Throughout human history, some people have been treated or viewed as ‘second-class citizens’ or inferior. Women, people of color, and individuals of different sexual orientation or religion all have documented circumstances that saw each group face social prejudice. However, over the years, the society has evolved into an increased level of humanity up until it comes to the topic of child abuse. In both the developed and developing world, children stand as the last segment of society that continues to be subject to a routine form of punishment. Child abuse, which is considered as the intentional infliction of physical, moral, and sexual pain and suffering on a child, is on the rise and soon is going to be regarded as a social pandemic. According to a 2018 study by Sege et al. (2018), an estimated 1,580 children lost their lives during the year because of child abuse and neglect. With such a figure, there is a need for a comprehensive study on the child abuse phenomenon, a task that is conducted in this manuscript using ‘Concept Map Template.’
Throughout the world, millions of children continue to face various forms of abuse daily. News about children being trafficked as objects of labor or sex, children forced to work in dangerous environments such as mines and factories or fight as militias are common. Such experiences subject the children to unimaginable horrors physically, mentally, and emotionally, leading to studies on the concepts of prevention and protection approaches to stop child abuse (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014). The Concept Map presented below presents four aspects that give a more in-depth look at the reasons why child abuse occurs in the first place.
Child Abuse Concept Map
Existing Social Conditions
Child abuse, similar to any other vice, is fueled by current social conditions, primarily poverty and parenting. It should be taken to account that the lack or the poor management of finance is not and inherent trigger to abuse; however, the same might not be that case for drug abuse.
Traditionally, children living in poverty experience a broad spectrum of disadvantages in the areas of physical and mental health development, as well as academic achievement. Various authors have made it ever clear that children living in poverty are susceptible to develop health problems because of poor feeding habits, display troubling behavior, and have a high chance of dropping out of school. As explained by Crosson-Tower (2009), poverty can also be a source of child abuse, and neglect as parents from low-income families remain pre-occupied with seeking ways of survival. Subsequently, such family strains lead to multiple forms of child abuse, primarily abandonment (Tucker, Rodriguez, & Baker, 2017). Poverty does not cause child abuse; however, living in deep poverty is in itself a violation of basic human rights such as having clean water or shelter, and it enormously increases the vulnerability of children to abuse and neglect.
Parental Drug Abuse
A caregiver’s abuse of substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and clinical drugs, for instance, opioids, places a child at risk in multiple ways. Children spend a significant amount of their time in familial settings, even when in childcare services; with this in mind, it is safe to suggest that families provide a significant amount of care. As such, poor parenting is a major aspect that may lead to abuse. For instance, the basic needs of children, including nutrition, supervision, and nurturing, would go unmet because of poor financial planning as money that should be used in the household ends up in the hands of drug dealers. Arguably, a drug-addict is likely to neglect his/her parental responsibilities that go beyond finances.
Child abuse is a phenomenon that can be solved through social institutes such as religion and school. For antiquity, young people have spent a significant amount of time in school and religious institutes as a form of protection aside from family; therefore, solutions on solving the child abuse pandemic.
There is a common consensus across various religious backgrounds about the dignity of every child, as well as the need to protect children from all forms of violence. As explained by Lee, Guterman, & Lee (2018), despite the differences in religious beliefs, the inherent rights of the child is a responsibility held by religious leaders through their teachings and traditions of the world’s major religions. The Church, as an institution, has a history of riding society of vices such as child abuse. The “Dignity of Children” and “On the Wings of a Dove” are examples of how religious leaders have helped in maintaining this tradition. Nevertheless, there have been recent cases such as the homosexuality controversy facing the catholic community that has shown that some religious leaders have turned a blind eye to, or even attempted to cover up, internal cases of child abuse.
