To solve the very serious issue of child abuse, the definition needs to be clear so that United States citizens can help. The four main types of child abuse are psychological, neglect, physical and sexual. The most frequently encountered type of abuse is neglect. In 2004, 62.8 of abused children in the United States were neglected, according to Prevent Child Abuse New York.
Child neglect is when a parent or guardian fails to give the child everything they need. Most cases of child neglect involve inadequate nurturing and affection from the parent to the child. Jill Goldman and Marsha K. Salus, 2006, define neglect as "paying little to no attention to the child, refusal or delay in medical or psychological care, the insufficient provision of food, clothes and hygienic care and not providing proper education". Neglect can often result in psychological/mental diseases, the most common being post-traumatic stress and depression. Moreover, children who did not receive the loving care and support from their parents have a hard time having healthy relationships. If they have never experienced a healthy relationship, they are not able to have one, and they cannot communicate normally. Neglect often leads to other types of abuse, mostly psychological.
Psychological, or emotional, abuse refers to an incident or a behavior of the parent or guardian that conveys to the child that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered or only of value in meeting another person's requests. A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice, by Jill Goldman and Marsha K. Salus, 2006, "There are six categories of psychological maltreatment: Spurning, terrorizing, isolating, exploiting, denying emotional responsiveness, and mental health, medical and educational neglect". Spurning refers to the caretaker belittling, rejecting or ridiculing the child in a hostile manner. Terrorizing consists of threatening violence against the child or placing the child in a recognizably dangerous situation. Included in the isolating category are placing unreasonable limitations on the child's freedom and restricting the child from social interactions. Exploiting would contain modeling inappropriate behavior such as criminal activity, encouraging prostitution and permitting substance abuse. Ignoring the child's attempts to interact and failing to express affection would fall under the denying emotional responsiveness category. The last category of psychological abuse, mental health, medical and educational neglect, encompasses the refusal of allowing or failing to provide treatment for services for serious educational needs. Usually, at least one of the six forms of psychological abuse is present when one of the other categories of child abuse is found.
The third type of child abuse is physical maltreatment. Physical abuse is when a guardian physically hurts the child on purpose. Common methods of physical abuse according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 2003, include punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting with a hand, stick, strap or other object and burning. One of the most common forms of physical abuse is the Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), and it happens when a baby or toddler is shaken so violently, that it causes damage to the brain. The injuries that could occur are brain damage, blindness, seizures, speech and learning disorders including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, damage to the neck, vertebrae and spinal cord resulting in severe motor dysfunction , paralysis and even death. Sometimes the shaking of the child is accidental when the caretaker gets frustrated or stressed, but there are major consequences. Physical abuse is extremely damaging to children.
The last type of child abuse is sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse refers to sexual acts, sexually motivated behaviors involving children or the sexual exploitation of children. Snyder, H. N., 2000, states that nearly 70 of all reported sexual assaults occur to children seventeen or younger. According to Ellen Jaffe-Gill MA, Jaelline Jaffe Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., sexual abuse includes behavior involving penetration, fondling, violations of privacy, exposing children to adult sexuality, and exploitation. Behavior involving penetration would specifically mean vaginal or anal intercourse and oral sex. Fondling would encompass touching a child's genitals or making a child fondle an adult's genitals. Violation of privacy would involve forcing a child to undress, or spying on a child in the bathroom or bedroom. When someone exposes children to adult sexuality, they perform sexual acts in front of the child, expose genitals, tell inappropriate or "dirty" stories or show pornography to children. Lastly, exploitation is when an adult sells a child's services as a prostitute or a performer in pornography. Sexual abuse can lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, suicide, promiscuity/prostitution and other psycho-behavioral issues, which is why a solution needs to be found quickly.
