The term ‘child abuse’ is defined as rude and aggressive behaviour towards children that causes their physical or emotional harm. Display of child maltreatment has become extensive and alarming issue. The purpose of this essay is to clarify the types and causes of the violation towards children, make readers capable to recognize the problem and its consequences as well as propose ways for their resolving.

Based on careful examination of the question, this paper addresses the rising concern considering ‘child abuse’ as a social phenomenon. In addition, this research work considers the role of educators and social workers monitoring relatively high-risk behaviours towards children. The main objective of this paper is to provide suggestions for decreasing of child abuse. It is very important to educationists worldwide to find useful strategies against this terrifying problem. The writing provided below supports these intentions.

Key words: child abuse, behavior, neglect, emotional problem, preventing methods.


As parents and professionals, people should do their best to secure and protect the children. Many upsetting reports about children who were beaten and raped, bullied and left without help come from everywhere. According to the statistics, nearly a million children are abused every year just in the United States alone. The other terrifying data on that issue is that the USA loses five children every day due to abuse-related accidents (“ChildHelpInfoCenter – Statistics”, 2009). Thousands of children in the world die every year because of abuse and neglect. Violation towards children occurs everywhere regardless of socioeconomic or religious status of the country. Thus, this problem currently remains one of the major concerns of public health and social welfare. Moreover, it has a considerable impact on society and individuals.

Under child abuse, adults often understand only physical damages such as bruises or broken bones. However, the definition of the term is far-reaching. Emotional harm received while ignoring the children’s needs, putting them in dangerous situations or depriving kids of love and support has long-lasting effects throughout the life.

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Definition of child abuse

The definition of the terms “abuse” or “neglect” varies depending on the cultural groups, societies or even historical time. When speaking about the official definition of these terms, we can appeal to the evaluation given in The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act signed into law in 2003:

The term child abuse or neglect means, 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 at imminent risk of serious harm (Clark, Clark & Adamec, 2007, p.xii).

To say all the above in the simple phrase, child maltreatment (abuse) is any behavior in relation to the child which violates his physical or mental well-being, thus endangering its health and development. Everyone understands that the lack of well-nourishment in early childhood can cause physical disability in adulthood even if adverse effects are not immediately visible. However, not everyone knows that the same thing happens with the mental development of the child. When certain requirements such as personal attachment, emotional stability, and continuing educational impact are not met, the consequences may be lasting psychological defects. Adults abused as children have a greater risk of substance abuse in adulthood as well as risks of developing psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety disorders (Clark, Clark & Adamec, 2007, Besides studying the consequences of child abuse, clarifying of what provokes violent behavior towards children is worth of readers’ consideration as well. Many theories try to explain the reasons of abusing children by their parents or other adults. All those theories come down to the fact that violence is usually the result of a complex variety of reasons which, in turn, has a different impact in various forms of maltreatment. There is also the concept of psychological risk factors and risk groups for children and parents in case of the emergence of violence.

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Thus, maltreatment usually takes place if parents can be characterized as people who themselves were abused as children; people who suffer from mental disorders; people using alcohol and drugs excessively; teen parents (18 years); those having a difficult psychological interfamilial climate.

Children belonging to the risk group on the violence matter are as a rule those of infancy and tender age characterized by restlessness and irritability; those having physical and mental disabilities; those of hyperactive and impulsive behaviour. Such children often annoy parents, and it pushes the latter to physical punishments. However, it should be noted that sometimes the extremely bad behavior of children might be the result of child abuse.

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Child maltreatment forms

There are several types of child abuse, but their common feature is the emotional effect on a kid. The ways of punishment manifested through a stony silence, a harsh word or a slap may result in loneliness and feeling unsafe in children. The main forms of child abuse are emotional abuse, physical violence, child neglect, and child sexual abuse.

Emotional (psychological) abuse is the pattern of behavior disrupting the normal development of the child’s emotional sphere. Thus, the child’s self-worth can be harmed while humiliating, shaming, threatening or bullying it. The other ways provoking the fall of the child’s self-esteem are judging, name-calling, comparing, blaming, and criticizing them. As a rule, children subjected to emotional abuse do not get any positive responses or support from their parents or guardians. Adults usually ignore all good efforts of the child. In opposition to this, any negative aspects of the child’s behavior are strongly accentuated and accompanied by insults and harsh punishments. As a result, child’s world outlook is developing unilaterally, and its self-esteem is understated. Consequently, the child is not able to understand his/her own feelings and develop an adequate emotional response. In addition, if children witness the family conflicts or get involved in the process of divorce, they, as follows, fall under emotional abuse. As emphasized in the article by children’s educator Lori Petro (2013), “Negativity in the home can impact your child's academic success and ability to form healthy, pro-social, and intimate long-term relationships”(n.p.). We can point to such forms of emotional abuse as parental disallowance, emotional and physical isolation, bullying, exploiting, ignoring, and the corruption of children. Thus, showing the offsprings that they are unwanted, refusing to talk and understand, providing negative nurturing or placing inappropriate expectations on children, etc., can be destructive and “can delay and alter the emotional development and intelligence of kids”(Petro, 2013).

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Physical child abuse includes the episodes of physical harm and injury to the child inflicted by a caregiver. This type of abuse is the most visible. In ancient times, physical punishment was considered one of the most effective ways of parenting. In the past, corporal punishment was widely used in different countries. For example, this measure was a popular “educational method” in England. Thus, the phenomenon of physical child abuse is not new in the world, and it has been studied by doctors, teachers, psychologists, and lawyers. Unfortunately, the number of physically injured children is not becoming smaller. On the contrary, it has an upward tendency in many countries. As a result, the number of suicides among teenagers increases.

