Causes and Prevention of Child Abuse

Term Paper, 2002

9 Pages

Free online reading


1. What is child abuse

2. What causes child abuse

3. Different kinds of child abuse

4. Prevent child abuse

5. How to react, if a child has been abused

6. The Abuser

7. Child labour

8. Quellen

1. What is child abuse

It's very difficult to define child abuse. I found a definition in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act ( CAPTA ), Public Law ( 104-235 ).

CAPTA defines child abuse and neglect as "at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

More simple, child abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment of a child. Steadily rising reports of child abuse, an expanding body of child abuse literature and public declarations from adult survivors are a proof of the high amount of abused children all over the world.

A child is someone who has not reched the age of 18.

2. What causes child abuse

The abuser is usually known to the child, for instance a parent or family friends.

In Patrick Fagans opinion, nontraditional families or single-parent families cause higher rates of child abuse, than married-parent families. A study conducted by the Family Education Trust in Great Britain explored the relationship between family structures and abuse from 1982 to1988. The result shows that the safes environment for a child is one in which the biological parents are married. According to the British data the rate of abuse is 33 times higher if the child is living with a mother who is cohabiting with another man:

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Another reason may be leagal or illeagal drugs. Especially during pregnancy drugs can harm the children's physical health.

Other people think that poverty and poor living conditions cause child abuse. Sometimes abuse of children occure when the parents are unable to cope with their own problems, so they may take this unhappiness out on the children. If children are physically disciplined, they often become abusive parents.

Unfortunately corporal punishment is legal in every state of the US.

Religious believes can foster child abuse either. Often children became religious victims of groups like the Christian Scientists or Jehovah's Witnesses, who f.e. do not believe in blood transfusions.

Child abuse occurs in `traditional' households, where money is no problem AND in `poor' families, where the parents may live seperated.

3. Different kinds of child abuse

There are several types of child abuse, which vary from country to country.

Often children don't suffer only from one type, f.e physical abuse mostly includes emotional abuse.

Composition of substantiated child abuse in the USA, 1993:

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3.1 Physical abuse

Physical child abuse is an action which causes harm to a child's body. It's the most recognized form of child abuse because the results like bruises, welts, broken bones, scars or serious internal injuries are often visible. Physical abuse also includes giving drugs or poisons to the child. Unfortunately many of these injuries look like a result of `normal' accidents. To differentiate we have to know the behaviour of a physical abused child.

Children who have been physical abused may:

- avoid physical contact to others
- wear clothes to hide the results of physical abuse
- don't undress themselves for gym or sports.
- show aggressive or illegal behaviour.
- Seem frightened by their parents
- Have little respect for others.

A small amount of physical punishment is `legal' and accepted by society.

Many parents think that spanking is the ultimative way of disciplination, they don't know how to cope with the behaviour of their children.

Many children are physically abused by a parent or close relative each year, many of them die. For those who survive, the emotional trauma remains long after the external bruises have healed.

3.2 Emotional abuse

Defining emotional abuse is much more difficult, because there are no visible signs like bruises. Generally emotional abuse means undermining a child's self confidence and emotional well-being. It includes constant criticizing, rejecting, systematic tearing down, ignoring and not sho wing any love. Isolation may lay the foundation-stone of emotional abuse.

The results in a child's behaviour may be:

- Demonstration of hysterical outbursts
- Negative statements about self
- Self destructive behaviour
- Highly aggressive
- Cruel to others
- Shy, passive

Emotional abuse can be the cruelest type of abuse, because it attacks the psyche and selfconcept of a child.

3.3 Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is the involvement of children in sexual activities, that they not fully comprehend. Sexual abuse includes touching a child's body, forcing to undress or to perform in sexual fashion, spying on a child in bed- or bathroom and rape.

It can be physical, verbal or emotional.

The results of sexual abuse may be:

- Bed-wetting
- Becoming non-verbal
- Undressing in publicity
- Running away
- Being shy and passive
- Sexual activity or pregnancy at an early age
- School problems and low self-esteem

Most sexually abused children think that's their own fault and feel ashamed, because kids believe that grown-ups are `heroes', they never do anything wrong.

