Defining Child Abuse and Neglect
The following are definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect as stated
in the a training book.
Some cases of child abuse and neglect are easily recognized: an infant
left alone in a hot car, a three-year-old with multiple facial bruises,
a child who repeatedly is locked out of the house for long periods of time.
However, these cases represent only a fraction of the many children who
are in need of professional help.
What about the more subtle forms of abuse or neglect? -verbal abuse,
poor supervision, overly strict discipline. The key to recognizing the
various forms of child maltreatment is a basic understanding of the meaning
of the term Child Abuse and Neglect. there are numerous factors
involved in defining child abuse and neglect: Cultural and ethnic backgrounds,
attitudes concerning parenting, professional training and affiliation,
all contribute to a definition. In seeking commonly acceptable meanings,
it is helpful to begin by distinguishing between abuse and neglect.
Abuse represents an action against a child. It is an act of commission.
Generally, abuse is categorized as follows:
Physical Abuse is
the non-accidental injury of a child.
Sexual Abuse is
any act of a sexual nature upon or with a child. The act may be for
the sexual gratification of the perpetrator or a third party. This would,
therefore, include not only anyone who actively participated in the sexual
activity, but anyone who allowed or encouraged it.
Emotional Abuse is
chronic attitude or acts which interfere with the psychological and
social development of a child. Each of us is guilty of having unkindly
snubbed a child or having criticized him too harshly, but emotional abuse
is consistent and chronic behavior. It usually is related to a constellation
of interactions and is cumulative.
Three elements are usually involved and create the environment for an
incident of abuse:
- The Abuser
- The Victim
- A Crisis
A crisis generally will be the precipitating factor that sets the abuser
in motion. The crisis may come in any form or level of apparent severity;
for example, the crisis may be the loss of a job, divorce, illness, death
in the family' a child's wet pants, consistent crying, a broken dish. What
is significant is not what the crisis is, but what it creates: a situation
beyond the abuser's ability to cope in a normal manner. The culmination
of the resulting frustration and anxiety is abuse.
Not all abuse is the result of frustration or stress. Abuse may occur
for a wide variety of reasons, including inappropriate concepts of discipline,
association of the child with negative events, and psychological disorder.
Most abuse, however, does not occur as a result of willful desire to hurt
Neglect is failure to act on behalf of a child. It is an act of omission.
Neglect may be thought of as child-rearing practices which are essentially
inadequate or dangerous. It may not produce visible signs, and it usually
occurs over a period of time. Neglect generally is physical or emotional.
Physical Neglect is
failure to meet the requirements basic to a child's physical development,
such as supervision, housing, clothing, medical attention, nutrition, and
support. For purposes of reporting, some agencies will further break this
category into more specific acts of omission, such as medical neglect,
lack of proper supervision, or educational neglect.
Emotional Neglect is
failure to provide the support or affection necessary to a child's
psychological and social development. Failure on the part of the parent
to provide the praise, nurturance, love or security essential to the child's
development of a sound and healthy personality may constitute emotional
neglect. The effects of extreme deprivation can be seen in the medical
syndrome "nonorganic failure to thrive." Failure to thrive is a condition
in which children show a marked retardation or cessation of growth. On
a normal growth chart, failure-to-thrive children usually fall below the