Corby (2006) defines child abuse as the physical, sexual, emotional and psychological mistreatment and neglect of a child by parents and guardians, or those responsible for the childs well-being. Child abuse endangers the survival, self-esteem, safety, growth and development of the child. This is a hiIDen epidemic because children are suffering yet most of the cases are not reported. Research affirms that most perpetrators of child abuse are known and sometimes trusted by the child (Corby, 2006). This close relationship with the abuser increases the feelings of betrayal, which may lead to the child suffering in silence. In America, the United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that every year, there are at least 3.3 million reported cases of child abuse involving 6 million children, and 5 children die every day because of child abuse. Follow up studies point out that abused children are likely to become abusers in their later life. This essay provides a synopsis of the child abuse in the United States; the paper discusses the various forms of child abuse and their respective prevalence and effects.
Physical abuse is a non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by a parent or caretaker to the child. It is the most observable type of child mistreatment caused by kicking, punching, biting, burning or any other form that inflicts physical harm to children (Corby, 2006). Physical abuse stems from excessive or inappropriate disciplinary actions by the parent or caretaker, who in anger is not aware of the magnitude of force when administering punishment to the child. According to reports by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physical abuse constitutes 26% of the entire child abuses reported in United States. This is evident through unexplained cuts, bruises, burns, wounds, bite marks, the child exhibiting antisocial behavior, and fear of adults (Howard, 2010).
The second form of prevalent child abuse in America is sexual abuse, wherein an adult uses a child for sexual satisfaction (Corby, 2006). Child sexual abuse takes place in various forms, which include engaging the child in sexual activities such as stimulation of their sexual organs; child molestation; and exposure to pornography and child pornography. Potential signs of sexual abuse in a child include inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts, bed wetting, excessive aggressions, and fear of people of a certain sexual orientation. The shame of sexual abuse makes it exceedingly hard for the child victim to report the abuse (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). Reporting sexual abuse is further impeded by threats issued to victims and fear of splitting the family apart.
The third for of child abuse that is prevalent in America is emotional and psychological abuse of the child, which entails the persistent ill treatment of a child to cause severe and continual effects on the childs emotional and psychological development, and sense of self-worth. These may include constant criticism, showing the child that they are worthless, inadequate and unloved, causing the child to feel frightened (Wolfe, 1999). This form of abuse is usually hard to prove; therefore, there is minimal probability that they will be noticed and reported. Further, emotional abuse usually accompanies other forms of child abuse. Emotional effects on the child include apathy, depression, hostility against others, poor academic outcomes and constrained social, psychological, emotional and intellectual development (Bessel, Hopper, & Crozier, 2001). Emotional and psychological child abuse can also involve poor parenting methods such as neglectful, indulgent and authoritarian parenting styles. Neglect involves the failure the by the parent or caregiver to provide the essential necessities such as clothing, food, shelter, medical treatment and education for the child. Although some basic needs may not be provided by the caregiver because of poverty, child safety is paramount because it imposes negative impacts on the childs health and emotional well-being (Wolfe, 1999).
One of the potential effects of child abuse is that it leads to lack of trust and relationship difficulties, which usually takes place when the child is abused by a person who he or she trusted such as close family members. For instance, abuse by the primary caregiver damages the basic relationship between the caregiver and the child, which implies that the material and emotional necessities of the child will not be met. Victims of child abuse usually demonstrate interpersonal relationships and trust issues later in life, which leads to difficulties in maintaining relationships because of the fear of being abused (Collishaw et al., 2007). Emotional and sexual child abuse also lead to low self-esteem. Sexually abused survivors may have shame surrounding them; hence, they have difficulty in relating with others or expressing themselves to others. Abused children will also have difficulty in expressing their emotions safely. This usually leads to anxiety, depression and outbursts of anger. Studies have shown that adults with a record of child mistreatment are more likely to develop depression than adults who have never experienced child abuse (Corby, 2006). Victims of child abuse may turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their painful feelings, which may also lead to abuse of these substances leading to substance related problems during their adolescence and adulthood life. Child abuse may lead to death; Physical abuse may harm the child severely until they die, while sexual and emotional abuse may lead to the victims, at a later date during their adolescence or adult life, to commit suicide. Research suggests that sexual and emotional abuse doubles the risk of attempted suicide for young people (Springer et al, 2007). They found out that 31% of physically abused group of adolescents had suicidal thoughts compared to 8% of a non-abused group, and the risk of repeated suicide attempts were eight times greater for those with a sexually abused history because it is closely associated with feelings of shame and internal blame. Neglect of a child may have an effect on the overall physical health of the child. Springer et al (2007) found that exposure to neglect doubled the oIDs of children having an overall poor physical health at the age of 6 years and were also associated with 8 to 10 serious adolescent health risks. Physical abuse and neglect can also have server effects on the developing brain leading to brain damage, hearing loss and speech difficulties. Finally, children who are abused at an early stage are more likely to abuse their children or spouses when they are adults (Bessel, Hopper, & Crozier, 2001).
Prevention of child abuse should be the prerogative of every American, and not only the authorities; this requires immediate notification of relevant authorities for identified cases of child abuse. Support groups should also be made available for the survivors of child abuse who want to get help in order to help them focus more on their future and overcome the negative effects they may be experiencing. Furthermore, any physical harm on a child should be investigated by a doctor and the cause of the injury properly accounted for because they indicate signs of child abuse. Alcohol and drug problems have been related to physical abuse; hence, individuals with alcohol or drug problem should seek professional help and appropriate interventions before they become perpetrators of child abuse.
Child abuse leads to a wide range of adverse effects for children, adolescents and later adult life. Research has shown that some specific types of abuse are closely related to some of the adverse outcomes, such as the links between physical abuse and violent and aggressive behavior, and sexual abuse with low self-esteem. Experiencing chronic and multiple forms of abuse increase the risk of severe consequences for the victims when they become adults. As discussed in this essay, child trauma imposes significant consequences, which include a myriad of psychiatric disorders and symptoms experienced during childhood and later life; they include substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, dissociative disorders, personality disorders and post traumatic stress.
Bessel, A., Hopper, J., & Crozier, J. (2001). Child abuse in America: Prevalence and consequences. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma , 1-16.
Collishaw, S., Pickles, A., Messer, J., Rutter, M., Shearer, C., & Maughan, B. (2007). Resilience to adult psychopathology following childhood maltreatment: Evidence from a community sample. Child buse and Neglect , 31 (3), 211-229.
Corby, B. (2006). Child abuse: towards a knowledge base. Berkshire, NY: Open University Press.
Howard, N. (2010). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. New York: DIANE Publishing.
Springer, K., Sheridan, J., Kuo, D., & Carnes, M. (2007). Long-term physical and mental health consequences of childhood physical abuse: Results from a large population-based sample of men and women. Child Abuse and Neglect , 31 (5), 517-530.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2007). Child maltreatment. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Wolfe, D. (1999). Child abuse: Implications for child development and psychopathology . New York, NY: Sage Publications.
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