Child abuse is a major social problem that has been around since time began, but only within the last fifty years have people become aware and concerned enough to force laws to be passed to protect children. The most recent high publicized case was brought to peoples attention by the death of six year old Jon Bennet Ramsey, former “Little Miss Colorado. ” She was found strangled in the basement of her home. According to different media reports, her skull was fractured and she had been sexually abused. There was a lot of speculation that her death was a direct result of abuse by one of her parents, but it was never proven.
In that way, it is not unlike many of the over one million suspected cases that are reported each year. According to Grus, “it is estimated that 1200 children die from child abuse related injuries each year” (Grus 80). What is considered child abuse and what does it include? According to Ruth Ryan, author, child abuse is “physical or emotional abuse of a child by a parent, guardian, or other person. It is the intentional use of physical force or intentional omission of care by a parent or caretaker that causes a child to be hurt, maimed, or killed. ” (Ryan 499)
Child abuse is a general term that covers four categories. It covers a wide range of parent behavior that causes harm to children of all ages. Four major categories of abuse are neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. The kind of abuse is different with different ages. Neglect is the most common form of child abuse according to “The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. ” Neglect is defined by the NCCAN as “the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, healthcare, or safety. ” It covers instances of malnutrition, desertion, and inadequate care.
The children are basically ignored to death. The parent doesn’t provide or make sure the children have adequate food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. Children that are neglected are usually undernourished. Grus reports that “in the age range between 8-17 years, neglect, as opposed to physical or sexual abuse, was involved in 70 percent of all validated reports of mistreatment in the US in a recent year” (Grus 80). A second form of abuse is physical abuse. Defined by Grus as “mistreatment that causes physical injury, impairment or endangerment. This type of abuse usually occurs to the very young. It is seen in infants and pre-school children.
This form is the type most people think of when they hear the term child abuse. It results in bruises, broken bones, and the most painful, burns. The name given to this type of abuse is “Battered Child Syndrome. ” Many children die each year from this type of abuse. Shaken baby syndrome is another recently recognized form of physical abuse. It is when the shoulders, arms or legs of an infant or small child are shaken. Actual impact to the head is not necessary to cause permanent injury or even death.
This is because a baby’s brain and blood vessels can tear easily with jerking, shaking and jolting motions. Many people aren’t aware of the dangers of shaking a baby. Some of the signs of a baby suffering from Shaken Baby Syndrome are irritability, lethargy, vomiting, constipation, and lack of appetite. They may also have dilated pupils, be semicomatous, have breathing problems, or pooling of blood in the eyes. Shaken Baby syndrome can be misdiagnosed. Medical-professionals misdiagnosis it often because symptoms are like many other diseases. Mortality rate is twenty to twenty-five percent.
Fifty percent of infants suffer life long disabilities. (Grus 80). A third type of child abuse is sexual abuse, which according to Grus is defined as “abuse involving sexual contact or inappropriate fondling. Historically, reported cases of sexual abuse, ranging from molestation to incest, primarily involve male perpetrators and school-aged or adolescent female victims. ” (Grus 80) This type of child abuse is generally committed by abusers that were themselves abused as children. Children that are severely abused may develop multiple personality disorders or some type of sexual dysfunction as adults (Grus 80).
The last type of child abuse is emotional abuse that dictated by Pollak, “can range from repeated verbal belittling and rejection to tying a child to an enclosed space such as a closet or a cellar. ” This type of abuse can do permanent damage to a child (Pollak 679). How can a parent ever hurt his or her innocent child? What causes some people to become child abusers? There is no stereotype as far as social or economic status. It occurs in the homes of both rich and poor. Age doesn’t play a role either.
Neither does race. Personal stress, marital dissatisfaction, and lack of activities outside the family are contributing factors to conflict in families where child abuse has occurred according to a study by Francesca Adler-Baeder. ” “The vast majority of physical abuse starts as discipline or a conflict between parent and child that went too far” (Conflict in Families 7) Personal stress was the biggest factor for biological mothers. For biological fathers, marital dissatisfaction played a bigger role. For stepfathers, lack of participation in family activities seemed to be the main problem.
It may not be a problem in the relationship of child and parent. Sometimes the parent feels isolated or conflicted and takes it out on the child (Conflict in Families 7). According to a study by Carol Coohey, a contributing factor of committing child abusing among mothers dealt with the mothers own exposure to physical abuse, whether it was as a child or an adult in a domestically violent relationship. If as a child she was abused by her mother or if her partner abused her, she would be more likely to be an abuser to her children (Coohey 1).
According to Professor Gaynor, being unable to control ones anger played the major role in child abuse. He considered them the aggressive response person. “They are people who are preoccupied with themselves, display selfish behavior, and do not give adequate attention to the needs of others. They have no concern for how the impact of their anger will affect the recipient” (Ryan 499). This behavior also includes verbal abuse, labeling, sarcasm, humiliation, and putting others down. They are people that have quick tempers and act on impulse. They are in a bad mood a lot.
They are capable of covering their temper, and acting remorseful, making it difficult to prove child abuse. Children are the victims of adult anger and their unwillingness to change this behavior (Ryan 499). Child abusers do know they are doing something wrong, and do not want witnesses. Children don’t want to reports their parents. When a child is hurt badly enough to be taken to a hospital, a story such as falling down steps or some other type of accident account is given. Often times the abusers spouse will protect the abuser and along with the story.
A few other factors contributing to child abuse are unwanted pregnancy, failure of infant to thrive, disappointment by parents (sex, birth defect, etc. ) hyperactive behavior, sickly child, and slower learning ability (Coohey 1081). What effects does child abuse have on its victims? Are the effects different for the different types of abuse? Children that are neglected or emotionally abused often suffer from poor self-esteem. They also don’t seem to fit in. They have poor peer relationships. They are more likely to be depressed.
They will probably have parenting problems. In some case the neglect can cause medical problems, from lack of proper medical attention. A study conducted by Emma Patten- Hitt found that permanent changes to the developing brain were found. “The left side of the brain was underdeveloped in adults that were abused as children, which researchers speculate, may lead to depression and problems with memory. There was also a decrease in the size of the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain” (Ryan 499). Neglect reduced the size of the bridge in boys, but not in girls.
Shaken Baby Syndrome, when not fatal can cause permanent brain damage, seizures, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, blindness, spinal cord injuries, learning disabilities, mental retardation, speech difficulties, behavioral problems, and paralysis. Children who have been physically abused sometimes suffer from physical defects from the abuse, such as scars from burns. Physical Abuse also causes problems with self-esteem and fitting in with peers. They are more likely to abuse their children when they become parents. They may get in trouble with the law as juveniles.
They tend to drop out of school or abuse drugs and alcohol. They have a higher incidence of attempting suicide. They may also suffer from social isolation. Sexual abuse can cause problems with sexual relationships, poor self-esteem and even multi-personalities (Ryan 499). How can anyone ever consider abusing a child? There’s no excuse. Help is out there. There are several laws and government agencies such as Social Services set up to protect children. Help lines are open 24/7 for people who just need to talk. Anger Management programs are available. Parenting courses are offered in all cities.
There is help for whoever needs it (Conflict in Families 7). In conclusion, child abuse is a major concern for society today. Even though laws have been passed and government agencies set up, it continues. Child abuse includes these four forms. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and neglect being the most common. The consequences for the victims of this crime are devastating, and the effects are lasting. Death isn’t uncommon either. Causes for this abuse vary but perhaps anger and the unwillingness to control it is the most common. There is help for those willing to seek it.