The goal of schools is to educate students, making this a natural place to implement a prevention program, especially because trauma directly affects students’ academic achievement. As explained by Frederico, Jackson, and Dwyer (2014), studies on child abuse indicate that the higher the level of education, the least likely it is for a child to be exposed to abuse. The reason behind this school of thought comes from the fact that education affects parenting, as caregivers who have a higher level of education are more enlightened, thus giving their children more attention. Additionally, teachers are considered the most prominent adults in a child’s life, second only to parents, guardians, or other close relatives. Teachers are arguably the only adults or outside world connections that a victimized child interacts with (Crosson-Tower, 2009). Therefore, if a teacher is aware of what is going on in students’ lives, it offers the opportunity for an effective and purposeful response to possibly harmful situations. As a result, teachers are obliged to detect or report a suspected abuse of a child. Conversely, the topic of child abuse is absent in most teacher education curricula, and they are left uninformed of the guidelines as well as rubrics that they must follow to help reduce student abuse. Additionally, when teachers do not know the guiding principles of reducing child abuse, there is a level of indecision added to the benefits of education; thus, they are less likely to take a proactive approach in defending children from abuse (Crosson-Tower, 2009). In summation, education programs have a gap in knowledge regarding child abuse, a gap that needs to be filled.
Cultural Beliefs and Biases
Society is shaped by culture and traditions; subsequently, this means how children are treated dissimilarly in varied cultures, making it hard to apply child abuse solutions. In this case, family privacy and non-interference, as well as the continued use of corporal punishment, diminish the efforts of child abuse awareness programs.
Privacy and Non-Interference
Humanity is limited by negative tradition and culture, and in some communities, child abuse is part of the said negativity. As explained by Palusci, Vincent, and Marissa (2019), some societies let child abuse cases go unreported as it is considered an interference in other families’ issues. Such a premise promotes child abuse and strains the efforts made by modern society in reducing child abuse.
For decades, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the topic of using corporal punishment as a form of punishment for children. By definition, corporal punishment is an act carried out to cause physical pain on a child, not injury, but for the correction or control of behavior (Mayberry, 2014). The most known forms of corporal punishment include spanking, slapping, shoving a child roughly, and hitting with certain objects, for instance, a belt. As explained by Palusci and Ilardi (2019), a section of society believes corporal punishment teaches children obedience, while others insist that it can negatively affect children, as it is a form of physical abuse.
As aforementioned, poverty may affect the health and development of a child abusively through poor housing and sanitation, lack of access to healthy food, health care, as well as other social services, exposure to toxic environments and hazardous working conditions, behavioral risk factors, and exposure to psychosocial stressors. According to Frederico, Jackson, and Dwyer (2014), income inequality is associated with several adverse child health and well-being outcomes. The United Nations Children’s Fund index of child well-being of 2016 involving 21 Organization for Economic Co-operation being well as developing countries showed that income inequality was directly related to infant mortality, low birth weight, teenage births, low educational achievement, and poor peer relations.
Discrimination continues to be a part of modern society, and for children, the idea of being isolated, marginalized, or alienated cause psychological harm and perceptions of danger. As explained by Tucker, the race has been at the center of child abuse discussions, particularly when it comes to children of color who are more susceptible to abuse. Discrimination limits the aptitude a person or a community has to protect children from social harm, such as drug use. The psychological stress and limited communal abilities lead to increased chances of abuse.
Child abuse Prevention
Mind Map of Child Abuse and Neglect
Over the last decades, studies have indicated that individuals who were maltreated as children tend to run a higher risk of abusing their own children. As indicated by Lee, Guterman, and Lee (2018), parents who were abused during their childhood seem to have a complex relationship with their children considering their have limited reference to good parenthood. It should be taken to note that some investigations have shown that a significant number of abusing parents were not, themselves abused; however, a larger number of abused parents tend to follow a similar trajectory and exhibit worse or more aggressive behaviors when it comes to child mistreatment. According to Mayberry (2014), the guiding principle in this situation can be exhibited with parents who spent their childhood in families with drug-addicted caregivers. Issues such as young parental age,overcrowding in the home, isolation, Drug or substance abuse, as well as poverty have all been highlighted in the manuscript as triggers of abuse. Therefore, such aspects can be prevented through various ways mentioned below.