Children who grew up with sexual abuse may think that this is the normal thing and may became abusers themselves when they are grown up.

3.4 Neglect

Neglect is the failure of a parent or caretaker to provide the bare necessities of a child. It includes not giving enough food, not obtaining medical help, leaving the child alone and/or at a dark and cold place for a long time. In extreme cases children starved to death, because the parents don't feed them.

3.5 Medical neglect

Medical neglect is the failure of a parent or caretaker to provide medical help for a child. F.e. the children of Christian Scientists are medical neglect, if the parents don't believe in blood transfusions. Medical neglect can result in poor overall health.

4. Prevent child abuse

4.1 For parents

Everyone who gives birth to a child has the full care of it. It's not only important to feed and bath a child, it's also important to discipline it. Disciplination seems to be a difficult thing, often parents are not able to cope with their children. They have to think of some 'rules' to prevent child abuse:

Encourage your child if he or she is doing what's right. Always encourage the `good' person and contemn the `bad' behaviour. Never tell a child it's stupid, but tell a child it's stupid to behave impudent, f.e.

Set clear, fair guidelines. Explain your guidelines and the consequences.

Never set rules without explaining them, children only obey rules when they understand them.

Don't leave your child alone at home or in a park etc., until it has reached an age to take care of itself.

The most important thing is to listen and to talk to your child. It's important to inform children about child abuse and about what could happen, it's important for them to know how to react in certain situations.

4.2 What every child should know

Children should learn the difference between good and bad touch very early.

The sexual abuser often uses gentle and caring words while touching his victim. Many young children have problems to recognize this as a `bad' touch.

Children should know that it's important and all right to say no in uncomfotable situations. And they should know that it's not cowardly to run away in such situations.

5. How to react, if a child has been abused

5.1 Parents and children's friends

If you think a child has been abused it's very important to talk and to listen to him or her and to believe what you have heard. The child has to be protected from further abuse and the child should know that it will not happen again. Children need to feel protected.

Explain the child that you feel sorry about what happened and that it's not him/her fault. Many children think that they have provoked the assault.

It's very important to immediately contact your local Child Protective Service Agency, you will find the number in the Yellow Pages.

May you want to make a donation to an organization, which helps abused children and their families. Childhelp USA ® is such an organization.

"Childhelp USA ® is dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of abused and neglected children. It does this by focusing its efforts and resources upon treatment, prevention, and research.

Founded in 1959 by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp USA is one of the largest and oldest national non-profits dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect."

For further information go to:

5.2 How the legal system should deal with child molesters

Eric Lotke says:"Offenders can generally be integrated fully into society as normal productive citizens after a period of treatment."

Usually sex offenders are sentenced to prison for 2.5 to 12.8 years. Only a little or no psychological treatment is available for them in prison.

Compared to other offenders, sex offenders have relatively low rates of recidivism. Psychological treatment would reduce recidivism of sex offenders from 18.55 to 10.9%.

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To build and to operate a new prison cell costs about $77.000 a year. A full year of intensively treatment would cost between $5.000 and $15.000.

Another way to deal with child molesters may be castration. Even in the Middle Ages castration has been used as a punishment for adultery and rape.

The technology for castration brought up new methods, which are said to be more human.

One of these methods is chemical castration. They have produced powerful drugs to block testosterone production If they are injected daily, they reduce testosterone to castration levels. European studies suggest that the common argument "rape is all about power, not sex, and therefor castration won't work", is wrong. Of more than 700 castrated sex offenders, the rates of recidivism dropped from 17-50% to just 2%. Over 80% of them gave up masturbating and 70% gave up sex.

The problem is that forced castration is difficult to administer. It's very hard to find doctors willing to do the job. F.e. Heaven's Gate members had to go to Mexico for the operation because no California doctor would perform it on them.

