Child abuse is one of the major issues that bring the attention of the entire nation. Several organizations formed because it is not just an individual or familial problem. It takes different forms, physical or psychological maltreatment of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define child abuse as “any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child”
Every year millions of children suffer from the different types of child abuse. Most child abuse results from an attempt to punish or control the child. Parents try to punish their children when they are doing something wrong and to avoid spoiling the child, but these attempts will increase to produce physical harm to the child. Therefore we have to distinguish between physical discipline and physical abuse. The most common way to distinguish physical punishment from abuse is by the presence or absence of physical injury. “It is important to recognize that most parents do not want to beat their children. Virtually all parents feel regret after such an incident and most believe physical punishment is not an effective route to increase compliance, learning or respect for the parent” (Durrant, 1996, p.186).
There are four forms of child abuse that are neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse. The most common form of child abuse is neglect. According to Longman dictionary “to neglect is to pay insufficient attention to, or ignore ”. It means parents or caregivers fail to provide the important needs for their children. Neglecting the child can be noticed if the child lacks hygiene, dresses clothes which are dirty, old, and inappropriate for age and weather, frequently absents from school, always sick and no medical assistance provided, malnourished and isolated from others. These signs of neglect are mostly observed by people who are always with close contacts to the child like the teacher, doctors, nurses, and neighbors. They are frequently the ones who notice, suspect and report child neglect. Neglect has three forms which are physical neglect, emotional neglect, and educational neglect. Physical neglect is the most noticed abuse among children. Physical neglect can be seen in many ways for example if the parent does not provide supervision, repeat shuttling of child from one household to another for a day or week at a time, not providing adequate food for their children, clothes, house, not seeking medical care for a serious health problem or not giving the child his treatment. Emotional neglect includes inattention to child’s need of affection and emotional support, expose a child to extreme spousal abuse, permitting the child to use drugs and drink alcohol, refuse of medical assistance for a child with psychological problems and applying high expectation that is inappropriate for child’s age and level of development. Educational neglect can be if the parent refuses to enroll the child in school, failure to provide the essential learning needs and allow frequent absence from school.
Understanding causes of child abuse is important to address the problem in order to prevent it. Specialists and experts who evaluated abused child’s environment and family background have come out with three causes of child abuse which are parental causes, ecological causes and child problems. Parental causes include parents who are very young and lack of experience of taking care of children are more likely to neglect child’s need. For example; teenage parent or single parent never learned the skills necessary for good parenting. Although, parents who suffer many problems and they cannot control their anger which will inflict their children by abusing them physically. On the other hand, parents who were abused when they were children are more likely to abuse their own children too. It is like a cycle of violence and abuse. Also, some parents raise their children same the way as they rose even if parents were abused. Some parents do not differentiate discipline from abuse which leads to physically abuse their children in order to teach them the right things. Parents who physically abuse their spouses can also abuse their children. At the same time, parents who suffer from mental disorder, anxiety or depression cannot take the right decision for themselves, either for their children.
Child problems include handicapped children. Caring for a child with special needs is difficult and need family and community support. Some parents ignore the needs of the child which lead to abusing child’s rights.
All types of child abuse regardless the causes; affect the child by some way. The effects of child abuse vary depending on the type of child abuse. Some of these effects are physical and other are emotional or psychological. Studies show that sexual and emotional abuse has the major impact on a child. Effects can be classified to short term effects and long term effects.
Short term effects can easily detect and the signs of abusing show in short period. For example; wound, burns or fracture that occur after physical abuse, which healed after seeking medical treatment. The child will show some sexual behaviors include sexual play with dolls. The child will be aggressive, fear of parents, fear to go home, and isolated from the public. The child will fight to another student in class. The child may have difficulty in speech and cannot express feelings. A child who has been abused by his parent will not trust them to provide physical and emotional needs, which eventually lead to the lack of trust to other people in the community.
Long term effects are signs that difficult to detect at beginning of abusing incidents and will progress with the developmental process of the child which lead it to occur after a long time. Almost it will occur in adult age if the child did not seek medical assistance. For example; the adult will have difficulty in establishing normal relationships with other. Adultly survives from child abuse, can have unexplained signs of fear, anxiety, and depression. An adult survivor of sexual abuse can abuse other children which are the cycle of abusing. Also, the adult may suffer from a sexually transmitted disease. The adult will have difficulty to express feeling and may turn to substance abuse (alcohol or drugs). The adult may attempt to suicide.
To sum up, child abuse is a worldwide problem affecting children from birth to 18 years of age. Detecting the early signs of abuse will end further harm to a child, better chance for recovery, and appropriate treatment will be provided for the child. Since the family is the core of love and care for the child, it is important to bring their attention and highlight the causes and effects of child abuse, so they can play a significant role in stopping the matter. Therefore, proper awareness of the community plays an important role in preventing this problem from going further.