Child Abuse – Complicated Phenomenon with Numerous Causes

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Child abuse refers to the physical, sexual, mental maltreatment of a child who is below 18 years old. The modern society who has witnessed a sudden rise of child abuse and the causes are mostly rooted in the society. The consequences are as impactful as they were in the past. In order to protect the child, many preventive and legal measures are being taken.

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Child abuse is a complicated phenomenon with numerous causes. According to many sociologists, behind many cases of child abuse, there are often distorted family situations. Humphreys and Thiara (2002) argue that child abuse has strong links to domestic violence.

Men who are violent towards their partner are also violent and abusive towards children in their care. The most likely abuser, according to the National Commission of Inquiry into the prevention of child abuse (1996), is someone known to the child, particularly a male parent or step-parent. Hence, abuse may be detected in families who have to deal with complicated marital problems such as domestic violence, marital discord or extra marital affairs. All these contribute to a dis- balance in the child’s life.

Additionally, the modern society also requires both parents to work, often at odd hours, thus, leading to child neglect. Child neglect is a situation where a child is not given enough food, shelter, affection, supervision, education or health care. In many cases, parents are so concerned about their own lives that they fail in meeting the needs of the child-emotional. Huge workload or at times the inability to cope with work stress often lead parents to neglect the child. Teenage parenthood is yet another cause of child abuse. Teen parents often lack the required maturity to take care of a child. In this vicious cycle, there is also poverty which plays a determinant role in child abuse. The parents are unable to satisfy the needs of the child namely food, shelter, clothing, medical treatment and educational needs

Moreover, child exposed to violence or abuse are more prone to emotional and behavioral problems. According to NSCAW (National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being), more than half of adolescents reported for maltreatment are more likely to face an emotional or behavioral problem. An abused child may become an abuser himself. ‘According to Kalsmuss and Seltzer 1984, people who are abused as children may incorporate abuse into their behavior within the relationships they establish as adults”. Abused children may be unable to express their feelings cautiously and as a result, may have difficulties regulating their emotions. The following are some of probable effects of child abuse and neglect on a child’s mental health, anxiety, depression, dissociation, difficulty concentrating, low academic performance in school aged children, flashbacks and difficulty in sleeping.

However, it is stated that prevention is better than cure and in cases of child abuse, prevention can be considered as one of the most effective strategies. Firstly, organizing Child-Parents Centers(CPCs) normally provide extensive educational and family support to the deprived children and their parents. These will provide parents with knowledge of parenting and also aid parents in acquiring parenting skills”. Hart, Brassard and Karlson et al. (1996) quote Seitz et al.’s 1985 conclusion of ten year follow up to the effectiveness of family support programs: Just as independence in children is fostered by appropriately meeting their legitimate early dependency needs, it may be that addressing the problems of troubled new parents increases the likelihood that their family will later be able to function independently as well”. Hence, in order to prevent cases of physical or verbal abuse, parents should adopt a non-violent way of dealing with children. Thus, prevention programs should be organized to strengthen family bonds.

Another way of preventing child abuse is by raising awareness on the causes and consequences of child abuse. In this scenario, education can be used as a tool to identify and report cases of child abuse. Thus, sensitization campaigns can be organized in schools in order to educate children about their rights. Sex should no longer be a taboo. Introduction of sex education in the curriculum can also help to raise awareness about the effects of child abuse. As a matter of fact, sex education has been introduced as a subject in the Mauritian curriculum since January 2014. It is actually taught both in primary and secondary schools.” The main aim is to help students learn and make the right choice”. In addition, use of media can be used as an alternative to propagate dangerous effects of child abuse. Establishing a child abuse hotline to encourage victims to talk about it can be another way of reducing child abuse. Therefore, law enforcement can be practiced in cases of child abuse too. That is, legal actions being taken against abusers. ‘It can be seen that India had recently introduces death penalty for child rapists”.

In conclusion, if more and more cases of child abuse are prevented, we are actually saving millions of lives. It is basically perceived that a children, irrespective of race, religion or color, have the rights to live in an environment free from abuse and violence. It is basically the responsibility of the society to generate an environment, which is conducive to the child’s development.


  • Chris Livesey, Cambridge International As and A level, Sociology Coursebook
  • Horwath Jan, child neglect, the impact of poverty and poor housing on child-rearing
  • Howe David,2005, Child abuse and Neglect, Attachment, Development and Intervention
  • Marcilene Machisa and Loga Virahsawmy, Gender-Based violence Indicators study, WAR @ HOME


1. BBC News. (2018). India introduces death penalty for child rapists. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

2. Fran?§ois, F. (n.d.). Mauritius: The sex education on the school curriculum from January 2014. [online] Indian Ocean Times – only positive news on Indian Ocean. Available at: [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

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Child Abuse - Complicated Phenomenon With Numerous Causes. (2019, Apr 08). Retrieved February 2, 2023 , from

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