6. The Abuser

The Abuser is seldom a stranger. Most abusers are family members, close relatives of the child or parents, caretakers or babysitters or teachers. So the abuser is usually someone who the child knows and trusts. Sexual abuse is mostly comitted by men, but physical abuse is comitted by men and women equally.

Reasons for child abuse may be:

- The abuser was victim of abuse himself
- Unemployment
- Legal/illegal drug problems
- Isolation

Abusive parents often have unrealistic expectations about their child's development and abilities. Many abusers view themselves as victims in life generally and loose control when everything seems to go wrong.

However, not all victims of abuse go on to assault children.

7. Child labour

Child labour is work performed by children that either endangers their health or safety, interferes with or prevents their education, or keeps them from play and other activities important to their education.

Sometimes work does not harm children and may even help them to learn new skills or to develop a sense of responsibility. Most people agree that when we speak about child labor we mean labor which is intolerable or harmful to children, work which denies them their right to fully develop, to play or to go to school. The International Labour organization estimates that there are 250 million children worldwide, between the ages of 5 and 14 years of age, who are now working - half of them full- time.

Poverty and the exploitation of the poor mostly cause child labour.

Families suffering from poverty often also suffer from ignorance of their rights. Established social and cultural patterns dictate child labour as an inevitable fate for children born to impoverished families. The perception of these children as rightly helping support their families is wrong. A child labourer would aid their family far more through receiving an education, allowing for greater opportunities.

Another reason for the employment of children remains their susceptibility to intimidation, their willingness to accept lower wages and to perform monotonous work in inadequate conditions. A child will obey and the risk of the formation of a union or rebellion against and employer is small. Children naturally take note of authority, putting their trust in adults.

The children currently labouring must be removed from their work environment and brought somewhere for physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. Education and training, along with rehabilitation from their previous experiences will prevent liberates children from returning to the work force. A liberates child without options will find itselve in an even more dangerous line of work. The cost of rehabilitation is high. This means financing the facilities of support workers such as psychiatrists, social workers, doctors, lawyers, educators and even police officers to provide the protection sometimes needed by the children. This cost must be weighed against the cost of continuing losing another generation of children to lives of labour and ignorance.

In the 1830's the English parliament set up a commission to look into the problems of working children. The testimony the commission takes is revaling. One worker in a textile mill testified that he first went to work at the age of 8 and that he had to work from 6am to 8pm. When buissenes was brisk he worked 16 houres from 5am to 9pm.

During the great social dislocation of the early Industrial Revolution, there were many children who had no parents and no caretakers. Under the English Poor Law local government officials where supposed to arrange for these children to become apprentices. So they would learm a trade and they would be under care.

The problem was, that the local officials sent those "pauper children" to a distant mill owner. After they had learned their trade they again had no one to care for them and they were little better then slaves.

Other children were sold to a mill owner by their own parents, because they needed money.

In the 19th century nearly all European countries began to limit child labour by establishing laws. F.e. England passed the First Factory Act in 1802, but it only applied to children who had been apprentices. In France children under 10 where barred from the mines in 1813.

In the USA the first states began to set up laws around 1900. The wish for a national legislation made them establish a Children's Bureau in 1912.

In Canada child labour never become a serious problem, because they remained predominately agricultural until the 20th century.

Interesting is that Canada has a family allowence system since 1945, which is similar to the Austrian "Kinderbeihilfe". It provides that all mothers are paid a sum each month to help in the maintenance of each child from the birth through the age of 16, but it's only paid if the child goes to school.


Encyclopedia Americana: Band6 `child labour'

What do you know about child abuse: Pete Sanders u. Steve Myers Verlag: Watts

Child Abuse: Opposing Viewpoints ; Greenhaven Press

Chinese Handcuffs: Chris Crutcher; Laurel Leaf Books

A Rock and A Hard Place: Anthony Godby Johnson; Warner Books


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Causes and Prevention of Child Abuse
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Sara Gross (Author), 2002, Causes and Prevention of Child Abuse, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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