Understanding Child Abuse
Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect
- Child abuse is any act that endangers a child’s physical or emotional health and development.
- Child abuse and neglect often take place in the home. The child often knows the abuser well – a parent, relative, babysitter, or friend of the family.
- Child abuse and neglect crosses all ethnic, racial, social, and economic lines.
- There are four types of child maltreatment:
- Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs including physical, educational, and emotional needs.
- Physical abuse is physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child.
- Sexual abuse may include indecent exposure, fondling, rape, or commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Emotional abuse is any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth, including constant criticism, threats, and rejection.
Risk Factors for Child Abuse and Neglect
For the Parent/Caregiver
- Stress and distress
- Mental health conditions
- Lack of understanding of children’s needs, child development, and parenting skills
- History of child abuse in family of origin
- Substance abuse
- Young, single, and non-biological parents
- Thoughts and emotions supporting maltreatment behaviors
For the Family
- Social isolation
- Poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantage such as unemployment or lack of education
- Family disorganization, dissolution, and violence (including intimate partner violence)
- Poor parent-child relationships and negative interactions
For the Community
- Community violence — leading to high incidents of trauma, strain, and fear for families