Protection: Violence in the home
Sociology and childcare specialists have been and continue to increase their attention to intimate partner violence as well as its relationship to child abuse. Data from studies conducted by Child Welfare Information Gateway (2014). In nations as geographically as well as culturally diverse as Mexico, China, Egypt, India, the Philippines, Colombia, in addition to the United States have all proven that there is a strong relationship between violence in homes and child abuse. The existence of domestic violence in the home augments the risk of child abuse by an estimated 40% or more(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014). As empirical data on the topic suggests, the aforementioned percentile may be higher since most childcare agencies obligated with protecting children do not regularly collect data on other forms of violence in families. As explained by Tucker, Rodriguez, and Baker, (2017), the pressure from job changes, loss of or reduced revenue, health issues or other issues within the family environment can amplify the degree of conflict within the homestead thus negatively affecting the ability of family members to find support or manage their psychological wellbeing. Family members who are better able to find social support are less possible to abuse children regardless of other known risk factors being present. For instance, a case study of families in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Mayberry (2014) showed that children living in single-parent families ran greater risk for abuse as compared to their counterparts who were in two-parent families. From the cases indicated, it is there for arguably correct to state that violence in homes, as well as other stressors from the environment, are clear causes of abuse.
Identifying the signs of abuse early before they become problematic can usually help people have a greater ability to cope. As indicated by Frederico, Jackson, and Dwyer (2014), child abuse prevention is categorized into three general types, namely, primary prevention efforts, secondary prevention efforts, and tertiary prevention efforts. Primary prevention efforts address a broad spectrum of the population; for instance, all new parents. Secondary prevention efforts come in the form of home visitation, also known as nurse-family partnership programs, and they target a specific subsection of the population that is believed to be at higher risk for child maltreatment. Tertiary prevention efforts are set to target agents of child maltreatment, thus seek primarily to prevent recidivism. The most frequently employed programs that fall under primary prevention involve student education programs done by guidance and guiding teachers in public schools. These programs are exceptionally popular as they provide the children with coping skills at a very early age explaining to them what abuse really is, thus allowing them to protect themselves against it. As explained by Palusci and Ilardi (2019), child abuse prevention education may be challenging, and in some cases, a frightening introduction to sexual issues; most of these school-based curricula are communicated as part of more personal safety or health and wellness course. This eases some parent’s oppositions that the subject matter may be somewhat insensitive for small children. Additionally, there are also opponents of school-based abuse prevention instruction who believe these programs implicitly contest the sanctity of the family by taking away the power or privilege to educate children away from the parents. Factually, taking away the privilege of child abuse empowerment from an abusive parent is protective of the child.
The importance of child empowerment programs is clear the government ought to invest more resources considering that the students’ teacher is responsible for some education classes in connection with the health and safety curriculum, as aforementioned; in addition o the fact that these classes are only taught briefly, during a special presentation for the class or the entire school. Limited funds, the lack of staff or the use of inexperienced staff, topic not perceived as a high priority, as well as counselors handling the problem when necessary there are issues that need to be addressed in order to reduce child abuse.
Family support approaches: Training in parenting
In the quest to prevent or reduce child abuse, a number of interventions for improving parenting practices as well as providing family support have been developed in different cultures and settings. These types of programs commonly educate parents on child development in addition to helping them progress their skills in running their families, thus checking their children’s behavior. While most of these programs have been developed for those homes that are already witnessing abuse or those that are at high risk of abuse, it is gradually considered that offering education as well as training in such circumstances for prospective parents can be advantageous. For example, in Singapore, education and training in parenthood begin in secondary school. Such early-stage learning allows the students to pick up issues on childcare as well as development, thus gaining experience by working with young children at preschool centers (Lee, Guterman, and Lee, (2018). For families that are already experiencing some form of child abuse, the principal objective is to forestall further damage, in addition to other undesirable outcomes such as suicide for the children that may lead to emotional problems or stunted development. While assessments of programs on education along with training in parenting have highlighted augmented promising results in reducing youth violence, some studies have unambiguously underlined the influence of such programs on the levels of child abuse or neglect. As a substitute, a majority of the interventions, proximal results, for example, parental competence, have been used as a yard stick in measuring their efficiency. By offering, such as mother-child pairs that are randomly allocated to their comparison group. The right kind of training in parenting for families considered at high risk are provided with helps shelter the child from unwarranted pain. It is believed that a parent or caregiver who receive the preparation in parenting will identify fewer behavioral issues with their children, thus require less adjustment problems related to potential maltreatment as compared to their counterparts in comparison groups.
