Emotional Abuse Emotional and psychological abuse of children is one of the most commonly overlooked forms of abuse (American Humane Association, 2013).
This may be due to the fact that there is no physical abuse occurring for people to notice. Also, not as many people know that emotional and psychological child abuse is happening. One of the biggest problems with forms of emotional and psychological abuse it that it is almost impossible to detect while it is occurring. Often times, it is not noticed until much later in a child’s life. Emotional abuse is something that most people have experienced in their lifetime, but not to an extreme extent.
Some examples of emotional abuse include “constant belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child, name calling, making negative comparisons to others, frequent yelling, threatening, or bullying, ignoring or rejecting a child as a punishment, and limited physical contact (hugs or kisses)” (Smith, 2013). Parents discipline their children in different ways and have varying methods of punishment, but to constantly belittle or threaten one’s child is something much different. This type of abuse is a very painful one for children to experience because they often blame themselves and wonder why their parents are treating them this way.
Emotional abuse can lead to impairments in children’s emotional development and their sense of well-being. Psychological Abuse Along with emotional abuse, psychological abuse can be just as harmful. Psychological abuse is more of a game of power, where parents control their children and make them believe, for example, that they are worthless. This leads to serious psychological problems and can cause many disorders such as “anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 96).
To some parents, using the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is justification enough for this type of abuse. Most parents do not understand that their children are not able to handle ridicule and harassment as well as adults. To children, having their parents make comments to them can affect their psyche for the rest of their lives. In at least one study, “about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder” (Childhelp, 2013). Many parents who do abuse their children emotionally or
psychologically believe that it is not abuse because they are making them stronger and preparing them for people who will be mean and hurtful to them in the future. However, these parents are leaving their children with damaged mental health and social development problems that can leave lifelong scars on their children. Physical Abuse Physical and sexual abuse of a child can leave these same psychological scars, but are also accompanied by physical scars as well. It is estimated that “more than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way” (Childhelp, 2013).
Children are vulnerable to this type of abuse because they trust the people who are supposed to take care of them and look after them, making it extremely easy for their caretakers to take advantage of them. Physical abuse is generally defined as “any non-accidental physical injury to the child and can include striking, stabbing, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment or death of a child such as shaking or throwing” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 100). Regarding physical abuse, many parents defend their abuse and claim that it is a form of discipline for the child.
These parents do not understand the difference between discipline and abuse, which can often indicate that they were disciplined the same way. Some signs of physical abuse in children are: “frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts; injuries that have a pattern, such as a belt or hand; shies away from touch; seems afraid to go home; flinches at sudden movements; and a child who is always on alert for something bad to happen” (Smith, 2013). Physical abuse can go unnoticed for long periods of time because children can cover up their scars or hide their injuries, but most of the time, it is bound to be discovered.
Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse, however, is not as noticeable as physical abuse. Sexual abuse can be defined as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual deception of such conduct” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 101). This type of abuse is not as much about love and intimacy, but more about power and control. Children who are sexually abused are often under
the control of their attacker and have trouble finding a way out of the abusive situation. Some signs to look for in children who are sexually abused are: “trouble walking or sitting; displaying knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his/her age, or even seductive behavior; making strong efforts to avoid a specific person; not wanting to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities; having an STD or being pregnant; or a child running away from home” (Smith, 2013).
Most children who are sexual abused are abused by someone they know and love and often times, they do not know that this type of abuse is wrong. The abusers in the situation will brainwash the children and make the abuse seem normal, or they will threaten the child into submission and make them keep the abuse a secret. Sexual abuse in children can lead to significant psychological and physical problems for them later in life, and these children often suffer from guilt and shame throughout their life as a result of this abuse. Educational Neglect
Cases of child neglect differ from cases of abuse, but only in their execution, not their outcome for the child. According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System “of the approximately 899,000 children in the United States who were victims of abuse and neglect in 2005, 62. 8 percent (564,765 children) suffered from neglect alone, including medical neglect” (American Humane Association, 2013). A fact that many people do not know it that educational neglect is one of the fastest growing types of child neglect and is punishable by law.
