Child Abuse and Neglect - An Overview
Child abuse in the United States continues to be a serious and ever-increasing problem. Although the media report extreme and tragic examples of abuse, many children are living in less newsworthy, but alarming circumstances. The statistics are shocking. An incident of child abuse is reported—on average—every 10 seconds. The most recent government national study reported that more than 2.9 million reports of possible maltreatment involving children were made to child protective services in 2003. The actual incidence of abuse and neglect, however, is estimated to be three times greater than the number reported to authorities. Every day more than 4 children die as a result of child abuse in the home. The types of reported maltreatment included: Neglect (61%), Physical Abuse (19%), Sexual Abuse (10%), Psychological Maltreatment (5%), Medical Maltreatment (2%), Other (17%). The consequences to the children and families involved and to society are incalculable.
Child abuse and neglect can take different forms
Following is a summary of the types of child abuse and neglect, but definitions may vary according to state, legal, medical, mental health, economic, and child welfare systems. The types of child abuse and neglect are usually found in combination rather than alone.
- Child physical abuse (CPA)–an injury to a child or adolescent by a parent or other caregiver after intentional physical contact. It is defined not by the act, but by the results of the act (e.g., bruises, burns, broken bones). The physical injury may result from different acts, including hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, choking, throwing, whipping, and/or paddling.
- Child sexual abuse (CSA)–any form of sexual activity with a child or adolescent in which consent is not or cannot be provided (e.g., significant disparity in age, development or size). The sexual activity often includes physical contact (e.g., penetration, touching) and may also reflect non-contact sexual acts (e.g., exposure to pornography). Examples of sexual abuse include: fondling, penetration, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, and forced observation of sexual acts.
- Emotional or psychological abuse is assumed to be present in all other forms of abuse. It consists of any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child's mental health or social development, such as yelling, screaming, name calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling children they are "bad" or "no good." Another aspect of emotional abuse is the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development a child's well being, such as ignoring, withdrawal of attention, lack of praise, and lack of positive reinforcement.
- Neglect, is defined by the absence of specific events. Five types of neglect are identified:
- Physical neglect–the failure to provide for a child's physical needs, including adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
- Emotional neglect–failure to provide for a child's emotional needs which, in extreme cases, can lead to non-organic failure to thrive and physical illness/abnormalities.
- Medical neglect–failure to provide or comply with prescribed medical treatment, such as immunization, surgery, medication.
- Mental health neglect–failure to provide or comply with recommended corrections or therapeutic procedures in cases of serious emotional or behavioral disorders. This is not widely accepted and investigated as a form of neglect.
- Educational neglect–failure to comply with state requirements for school attendance.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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