Any exploitation of children, whether physical, psychological, sexual, emotional maltreatment or neglect of children constitute what is known as Child abuse. According to UNICEF report, United States of America and United Kingdoms rank lowest when it comes to the care of children. Child abuse is not a new phenomenon but is well very prevalent among families in many civilizations since centuries.
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There had always been a tendency to tame the children according to their familial and societal practices, and till now children are decreed upon to follow certain practices that are the part of the family. It's through the family that children see themselves, and if energy and dynamism that children show are suppressed then children will learn to suppress their vitality in themselves and loose that childlike behavior and mannerism, which spread an essence of serenity, love, and happiness around. Children may feel unwanted, undesired and depressed. (Karson 2001:17) This implies that child abuse is a reality and is conferred in the realm of socially contrive environment.
Child abuse has many faces in the socially contracted patterns and parameters. Although the rules, policies and actions currently undergoing to over come child abuse had been present in one form or the other yet this matter never had been undertaken on a massive scale within the media and society until 1870's when it became an institution in itself to chalk out the causes and reasons and formed the policies to reach at the grass root level to curb child abuse. (Norman 1994: Online) The child abuse has become so common pattern that we often ignore it as a mad act but it cannot be ignored, as its consequences are devastating. C. Henry Kempe, the noted physician made a dramatic increase in creating public awareness on the abuse and how the children are neglected, in his lectures on the battered-child syndrome. (Kenney, McCauley: Online)
The mass media has a very crucial role to play in raising the consciousness of the people on the several abuses that child endorses and also showed that it becomes a source of disillusionment and frustration not only for the child who is abused but also for the abuser himself. It’s the media with its heart rendering stories on the child abuses brought this sleepy problem since centuries to the consciousness of the society as a whole. These horror stories were successful in bringing to the light the maltreatment of the children and made the child maltreatment movement in United States of America a great success and a great successful venture to endure, socially and politically. (Johnson 1995: 267) The human- interests’ story has always dominated the pages of Media. It all took shape due to the intense moment of the Anthony Dawns who presented the description of the issue attention cycle. From the formulation of the Dawn’s theory, the cases of the child abuse began to get good coverage in the media. Dawns found that Americans have a touching blend of horrified concern and wide eyed, cotton candy confidence, which leads them to assert “that every problem can be solved without fundamental reordering of society itself.”(Nelson 1984: 53) Government’s solution to the problem and its formulation follow different stages and at one stage, matter of redistribution and social rendering bring out the solution to the particular problem. After the five stages, when the Government’s stance has been initiated, it becomes institutionalized. There are number of factors that are associated with the physical abuse of a child, and these are the characteristic features that predominate among individuals who cause abuse and the culture, nature and habitude of the families in which child abuse occurs.
The culture and familial background constitute what makes the child abuse studied on the basis of the culture. The different ways and practices in which child abuse occur help to reinforce the relationships between the familial background and the power relation. (Norman 1994: online) The most socially conceived crime on the child is sexual abuse and since ages, its discernment on the abuse has been socially constructed. In the year 1998, Guarnieri pointed out the fact that the children are being institutionalized in the name of giving the sexual abuse children moral care and education. The silence that was hidden within the burning heart of the victims in the 20th century got the voice by the institutions whose main task was to reform the victims.
As a socially constructed product of crime, its definition even within particular country is very difficult to define. Before 1987, as noted Joaquín De Paúl and Olaya González, professionals in Spain were not able to reach any agreement concerning the way to classify the child maltreatment cases. The way the culture and society define child abuse determines the way country defines abuse and it becomes very difficult to give concrete definitions on child abuse. The child abuse and the neglect of the child are the two different aspects of it, and there are different types of physical and harmful activity and abuse that can occur in child. This form of abuse is explained as a situation in which child can get injury due to the willful acts of an adult. It is said that the definition given on this type of abuse conjures to the ill treatment of children. However child abuse can also be defined as a state of affairs in which all hitting, biting, kicking, or slapping; occurs. The most modern and popular conception about the child abuse is the act of violence that deviant adult bestows on the powerless children. (Kenney, McCauley: Online)
The definitions of child abuse conform to the result of laws framed to protect children. For e.g. 21/87 Act of Spain made considerable improvements in the constituency of definitions formed through out the country to identify culprits. In Israel too, the year 1989 was the year of an amendment act, which was popularly known as the Law for the Prevention of Abuse of Minors and the Helpless. In this amendment, some specific types of abuse are also defined, to create a definition of each type of abuse in Israel. (Kenney, McCauley: Online)
When the law on child abuse was passed first passed in U.S. in 1974, it also added the problem of psychological maltreatment under the category of mental injury. But these earlier attempts to convolute this category in national policy and state law did not prove to be adequate enough which can result in mystifying diverse words of terms and standards. But the most concrete effort in forming a definition of child abuse happened due to the efforts of the International Conference on Psychological Abuse of the Child through conceptual and empirical expansion of related standards by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) (1995). (Hart, Brassard, Binggeli & Davidson: Online)
This international concern on the psychological maltreatment led Sweden to form the laws, where by it prohibits emotional psychological abuse of children, and Singapore under the child protection law has included “emotional injury” in its definition of child abuse, a child or young person needs care and protection. APSAC Guidelines for Psychosocial Evaluation of Suspected Psychological Maltreatment of Children and Adolescents (1995), gave yet another and very constructive definition meaning when the caregiver repeatedly conveys and tries to induce in the children’ s brain that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered etc., it is also considered as child abuse. (Hart, Brassard, Binggeli & Davidson: Online)
This psychological maltreatment consist of: (1) spurning (i.e., hostile caregiver acts both verbal or nonverbal degrading and rejecting a child); (2) terrorizing (i.e., caregiver behavior that threatens or is likely to physically hurt, kill, abandon, or place the child or child's loved ones or objects in recognizably dangerous situations); (3) isolating (i.e., denying the child needs and opportunities of communicating and interacting with other persons inside or outside the home); 4) exploiting, corrupting and not giving emotional support. (Hart, Brassard, Binggeli & Davidson: Online)
Generally there are many versions that are coming to light regarding what constitute child abuse and how a person himself a victim as a child becomes an abuser at the attainment of adult hood. The persons abused as a child become themselves as abusers. It has also come to light that child abuse is most prominent among females though males are also abused. Distress, loneliness, and lost cultural or religious values are the cause of concern that may lead to child abuse.
It is a proven fact that there is a change in perspective and thinking regarding the recognition of the child abuse as a problem with the change in time. As and as there is progress in the society, the attitude, behavior and care taking of the parents to change and the parent's expectations are put under review and unacceptable behavior are very well defined and taken care of by the authorities. From time to time, the government keeps on consolidating the policy initiatives and legislation, which are put forward for public inquiries resulting in modifications in the policies and legislations conducive to the people and for their welfare. (Reder, Duncan, Grey 1993: 6)
The government of the various nations keeps on putting different perspectives about child abuse according to the socio, cultural and economic condition and how to deal with them. The concept of child abuse is being defined and understood in context to major societal differences, institutions, and power, which embraces not only childhood behavior, parenting, and family prerogative but also issues concerned with race, ethnicity, class, and gender.
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