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Child abuse may involve an act, or omission, or simply neglect. Child abuse may come in different kinds and may involve physical abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse. Studies show that the problem of child abuse is very serious since abused or maltreated children may exhibit symptoms of psychiatric problems and attachment disorder. They also exhibit more anger, anxiety, depression and health problems compared to those children who were not abused or maltreated. Abused or Neglected Children also have a higher risk of school failure and lack social interaction skills.
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Studies also show that the abuse and maltreatment may result in the death of the child. In 2004 an estimate of 1,490 children died due to child abuse and neglect and more than 80% of children who were killed were younger than four years old.
It is therefore of utmost importance that this problem is addressed. We cannot prevent and treat this problem, however, if we do not have a good understanding of its cause. Most of the studies show that there is a direct relationship between poverty and child abuse. However, research shows otherwise and they indicate that there are other factors to be blamed for the cases of child abuse.
Firstly, it is important to understand that child abuse may not be intentional. There are cases where the parents themselves may not realize that their way of punishing their children is already a form of child abuse. The same is true with teachers at the school in imposing corporal punishment against the child. Studies also show this abuse and maltreatment that the child suffered from his parents may, later on, be adopted by the child. It is highly possible that the child may, later on, impose the same abuse and maltreatment he has suffered to his children. This may happen even without the child knowing that there is something wrong with his actions. It is, therefore, possible that even if the family does not suffer from any financial distress there may still be the incidence of child abuse and child neglect. Education therefore of the parents, teachers and the members of the community on the forms of child abuse and child neglect is important in controlling this problem.
Further, if child abuse is associated with poverty then why do First World Countries like the United States experience this problem. It must be emphasized that in 2001 alone Child Protective Service agencies investigated more than 3.25 million reports of child abuse and neglect throughout the United States. It must be stressed that child abuse is considered a public health crisis in the United States because of its increasing number. Its prevalence and annual incidence have reached epidemic proportions that the United States considers it a serious health problem. As one of the superpowers, why is the United States experiencing the same problem? The only possible explanation for this is that child abuse and child neglect is not a crime exclusive to the poor and the marginalized. It must be stressed that there are no social classes involved in child abuse which may become manifest in middle and upper-class families. The only reason why most people from these classes opt not to report these to the proper authorities is because these families have reputations to protect and they do not want their names to be involved in these crimes.
Also, poverty is not the only reason why children are being neglected and abused. Child abuse and child neglect committed by parents against their children are attributable to the level of family stress it is experiencing. It must be stressed that financial difficulty is not the only source of family stress. Among the possible sources of stress is the conflict between the parents, their separation or the lack of parent-child communication which are important in establishing the level of love and care in the family. Focusing therefore on addressing employment problems alone will not have a significant effect unless proper services and assistance are given to the family. They must also be educated on the adverse effects of marital conflict on their children and the importance of day-to-day communication with their children.
Research shows that children whose parents have drug addiction problems and alcohol problems are four times more likely to be neglected than children whose parents have no drug problems or alcohol problems. Drugs and alcohol are related to child abuse and neglect because the money that should be used for the needs of the family is diverted to drugs and alcohol. The problem also includes the inability of the parent to maintain employment which may further deplete the resources of the family. (“Poverty, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence and Child Neglect.”) Addressing poverty will not, therefore, cause significant breakthrough unless alcohol and drug abuse treatment are also provided to these parents. It must be stressed however that sobriety should not be the only goal of substance abuse treatment but the re-integration of the parent into the family. Complete recovery, therefore, should not merely be measured in terms of whether the drug or alcohol problem is controlled but it also includes the aspect of the understanding of the role and responsibilities of parents and how to discharge these responsibilities.
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