Child abuse refers to the emotional, physical, sexual mistreatment or neglect of a child. Any act which will result to harm or potential harm or threat to harm a child that is caused by a parent or guardian or any other person who offers custodianship to the child is considered as child abuse. Child abuse is not only confined at home, it can occur in various avenues where the child is exposed to, for instance, in schools, churches or other organizations. Child abuse comes in various forms. It can be in the form of child neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and child sexual abuse. Various countries or societies have stipulated different definitions of what child abuse encompasses for the purposes of charging perpetrators in the court of law. Child abuse is when a parent or anybody whom the child is under custody fails to take responsibility. Such an action causes serious physical harm, emotional harm, sexual abuse, or poses serious risk to the child and thus lead to death of the child (Leeb, Paulozzi, Melanson, Simon & Arias, 2008).
Types of Child Abuse
Child Abuse is a very broad concept and it can take various form or patterns. The most commonly known acts that are considered to be abusive to the child are child neglect, child physical abuse, child sexual abuse and child psychological or emotional abuse (Haeuser, 1990).
Child neglect is the scenario whereby the parent or the responsible adult fails to sufficiently provide for the necessary needs of the child. The needs include physical needs (failure to provide sufficient food, clothing or health), emotional needs (failure to show love or care), educational needs (failure to sign up the child into a learning institution) and medical needs (failure to take the child to the hospital when sick) (Haeuser, 1990). The act of child neglect causes various ramifications on the part of the child; for instance, the child will feel so inferior or will have a lower self esteem and, thus, find it so hard to interact or socialize with the other children within the society.
Child Physical Abuse
Child physical abuse refers to the physical violent behaviors aimed at the child by the responsible adult who might be the parents or the guardian to the child. Physical abuse comes in various forms. It might be in the form of slapping the child, kicking the child, punching the child, pinching the cheeks of the child or bruising the child in any way. Physical abuse causes various consequences. It can cause physical external injuries or internal injuries which can change the life or the behaviour of the child forever. In some parts of the world, when a pregnant woman engages in alcohol abuse or drug abuse, she can be charged in a court of law for causing physical abuse to the child who is growing inside her. It is, however, more important to note the wide disparity between child physical abuse and child discipline. In most cases, child discipline is mistaken for child physical abuse. Child discipline is often allowed by many cultures all over the world and this has prompted many people to argue that these cultural practices have really contributed toward the existence of child physical abuse. In many societies today, there are very many campaigns that are going on with the aim of condemning child discipline (Haeuser, 1990).
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse refers to the scenario whereby an adult or an older adolescent takes advantage of the child in order to gain sexual stimulation (Leeb, et al., 2008). Child sexual abuse takes various forms in today’s society. It can take the form of forcing the child to engage in sexual intercourse, exposing the sexual organ to the young child, luring the child to watch pornographic movies or pictures, touching or manipulating the child’s sexual organs and also luring the child to engage in pornographic acts. In other cases, paying the child to engage in prostitution can be considered as an act of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse also brings about several ramifications to the child. These ramifications include the feeling of shame or guilt by the child, frightening hallucinations by the child, restlessness and fear of things that are related to sexual abuse, pain and injury to the child, depression and stress, the feeling of low self esteem and in some cases it can result to sexual addiction by the child (Haeuser, 1990).
Various studies all over the world have attributed child sexual abuse to be caused by close relatives of the child. The studies estimate that at least 30% of child sexual abuse offenders are either brothers or sisters or the father and the mother of the child. Approximately 60% of the offenders are people whom the child knows very well and are in close contact with the child, such as family friends, neighbors and nannies. The remaining 10% is always left for strangers (Kanel, 2011).
Child Psychological or Emotional Abuse
As compared to other various forms of child abuse, psychological or emotional abuse to the child is very complex in nature and is usually hard to figure out. Thus, psychological or emotional abuse is an action by the responsible adults or other care takers of the child that tortures the child emotionally or psychologically. Psychological or emotional abuse can take very many forms and these forms include mocking the child, destroying or damaging the child’s property, hailing insults to the child, humiliating the child or criticizing the child in front of his/her peers. When a child is abused psychologically, the immediate response is always to keep and maintain a wide distance from the offenders. In other instances, the child can absorb the abusive words and use them to fight back on the offenders and retaliate by hailing unto them equally abusive and provoking words. Psychological or emotional abuse to a child can further interfere with the emotional development of the child. The child will grow up with a lot of self blame and a feeling of inferiority will take its course on the development of the child.
Causes of Child Abuse
Child abuse is a wide concept that has so many causes. It is, therefore imperative to identify and understand the main causes of child abuse before taking any action to solve the problem. It is a common ideology that parents who often fight or abuse each other are at all times the major offenders when it comes to child abuse. Studies have not yet proved whether there is a high correlation between marital problems and abuse of the child (Leeb, et al., 2008).
Children who are born from unwanted pregnancies are liable victims of child abuse (Kandel, 38). This is due to the fact that unwanted pregnancies always result into abusive and violent relationships, thus, there is a high likelihood for physical violence to come about during the pregnancy. As a result of this violence, the mother’s mental health during the pregnancy will be highly incapacitated and this further deteriorates the relationship between the mother and the developing child.
