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Alternatives to
Other Child Abuse

 

Child Sexual Abuse ~ Spousal/Partner Abuse ~ Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse ~ Other Populations

NOTE: Although abuse occurs in every country, information on this page pertains to the United States, except where indicated otherwise.  
Definitions(1)

Domestic violence or "intimate partner violence" is any act of violence -- physical violence, sexual coercion or rape, or other forms of abuse, including verbal, emotional, economic and psychological abuse -- perpetrated by a current or former spouse or romantic partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, etc.).

Domestic violence involves elements of control and the abuse of power by the person committing the violence. By using intimidation, coercion and threats, and emotional or economic abuse, these abusers exert their control over their victims. In many cases, victims are too frightened to ask for help or to report the acts of violence committed against them or their children. A number of reasons could be given for an abuser's behavior, including economic hardship, growing up in a violent or abusive household, or abusing drugs or alcohol or both. There is no justification, however, for violent behavior.(1)

 
   
  Emotional Abuse:
 

Also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment, emotional abuse is any act or failure to act by a parent or caretaker that causes undue, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental distress in a child. This can include parents or caretakers using extreme and/or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair for long periods of time or threatening or terrorizing a child. Less severe (but no less damaging) acts of emotional abuse include belittling or rejecting help for a child; using derogatory terms to describe a child, and habitual scapegoating or blaming of a child.

 
 

Neglect:

 

Child neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include a failure to provide adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, appropriate supervision, or proper weather protection (heat or coats). It may also include abandonment. Educational neglect includes the failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, or allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes failures such as a lack of emotional support and love; never attending to the child; spousal abuse; and drug and alcohol abuse, including allowing the child to participate in drug and alcohol use.

 
  Physical Abuse:
  Physical abuse is inflicting physical injury upon a child. This includes burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or in any other way harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child, but the injury is not an accident. It may, however, have been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment, even play, that is inappropriate to the child’s age.
   
 
   
Prevalence
 
 

Most children are never abused. Yet an estimated 826,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in the US in 1999. 11.8 children were victims of abuse or neglect for every 1,000 children in the population.(2)

In 1999, 58.4 percent of child victims suffered neglect (including medical neglect) while 21.3 percent were physically abused. In addition, more than a third (35.9%) of all victims were reported to be victims of other or additional types of maltreatment including abandonment, threats of harm to the child, and congenital drug addiction. (The percentages total more than 100% because children may have been victims of more than one type of maltreatment.) Children in the youngest age group (0-3) had the highest rates of neglect.(2)

Female parents were identified as the perpetrators of neglect and physical abuse for the highest percentage of child victims.(2)

A growing body of research points to a definite link between adult domestic violence and child abuse. These connections are pervasive. Forty-five to seventy percent of battered women in shelters report that their batterers have also committed some form of child abuse. Even using the more conservative figure, child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in households where adult domestic violence is also present. Women who have been beaten by their spouses are, in turn, reportedly twice as likely as other women to abuse a child. It is also estimated that 3.3. million to 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. Many child witnesses of domestic violence experience increased problems themselves.(3)

   
 
   
back to top Symptoms of Other Child Abuse(4)
   
Physical Abuse:
 
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Bite marks
  • Abrasions, lacerations
  • Head injuries
  • Whiplash (shaken baby syndrome)
  • Internal injuries
  • Fracture
 
Emotional/Psychological Abuse:
 
  • Depressed and apathetic
  • Withdrawn
  • Overly conforming to authority figures
  • Behavioral problems or "acting out"
  • Repetitive, rhythmic movements
  • Overly concerned with detail
  • Unreasonable demands or expectations placed on the child
  • Triangulated into marital conflicts
  • Viewed as property of the parent (referred to as "it" instead of by name)
  • Used to gratify parental needs
  • Demonstrates exaggerated fears or antisocial behaviors
  • Unable to perform normal, age-appropriate behaviors/skills
  • Constantly seeking the attention and affection of adult
 
Neglect :
 
  • Lack of adequate medical/dental care
  • Poor personal hygiene; always dirty
  • Inadequately dressed
  • Poor supervision/left home alone
  • Unsanitary environmental conditions
  • Lack of heating and plumbing
  • Fire hazards and other unsafe home conditions
  • Inadequate sleeping arrangements (cold, dirty, etc.)
  • Inadequate nutrition, fending for own nutritional needs
   
 
   
back to top Ways to Heal
 
 

With issues of physical abuse, child safety should be the central focus. Goals might range from removal of the child to insure safety with a tentative plan for early reunification to long-term placement of a child who cannot be safely returned to their home.(5)

Given the prevalence of parental abusers, individual therapy and removal from the home may be the only appropriate treatment for abused or neglected children in many cases.

When dealing with issues of neglect or psychological abuse, appropriate education and support are often sufficient to improve the circumstances of neglect. There are, of course, instances in which the psychological or emotional functioning of the parent(s) is not adequate to consistently provide the child's necessities for health and wellness without increased intervention and treatment, such as removing the child from a home.(5)

Parent(s) or caretaker(s) need assistance in understanding what the abusive behaviors are, why they are abusive, how to effectively manage their own lives and how to effectively parent. These families need to have resources identified for them that can be helpful for ongoing support, education, and crisis intervention.(5)

Individual, group and/or family therapy may also be helpful (see "Ways to Heal" on our page about "Child Sexual Abuse").

   
 
   
Sources:
1. "Defining Child Maltreatment". International Child Abuse Network. http://www.yesican.org/definitions.html
2. "Child Maltreatment: 1999 Reports From the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System". 2001. US Dept. of Health & Human Services, Admin. for Children & Families. http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/CB/publications/cm99/index.htm
3. "The Link between Child Abuse and Domestic Violence", in Sept. 1994 issue of The Child Protection Leader. Englewood, CO (American Humane Association). http://www.yesican.org/articles/linkcadv.html
4. "Therapist's Guide to Clinical Intervention: The 1-2-3's of Treatment Planning", S. Johnson. 1997. San Diego (Academic Press). p124-125.
5. "Therapist's Guide to Clinical Intervention: The 1-2-3's of Treatment Planning", S. Johnson. 1997. San Diego (Academic Press). p126.
 

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