What is Child Abuse and Neglect (Child Maltreatment)?
According to the CDC, Child maltreatment includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. There are four common types of child maltreatment:
Physical abuse – intentionally harming a child by hitting, punching, beating, burning, biting, kicking, cutting, shaking, or any action that physically harms a child.
Emotional abuse – refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include criticizing, insulting, yelling, manipulating, name calling, rejecting, shaming, swearing, threatening, or withholding love.
Sexual abuse – involves inducing or coercing a child to engage in sexual acts. It includes behaviors such as exhibitionism, fondling, penetration, photographs or videos, pornography, prostitution, rape or exposing a child to other sexual activities.
Neglect – failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, medical, or educational needs.
Who Abuses Children?
Most often the abuser is someone the child knows, such as a parent, relative, neighbor, or friend of the family.
There are numerous risk factors that increase the likelihood of a child being abused and or neglected.
Risk factors for victimization include a child’s age and/or special needs that may increase caregiver burden (e.g., developmental and intellectual disabilities, mental health issues, and chronic physical illnesses).
Risk factors for perpetration include:
- Young parental age
- Single parenthood
- Large number of dependent children
- Low parental income
- Parental substance abuse
- Parental mental health issues
- Parental history of abuse or neglect
- Social isolation
- Family disorganization
- Parenting stress
- Intimate partner violence
- Poor parent-child relationships
- Community violence
- Concentrated neighborhood disadvantage (e.g., high poverty and residential instability, high unemployment rates).
Where Does Child Abuse Happen?
Child abuse happens wherever children are, including where they live, sleep, learn, or play.
How Often Does Child Abuse Occur?
- Child abuse and neglect is highly prevalent. Research shows at least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect.
- Each year, close to 3 million reports of suspected abuse are filed in the United States.
- Many more cases never get reported. One victim of child abuse is one too many!
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
Factors that protect or buffer children from being abused or neglected are known as protective factors. Supportive family environments and social networks consistently emerge as protective factors. However, factors such as the following also serve to protect against child abuse and neglect.
- Parental employment
- Adequate housing
- Access to health care
- Social services
Impact of Child Abuse and Neglect
The health and economic consequences of child abuse and neglect are substantial. Evidence suggest that child abuse affects children in many ways. Aside from physical injuries, children may sustain emotional and psychological problems that can last throughout their adolescent years and adulthood.
Thus, child abuse and neglect can negatively affect a person’s mental health and social development. Moreover, research shows that in the United States alone, the total lifetime economic burden associated with child abuse and neglect was approximately $2 trillion.
Taking proper care of a child requires one to ensure that the child is healthy and safe at all times. Parenting is not an easy task; it requires parents to be well informed and able to adapt to their child’s ever-changing needs. Thus, learning positive parenting skills is exceptionally important.
As a parent, you give your children a good start in life—you nurture, protect and guide them. Parenting is a process that prepares your child for independence. As your child grows and develops, there are many things you can do to help your child. These links will help you learn more about your child’s development, positive parenting, safety, and health at each stage of your child’s life.