Home visitation and other family support programs
Other than teaching interventions, home visitation programs have become popular when it comes to bringing community resources to families in their homes. This kind of intervention is recognized as one of the most effective for preventing a number of negative results when it comes to child abuse, such as youth violence. As explained by Frederico, Jackson, and Dwyer (2014), during the home visits, information, support in addition to other services such as medical assistance that improve the functioning of the family are provided. A number of varying reproductions for home visitation have been created and studied to provide to all families, devoid of their risk status, with the much needed support from their peers. While most educational programs focus on families likely to witness violence, for example, first-time parents or single and adolescent caregivers living in communities with high rates of poverty, home visitations are broad and cover all forms of families. A survey by Child Welfare Information Gateway (2014) involving 1900 home visitation programs in the U.S, indicated that 224 that primarily programs provided services for abused and neglected children; while 621 were effective in reducing the risk of abuse. From the information provided above, it is clear that improving parenting skills raises the parents’ level of coping; additionally, by emotional support, the risks of child abuse are greatly reduced.
As an added measure, health care professionals a major role part to play in detecting, treating, as well as referring cases of abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities. It is crucial that cases of child maltreatment are identified early on to minimize the significances of the resultant negative outcomes for the child and to launch the necessary services as soon as possible.
Child abuse is a vice that continues to ravage modern society. From the information provided in the manuscript, there is a need for various stakeholders, from the government to religious leaders, to take an active role in protecting young people. The cases of sex trafficking or child labor are not 21st-century social issues, but they continue to exist because of poor parenting, particularly when substance abuse is involved. Poverty is also a major trigger that sends young children towards issues such as prostitution as well as other forms of abuse; additionally, financial inequality within the financial field also plays a similar role. To reduce cases of child abuse, religious leaders and the government need to develop programs that help to identify cases of abuse and report them. Finally, parenting can be frustrating when dealing with old negative cultures such as corporal punishment and privacy that can lead to long-term effects that can damage not only the children but their relationship with peer groups. As a recommendation for future studies, there is a need for a deeper understanding of millennials and new aspects of abuse, such as media bullying and shaming. Social issues are dynamic, and they change from time to time, meaning the challenges vary so as the solutions to, thus, a need for a comprehensive study on child abuse in the digital era.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Definitions of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
Crosson-Tower, C. (2009). Understanding child abuse and neglect. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Frederico, M., Jackson, A., & Dwyer, J. (2014). Child protection and cross-sector practice: An analysis of child death reviews to inform practice when multiple parental risk factors are present. Child Abuse Review, 23(2), 104-115.
Lee, S. J., Guterman, N. B., & Lee, Y. (2018). Risk factors for paternal physical child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(9), 846-858.
Mayberry, W. (2014). Discipline or abuse? The Daily Sentinel. Retrieved from http://thedailysentinel.com/feature_story/article_312d2216-403e-11e4-ae67- 5b623369a06a
Palusci, V. J., & Ilardi, M. (2019). Risk factors and services to reduce child sexual abuse recurrence. Child Maltreatment, 1077559519848489.
Plummer, C. A., & Njuguna, W. (2009). Cultural protective and risk factors: Professional perspectives about child sexual abuse in Kenya. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(8), 524-532.
Sege, R. D., Siegel, B. S., & Council of Child Abuse and Neglect, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2018). Effective discipline to raise healthy children. Pediatrics, 142(6), e20183112.
Tucker, M. C., Rodriguez, C. M., & Baker, L. R. (2017). Personal and couple level risk factors: maternal and paternal parent-child aggression risk. Child Abuse & Neglect, 69, 213-222.