Every ten seconds, a report of child abuse is made in the United States. State agencies estimated over 700,000 children had fallen victim to maltreatment in 2014 alone; this is enough to fill ten football stadiums (Childhelp 1). From physical abuse to emotional and sexual- children of all different ages, genders, and cultures can face maltreatment just the same. Neglect also presents itself as a form of child abuse because ignoring care can be just as dangerous as providing the wrong care.
Physical abuse is characterized with violent actions. These actions include, but are not limited to: hitting, punching, slapping, choking, and pushing. Over 18% of children experience physical abuse in their developmental years. Marks are commonly left on victims and for this reason it may be easier to detect by outside parties. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse is easier to hide from the rest of the world. The marks are left on the pride of the victim rather than the skin. Nearly 7% of children experience the threats, constant yelling, and bullying that defines emotional abuse. Sexual abuse can be a combination of the two types of abuse described above. Sexual abuse is the unwanted touching to an unconsenting person for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator. Force of unwanted touching can be used along with threats; connecting sexual abuse to physical and emotional abuse. Of all the children experiencing abuse, almost 9% of them experience sexual abuse. Neglect is the failure to properly care for something, and in this case it’s children. An astounding 74.5% of children have a homelife with an environment that is unable to accommodate for their growing minds and bodies to flourish (American SPCC 1). Atmospheres as such lack the distribution of basic necessities such as food, water, housing, clothing, and healthcare. Being unable to provide emotional, educational, social and safety needs is also considered abuse (Kaplan 1).
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While child abuse isn’t exclusively directed towards one age group, it is more predominant in a given age range over others. More than one-quarter of the abuse in America occurs to children three years of age and younger (American SPCC 1). These kids are unable to defend themselves, and some even unable to comprehend what is happening to them and why it’s happening. Most times when a child is being abused it’s by a person that they love and trust. Someone they grew up around; and someone they don’t believe could treat them in such a way (American SPCC 1). One study revealed that the child personally knows the perpetrator 90% of the time. In these cases it is the child’s parent 39% of the time and a different relative 51% of the time (National Children’s Alliance 1). As a result of this, the child may believe the exposed behaviors are normal. Many individuals don’t recognize how dangerous their situation is because it’s what they have always known. Having no good comparison of a healthy home life would prove the abusive mannerisms to be ordinary for them. Being exposed to this through the crucial years of development, creates repercussions for the child’s adult life.
Children who experience these traumas growing up are much more likely to develop psychological disorders later in their life. A study revealed that 80% of people 21 years of age that had reported abuse growing up do meet the criteria for having at least one psychological disorder. Some of the most common diagnoses for these victims include anxiety, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Having a mental illness and being abused also increases the risk of attempting suicide (American SPCC 1). The psychological self isn’t the only part more susceptible to illness. Anything that is psychological can be biological, too. A link is shown between child abuse and diseases such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, liver disease, and even cancer. This is partly due to the strain an immune system experiences when compromised with depression (Child Welfare 1).
Inability to cope healthily may drive an individual to try any coping mechanism they find easily accessible, no matter how potentially harmful. Individuals who grow up in a dangerous environment are more prone to start smoking and drinking at a young age. This in turn can lead to alcoholism and illicit drug use (Childhelp 1). Beginning to have sex at an early age with numerous partners is common among this certain population, too. Unsafe sexual behaviors start to be practiced, putting them at an increased risk for not only STIs but also for teen pregnancies (American SPCC 1). Children raised in abusive households tend to have a twisted sense of personal morals due to lack of guidance, thus causing irresponsible choices.
As time goes on under these circumstances, the child will unconsciously start to pick up habits and mannerisms they have experienced first hand. As a result of this, the learned behaviors will start to intertwine into their own personality. Because of this process, abused children are more likely to abuse their own children. Studies show that almost 30% of people that report being abused at a young age will later show the same behaviors to their own offsprings (American SPCC 1). Not much data is provided regarding which types of abuse are more likely to be transferred upon adulthood, regardless though, abuse is a vicious cycle because history will continue to repeat itself.
Survivors of abuse can experience greater difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships, compared to their counterparts. Because of former life experiences, once abused children reach adulthood they’re more likely experience relationship difficulties such as trust issues, fears of intimacy, and unclear boundaries. Along with these, victims may become passive in their lives, or on the opposite side become violent and defensive in response to what has happened, and some victims later go on to become involved in abusive relationships (Cunningham, J., Pearce, T., & Pearce, P. 3). Previous abuse may hinder the ability to create strong, lasting interpersonal relationships.
Several factors can affect the consequences of abuse and neglect. Evidence shows that the younger the child is at the time of maltreatment, the more difficulties they will face in adulthood. This is due to the inability to carefully process events, especially traumatic ones at a young age. The type and severity of the abuse massively reflects on behaviors later in life. Resolvement of abuse is an important factor for the victim. If the perpetrator was detected and safety measures were taken, the results may not be as toxic to the individual compared to having no resolution. Dependent on the survivors’ outlook and willingness to grow from the situation, and whether therapy is used as a guiding tool, elimination of behavioral ties to the abuse can be made possible (Bromfield & Higgins).
It is important to note that no two people experience identical abuse and each person has the right to react differently. Whether it be different outcomes, different coping mechanisms, or different adaptive behaviors and habits, all are valid. The presence of childhood abuse does not define a person or determine their outcome in their life. The future is not predetermined from the past.
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