Drug and substance abuse has also proved to be a major contributing factor towards child abuse. Various studies have found out that parents who are known to be abusing drugs or other substances are very notorious in mistreating their children. The drugs include alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or heroine (Kanel, 2011). Other studies also show that at least two thirds of cases relating to child abuse pointed out drug abusing parents as the main cause. Consequently, these studies have found a positive correlation between alcohol abuse and child physical abuse as well as between cocaine abuse and child sexual abuse.
Another major cause of child abuse is unemployment and financial constraints. Various studies across the world have revealed that child abuse was on an increasing trend during the economic recession. For instance, a parent who has never played any role toward the upkeep of a child and has been forced to assume that role when he/she does not have economic stability will resort to inflicting injuries to the child. Several other studies have confirmed that parents who are not biologically related to the child, for instance, step fathers or step mothers are highly likely to torture or abuse a child than real biological parents of the child. This is attributed to the underlying reason that non-biological parents are subsequently to a great extent unwilling to put up resources with the intention of supporting another person’s child due to harboring feelings of jealousy (Kanel, 2011).
Lack of proper parental skills is also a contributing factor toward child abuse. Most of these parents without proper parental skills are mainly teen parents who give birth out of wedlock. The teens are so young and, therefore, do not have the proper exposure and the skills necessary to raise their child. In many cases, the teens neglect their children or torture them emotionally or psychologically especially if the pregnancy was not intended. Other studies have attributed mental illness of the parents toward child abuse. Many parents who suffer from depression or stress are unable to take care of themselves on their own. This further makes it impossible for them to offer excellent and satisfactory care of their children. In several cases, the children are neglected or physically abused by them. It is, therefore imperative for a person to treat any suspected mental illness before assuming the role of becoming a parent (Kanel, 2011).
Recognizing Abusive Behaviour
One of the greatest challenges in life is raising a child. Children are very complex in nature and are very hard to deal with. It requires a lot of patience and much understanding in order to tackle this problem. Many of the people who abuse children have a huge history with regard to child abuse, in that, they were once victims. When the parent was growing up as a child, it may have been normal for him/her to be ridiculed or slapped or even insulted. It is important to realize that these forms of abuse should not be transferred back to the child being raised now as it causes more harm than good. There are various sign that indicate that an adult or a parent is headed towards abusing the child (Kanel, 2011).
Several studies show that failure of a person to control his/her anger towards a child can result to child abuse. The person can repeatedly slap or punch the child with the aim of exercising his/her anger on the child. Another instance of recognizing an abusive behaviour is when the parent strongly feels cut off from the child emotionally. For instance, the parent can feel so devastated that he/she just wants to be left alone, thus, day after day, this gap widens and within a matter of time, it leads to neglect. Abusive behaviour can also be recognized when a parent finds it so hard to meet the needs of the child. When this happens, the gap between the parent and the child will widen up, thus, leading to neglect of the child (Kanel, 2011).
Helping an Abused or Neglected child
Child abuse poses to be a major problem and it should be solved with a lot of caution and care. Children are very vulnerable, just as they are sensitive, thus, when an abused child has approached an adult for help, then the child should not be taken for granted. Various studies have laid down tips or strategies to adopt, in order to offer help to a suffering child. Some of the commonly used strategies are:
Cases of child abuse are very shocking and unpleasant to hear. When a child is narrating his/her ordeal to an adult, then the adult should not show any sign of shock or other emotions but should rather remain calm and composed and give reassurance to the child. This strategy enables the child to have confidence on the adult and continue with the story (Kanel, 2011).
Avoid interrogating the Child
The child should be left alone to narrate his/her ordeal without any interruption. The adult should avoid asking many leading questions because it may cause confusion and make it impossible for the child to continue with his or her story (Kanel, 2011).
Reassure the Child That He/ She is Innocent
It takes a lot of confidence for a child to step up and seek for help for cases involving abuse, thus, the child should be given a proper and a sober hearing and anything the child says should not be taken for granted. It is however practical, to remove the blame from the child and reassure him/her that whatever happened was not his/her fault (Kanel, 2011).
Consider the Child’s Safety
If it is imminent that the safety of the child or that of the adult who is providing help will be compromised, it is always beneficial to involve professionals in the process rather than putting the child’ safety at stake. After the professionals are done, then the adult will be in a good position to offer mental consolation to the child (Kanel, 2011).
Prevention of Child Abuse
As stipulated earlier, the major cause of child abuse is unwanted or unintended pregnancies. More efforts are, therefore, required to be put up in place with the aim of averting unwanted pregnancies. Such measures should aim at availing contraceptives locally for easier access by the people. Another measure of preventing child abuse is availing resources towards child protection services. There are various agencies that condemn the acts of child abuse and these agencies need motivation in order to succeed in their missions. Resources should therefore be availed to these agencies in order to sustain their plight for the cause.
Child abuse is a very rampant activity all over the world and it comes in various forms. The child can be abused physically, psychologically, sexually or at times the child can face neglect from the responsible parents or adults. It is actually imperative to understand the causes of child abuse and the various forms of child abuse before proceeding to solve the problem. Child abuse is caused by various conditions, thus, these actions should be avoided at all cost immediately they are identified. Various countries all over the world have come up with laws that protect the rights of the children and any offender is liable to a given jail term or to pay some fine. Hence, child abuse should be avoided at all costs since children are viewed to be the future of the society and should be treated with much care and affection.