To prevent child abuse, the main causes need to be identified. Alcohol is a big cause of abuse. In fact, alcohol abuse was found in 40 of child maltreatment cases, according to a study done by Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Inc., 1996. Drug use is another cause of child abuse, as well as stress. A lot of the time, stress is caused by caring for a child with a disability or one that has special needs. Many times a guardian snaps under the stress and does something that could be considered abuse, once and does not think about what the consequences might be. Another cause of child maltreatment is previous abuse; one-third of abused or neglected children will later abuse their own children, US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (2003). That means that about one-third of the previous generation's abused children are abusing their own children now. Many child abusers have anger management problems. They lose control of their temper often, causing them to abuse their child uncontrollably. A cause of child abuse that is often overlooked is parental inexperience. Many teenagers, or people, who do not know very much about infants or young children, do things that they do not think are bad. Often times, a naïve parent could be trying to discipline a child and could accidentally hurt them. Lastly, some parents cannot handle raising a child on top of everything else in their life, so they snap. Some even gradually develop mental illnesses, anger management problems or depression under the pressure.
Every cause has an effect, and the effects on a child who has been abused are harmful and lasting. According to Childhelp Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse, children who have been sexually abused are 2.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 3.8 times more likely to become addicted to drugs. Childhelp Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse has also discovered that 80 of young adults who had been abused as a child met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at the age of twenty one. The psychiatric disorders include depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the US Department of Justice, 14.4 of all men in prison in the United States were abused as children, and 36.7 of all women in prison in the United States were abused as children. US Department of Justice also discovered that abused children are 59 more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28 more likely to be arrested as adults and 30 more likely to commit violent crimes. Moreover, statistics from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, 2005, state that abused children are 25 more likely to experience teenage pregnancies. They are also three times less likely to practice safe sex, which puts them at a higher risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). With the numbers of abused children climbing each year, the percentages will keep getting higher, and keep getting worse.
There are many facts and statistics to prove how serious of an issue child maltreatment is. For example, the Administration for Children and Families of the US Department of Health and Human Services "Child Maltreatment Report, 2003" shows that there are approximately three million reports of child abuse made each year. However, the rate of child abuse is estimated to be three times higher than it is reported. There are four fatalities every day as a result of child abuse, which is about 1,500 deaths every year. Moreover, 79 of the child abuse fatalities are under the age of four. These statistics are getting exceptionally worse each year, and we need to find solutions.
Local governments, social and health agencies, and schools must work together to find an effective way to solve the growing problem of child maltreatment. The first step to finding a solution to child abuse is recognizing the signs. Ellen Jaffe-Gill MA, Jaelline Jaffe Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. have described the common warning signs of abused children. Some signs of child neglect are a child wearing clothes that are ill-fitting, ragged or dirty and having an unwashed appearance. Signs of children who are being neglected food are asking for or stealing food or searching through trash for food. Signs of child neglect could also be cold, fevers, rashes left untreated, cuts or chronic tiredness. When a child is being physically abused, cuts, bruises, welts and burns often appear on their body, and children have many excuses about the source of the injury. Many common signs of a sexually abused child are inappropriate knowledge of sexual behavior, seductive conduct, extra aggression or extra compliance and the fear of a particular person or family member. Warning signs of a child who is being psychologically abused are mainly apathy, depression and hostility. Some emotional signals that a child is being abused in any way are low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger management problems, relationship difficulties, withdrawal, personality disorders, clinginess, neediness, flashbacks and nightmares. More behavioral effects of child abuse are problems in school, prostitution, teen pregnancy, suicide attempts, criminal behavior, anti-social behavior, alcohol or drug use or eating disorders. All of these behaviors and actions are ways to help United States citizens to detect children who are being abused and help them.
Thus, a critical step toward solving the child abuse epidemic is public awareness. If people are able to recognize the signs of child abuse, then they would be able to read the signals an abused child is sending out, and act on their behalf. Many more children would be rescued, and it would contribute greatly to the solution and prevention of child abuse.
In conclusion, the four types of child abuse—neglect, physical, sexual and psychological—and their effects are long-lasting and extremely damaging. To protect children from child abuse all over the United States, the main causes need to be identified, and taken into consideration when effective solutions are created. Statistics show that child abuse is a serious problem facing families in the United States, and a solution based off public