Child maltreatment can be of a different nature. Sometimes, parents cannot cope with the children; as a result, they resort to physical punishments. Very often, the abusive parents assign their actions as the discipline methods teaching children how to behave. However, teaching children to differentiate right from wrong requires other methods. Injuries received from abusers may cause serious physical and emotional problems. The following tactics used for attacking the children are mostly common: beating, hitting, pushing, shaking, burning, poisoning, kicking, and holding a child under water, choking and other dangerous use of force. It requires a special attention of specialists when distinguishing the imprints of physical abuse from those being received accidentally. Important indicators of physical abuse can be injuries or bruises that remain visible in the places where accidental injuries are unlikely. Some changes in children’s behavior can indicate physical abuse as well. Thus, if a child flinches when being touched, has a severe temper outburst, runs away from home or has a fear of adults, it can lend evidence of physical abuse.

Another form of child abuse, which manifests itself through parents or caregivers not providing the basic needs of the child such as food, clothing, education, and health care, is neglect.This type of abuse may lead to serious injuries, developmental gap, disability or death. Thus, we can define physical, educational, emotional, and medical kinds of neglect. Physical neglect involves the misconduct of caregiver in providing the child with clothing, shelter, food, and other basic necessities. Sometimes, the child is left alone for a long time and gets some harm, because no one looks after him. The neglect of that kind may be interpreted as abandonment, and it also belongs to the physical type of neglecting. While being alone, the child can drink some drastic drug, turn a hot water over, drop out of the window or get a hit of electricity. Educational neglect manifests itself through failure of a parent to provide the introduction of a child to the school, thus depriving an infant of the opportunity to acquire basic life skills. Emotional neglect includes disregard of the child’s needs in psychological support and care. If parents fail in providing an appropriate health care for a kid, it can be identified as a medical neglect. According to National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), in 2005, two percent of children (17,637 children) in the United States were victims of medical neglect (as cited in “Child Neglect”, 2013). It is not so easy to recognize neglect as a child abuse. However, some physical signs might help in discerning the problem. Thus, if a child has a specific smell, shows constant hunger, looses weight notably or is closed inappropriately for the conditions, all these indicate neglecting.

Sexual abuse is the use of a child or an adolescent for sexual satisfaction of adults or other children. “A person may sexually abuse a child using threats and physical force, but sexual abuse often involves subtle forms of manipulation, in which the child is coerced into believing that the activity is an expression of love”(ASCA, 2008). Statistics shows that girls become the victims of sexual abuse more frequently than boys; however, the number of the latter is also significant. Sexual abuse may include: rape, unwanted sexual touching, anal or oral sex against the will of a child, telling dirty stories, exposing children to pornographic material, incest. All stories of sexual predators are horrible; however, those ones describing sexual contacts between the child and its relatives or persons whom it trusts, are the most frightening. Incest can occur between father and his child, brother and sister, mother and daughter. The most common option is an abuse by the father or stepfather. The active offender, no doubt, is guilty. However, sometimes, mother prefers to remain “blind” and “deaf” to the daughter’s direct and indirect information about incest, thus exposing herself a passive delinquent as well. A good parent, of course, should always take notice of warning signs of his/her child. Such indications as trouble walking or sitting, seductive behavior, trying to avoid a specific person, excessive shyness, or runaway from home can be evidences of sexual abuse.

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Preventing methods

As it was already mentioned above, child abuse is very dangerous for children since it destructs their mental, emotional, and physical development. In order to provide a healthy and successful generation, humanity has to find ways of preventing such horrible phenomenon as child abuse.

Each form of child abuse requires specific steps to be done for preventing it. Thus, to avoid emotional abuse of the child, it is recommended to apologize to him or her after angry speaking, make corrections to the behavior through discussing, compliment and encourage the child, isolate oneself in the moments of losing control. The same methods can be applied in keeping from the physical abuse. In addition, if the parents are of explosive temper, they require support from local child protection services such as schools, churches, physicians or community centres. If anyone suspects a physical child abuse occurring, he or she should immediately report to protective services agency. In order to protect children from sexual abuse, parents have to teach their kids what appropriate sexual behavior should be. Schools have to establish programs for educating children and teachers about the problem. It is also important to offer encouragement for victims of incest or other type of sexual abuse through open communication. The best advice for avoiding the signs of neglect is to provide healthy food, clothing, and shelter; protect a child from emotional and physical harm or danger; ensure adequate supervision; provide access to the appropriate treatment or medical care. The most effective social method of preventing child maltreatment is the creation of special programs for supporting and teaching parents how to care and educate their children. Such programs involve, in particular, visits of a nurse and a social worker to children’s homes for observing and evaluating the progress of the child as well as group sessions for parents where they are taught parenting skills, expand knowledge about child development and build a strategy for positive treatment of children. The educators as well as parents are responsible for monitoring of child well-nurture. School programs including issue-related games might help children have a clear difference between good and bad intentions. The other helpful method is to develop anonymous and free support systems that encourage the reporting of potential episodes of child abuse. Nowadays, there is a variety of educational organizations on this matter with the information accessible online. Anna Freud Centre, International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), Childhelp Organization, and many others provide the educators and parents with recommendations on nurturing, developing, and protection of children. 

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