Child abuse and neglect have been a long-standing global problem for a while, it can be in any form, physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect. These can have major impacts on the health of the child in the long term. The child may suffer psychologically and physically, unable to hold down a job and so on. Physical abuse accounts for most reported cases of child abuse. Sexual abuse is still being muted, because people find it difficult to understand and acknowledge the abuse of children of all ages. This paper highlights some of the problems, children face when abused and neglected. It summarizes psychological abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional maltreatment.
Keywords: Child abuse and neglect, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse.
In the society today, child abuse has become one of the major problems facing so many nations, millions of children face child abuse every year. As of 2000, an estimated 57000 children were victims of homicide (World Health Organization, n.d). Children between ages 0-4 were victims of fatal abuse with head injuries as the most common cause of death, followed by abdominal injuries and intentional suffocation (W.H.O, n.d). Over the years, child protection has been left to professionals in social service, health, mental care and the justice system (Kevoli & Mavindu, 2014). It is high time other professionals get involved, economists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers and so on should be able to report cases of child abuse and neglect by getting a clear understanding of what it means.
Child abuse and neglect is any act or series of acts of commission and/or omission by a parent or caregiver, that results in harm, the potential for harm or threat of harm to a child (Center for Disease Control and Protection, 2018). Child abuse is the intentional harm of a child by a caretaker, also referred to as an act of commission. It is a worldwide issue and it is not restricted to race, ethnic groups or social strata (Kemoli & Mavindu, 2014). However, there are some cultures that view child abuse in a different light. There are various forms of child abuse and they include physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.
Physical abuse of a child is defined as those acts committed by a caregiver that results in physical bodily harm or have a potential for harm (Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg, & Zwi, 2002). Sexual abuse is defined as acts where a caregiver uses a child for sexual gratification. Emotional abuse includes the failure of a caregiver to provide an appropriate and supportive environment (Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg, &Zwi, 2002). Neglect refers to the failure of a parent to provide the necessary aid needed for the development of a child. All of these have adverse, long-term effects on the child. This paper discusses all the forms of child abuse and neglect, risks and the effects they have on the child, as well as its prevention.
Physical abuse has been characterized according to a survey as behaviors involving hitting a child with an object, other than the buttocks; kicking a child; beating the child and threatening the child with a gun or knife. In Egypt, it was found that 37% reported being beaten or tied up by their parents, 27% reported physical injuries, fractures, and loss of consciousness (Mercy et al, 2002). In the Republic of Korea, two-thirds of parents reported whipping their children and 45% confirmed they had hit, kicked or beaten their children (Mercy et.al, 2002).
In Ethiopia, 21% of urban schoolchildren and a whopping 64% of rural schoolchildren reported bruises and/or swellings from beatings. Physical abuse is either manifested as a shaken baby syndrome or battered child syndrome, both involving intentional harm to a child and results in bodily physical harm like hemorrhages small skull fracture of the child in shaken baby and devastating skeletal, skin and nervous system injury in battered child syndrome These data have shown that child abuse, mostly physical abuse is prevalent around the continent.
Sexual abuse, according to Baker (2003) is “a form of child abuse when a child is compelled, by manipulation or force to fulfill the sexual demands of an older person, often a family member, force a child to participate in some acts that can include rape, incest, or erotic fondling”(p.68).
According to the report by Mercy et al, (2002), the prevalence of sexual abuse varies depending on definitions used and the kind of information collected. Some of the surveys were conducted with children, some with adolescents and some with adults who have experienced sexual abuse when they were younger. In Romania, 0.1% of parents admitted to having sexually abused their children, 9.1% of children reported to being sexually abused. Further data has suggested that 20% of women and 5-10% of men suffered sexual abuse as children. These data show contrasting views of both adults and the children involved, that is why the issue of child sexual abuse remains muted and difficult to deal with.
Emotional and Psychological abuse is not being reported globally, there are discrepancies between what is regarded as a psychological or emotional abuse mostly due to cultural factors. These factors strongly influence the non-physical ways parents choose to discipline their children. In countries like Chile, Egypt, India, Philipines and the USA, a high percentage of parents reported yelling or screaming at their children. A lower percentage reported calling of evil spirits, cursed at the child or refusing to speak to the child. This data suggests that yelling at children is the common practice of parents all over the continent.
Neglect is regarded as a lack of care by parents and caregivers and may affect the development of the child. In Kenya, a high percentage of children are found sleeping on the streets and about 21.9% of them reported to be neglected by their parents (Mercy et.al, 2002).
The factors surrounding child abuse and neglect are multifactorial, a lot of sources have established various factors but this paper would only focus on a few.
Domestic violence- Parents who abuse their partners are likely to abuse the children either physically or emotionally.
Poor socioeconomic status- Unemployment, poverty may be grounds for abuse. Frustrated parents could take it out on their children. This could be a reason for neglect because of inability to financially provide the basic needs of the child or children.
Drug and Alcohol- Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol are more than likely to abuse their children.
Unwanted pregnancy- Children from unwanted pregnancy could suffer abuse and neglect because the mother is unprepared for the child.
The consequences of child abuse are mostly health consequences, but abuse and neglect could also take a financial toll on the parties involved. Health consequences of child abuse and neglect could be physical, sexual, psychological and behavioral.
The children could manifest with physical trauma like brain injuries, abdominal injuries, disability, fractures ocular damage and many others. Sexually victims of child abuse could suffer from sexual dysfunction, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. The more common and most serious consequences come are psychological and behavioral and they include drug and alcohol abuse, cognitive impairment, low self-esteem from emotional abuse, depression, and anxiety, problems with socializing in school, feelings of shame and guilt and self-harm and suicidal behavior.
Abused children need intense treatment to overcome their problems. It is important that professionals pay close attention to cases of child abuse and report to the appropriate authorities.
Furthermore, parents should be trained on child development and bonding, teaching them consistent child-rearing methods. Programmes should also be set up like regular home visitations by nurses and healthcare professionals to ensure support and care is rendered to the children.
Societally, measures can also be taken to reduce poverty, increase employment opportunities and provide easy access to quality child health care (Mercy et al, 2002).
Child abuse is an essential issue in our society and work should continue to ensure that the incidence and mortality rates of child abuse reduces.
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