What is Child Abuse?

Information retrieved from American Society for the Positive Care of Children (SPCC). (2017). Child Abuse Statistics in the U.S. Retrieved on December 21, 2017 from https://americanspcc.org/child-abuse/

Child abuse takes many forms, physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, neglect, exploitation, and more. When we speak of child abuse, we normally first think of physical abuse, spankings, and whoopings, but the shocking truth is that neglect is the number one form of child abuse in America. More children die from neglect every year, than any other form of childhood maltreatment.

General Definition of Child Abuse:

Any 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 of a child, or an act or failure to act presenting an imminent risk of serious harm to a child.

Types of Child Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse: Physical hitting, unlawful corporal punishment or injury.
  • Neglect: General and severe, lack of basic needs, malnutrition.
  • Emotional Abuse: Causing psychological or emotional instability.
  • Verbal Abuse: Yelling, screaming, belittling, bullying, cursing.
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual assault, pornography, exploitation.
  • Child Safety: Willfully harming or endangering a child, hot cars.
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome: Shaking causes death or permanent brain damage.
  • Domestic Violence: Dysfunctional or violent home or family.
  • Substance Abuse: Parent or caregiver’s personal drug & alcohol abuse.
  • Abandonment: Parent’s identity or whereabouts unknown, no support.

Abuse Definitions:

  • Physical Abuse- Any intentional, non-accidental physical injury to a child, including: striking, kicking, burning, biting, cutting, poking, twisting limbs, shaking, throwing, or torturing a child.
  • Neglect- General neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, nurturing, or supervision whereby a child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Severe neglect results from negligent failure to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed non-organic failure to thrive.
  • Emotional Abuse- The failure of a parent or caregiver to provide adequate nurturing or positive interaction to a child, causing injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child, observable as a substantial change in behavior, emotional response, cognition, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior.
  • Verbal Abuse- Verbal abuse includes, belittling, screaming, threats, blaming, sarcasm, bullying, harsh and insulting language, unpredictable responses, continual negative moods, constant family discord, and chronically communicating conflicting messages to children.
  • Sexual Abuse- Any violation, exploitation, or sexual activity with a child to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator. This includes contact for sexual purposes, molestation, statutory rape, prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, or other sexually exploitative activities.
  • Child Safety- Child safety is a subset of child neglect, and includes leaving young children and babies unsupervised, or leaving children in locked cars with the window up. Hot cars can be lethal to young children. Young children should never be left unsupervised anywhere for any length of time.
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)- It is a severe form of physical child abuse resulting from violent shaking of an infant or young child by the shoulders, arms, or legs. SBS may result from both shaking alone or from shaking with impact, often resulting in permanent irreversible brain damage or death. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is preventable. NEVER shake a baby!
  • Domestic Violence- Children exposed to violence in the home or among family members, undergo lasting physical, mental and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems.
  • Substance Abuse- Use of alcohol, illegal drugs, and controlled substances by a parent or controlled impairs their ability to adequately care for a child. Use of these substances during pregnancy cause prenatal harm to the fetus. Babies are born addicted to the same drugs as the mother has taken throughout the pregnancy. Exposing a child to the chemicals, equipment, or manufacture of illicit drugs, and selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a minor child.
  • Abandonment- Is defined as the parent’s identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left by the parent in circumstances in which the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or to provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that definitions of child abuse and neglect vary by state, which is one of the problems in under-reporting and preventing child maltreatment. The Center for Disease Control has proposed more uniform definitions. It is also worth noting that child abuse in any form is a civil and criminal offense. Therefore, to protect children and parents, American SPCC recommends parents and caregivers seek information and education promoting the positive care of children and positive parenting skills.

2 Responses to “What is Child Abuse?”

  1. gmail new account Says:

    Excellent article. I will be dealing with a few of these issues as well..

  2. Brenton Kroft Says:

    Has there been that much Research on this subject?

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