This neglect is not referring to parents who cannot get their children to go to school because they run away or lies about going, this neglect is referring to the parents who do not make any effort to enroll their children in school or give them the mean to stay in school. This neglect can include “permitted chronic truancy, failure to enroll or other truancy, and inattention to special education need” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 98).
One important aspect of this type of neglect are the parents who fail to accept that their child has an educational special need and should be placed in alternative classrooms or children who have learning disabilities. Education is important for children in their growth and development, and it is required by law that they must attend school until the age of 16 (public, private, homeschooled, or otherwise). Those parents who do not make education a part of their children lives are hurting them just as much as if they were physically abusing or neglecting them. Education can predict the outcome of children’s lives.
Medical Neglect Another common form of neglect is medical neglect which can be characterized as “failing to provide any special medical treatment or mental health care need by the child” or “the withholding of medical treatment or nutrition from disabled infants with life-threatening conditions” (Gosselin, 2013, p. 99). This is a very serious form of neglect and is often seen in parents who do not take their children to the hospital or doctors when they are feeling ill or have broken bones. Some parents believe that time will heal wounds, or they think that herbal medicines can cure diseases just as well as other medicines.
There are, however, cases of parents who do not take their children to receive medical attention because they are the ones who inflicted the pain on their children. That case would turn into a form of abuse and neglect and is often seen together. Concerning medical neglect, it is important to understand that children need to receive yearly check-ups by doctors to get immunizations and tests done to ensure that the child is healthy. Parents who refuse to, or think they do not have the means to take their children to the doctors, hospital or urgent care facility are at risk for possibly killing their own children.
It is seen more often in medical neglect cases that parents who did not take their children to these facilities were afraid of going to jail because they causes the injuries to the child. Emotional Neglect Others forms of neglect include emotional and physical neglect. Emotional neglect can be categorized under circumstances including: “exposure to chronic or extreme intimate partner violence, permitting drug or alcohol use, or having a delay in psychological care” (Gosselin, 2009, p. 98). Emotional neglect to a child is one of the most painful aspects of neglect.
When a parent ignores and terrorizes a child or does not want him or her anymore, they are neglecting the child and leaving him or her with emotional walls. It is not easy for children to understand why their parents are doing this, or what they did to deserve this type of punishment. If parents cannot provide their children with adequate care such as psychological help or counseling and instead are encouraging them to drink alcohol and smoke illegal substances, then these people should not be parents.
Regarding emotional neglect, it is important to understand that not emotionally supporting children can make them unable to form proper relationships later in life. Physical Neglect In addition to emotional neglect, children face a great deal of physical neglect from their parents. Physical neglect accounts for the majority of cases of maltreatment (Healy, 2013). Maltreatment occurs when children injure themselves or are faced with severe malnutrition as a result of a parent or caretaker. Physical neglect involves: “the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, protection, or supervision” (Gosselin, 2009, p.
99). It can also include “child abandonment, inadequate supervision, rejection of a child leading to expulsion from the home and failure to adequately provide for the child’s safety and physical and emotional needs” (Healy, 2013). Physical neglect is different from physical abuse because instead of people inflicting pain on children, they are causing pain by ignoring them or not giving them everything they need to survive. These forms of neglect can harm children just as much as the forms of abuse can, and all of them leave lasting scars.
With physical neglect, parents often do not provide their children with their basic needs. Children not only need love and support, they also need food, clothing, and shelter. The main aspect lacking in child care regarding all of these forms of abuse and neglect are reporting programs and parental education. If there were more enhanced programs for people to report these forms of abuse and neglect, the statistics would most likely decrease significantly. Children do not know how to report abuse or neglect can often just keep quiet, and the people they do report to do not always know the correct measures to take.
It is important to educate not only our children, teachers, and the general public, but also parents. If parents were more educated in how to care for a child, or what is acceptable and not acceptable to do, these forms of abuse and neglect would also decrease. Parents who exhibit abuse or neglect on their children often claim that they did not know what they were doing was wrong and they did not think there was a problem with their forms of discipline. Everyone needs to be more educated on this topic and it is important to catch this abuse and neglect at the earliest stage possible to decrease the lasting effects on the child.