Thesis Statement for Child Abuse

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Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment is all the forms of neglect, ill-treatment, and commercial exploitation that may result in subsequent potential harm to minors. It exists in four types of abuse; sexual, emotional, physical, and neglect (Merrick & Latzman, 2015). As a significant societal problem, child abuse could lead to lifelong repercussions, social misplacements, or in worse cases, death. In most cases, there is a thin line between child abuse and traditional health practices. In this sense, various cultural traditions that differ from one culture to another may be misidentified as child abuse. According to Killion (2017), practices such as birth markings also referred to as Mongolian spots may sometimes be misidentified as physical child abuse. Killion also states that other practices, such as hijama or cupping, cargo, also known as coining, are also misidentified as child maltreatment. Although child maltreatment is illegal, the effects go beyond the age of a child to their adulthood. In this context, the paper will tackle the impact of child maltreatment, factors associated with the effects, and response to child maltreatment by incorporating the atrocities effected on Precious in the book called Push Sapphire.

Effects of Child Maltreatment

Physical abuse is the harm caused by bodily contact and may result in external or internal injuries. It consists of all activities that are carried out to cause injury, bruises, burns sprained, or broken bones. Contrary to psychological abuse, physical abuse can be seen and detected easily. Children who experience physical abuse portray a wide array of behavioral anomalies. Some of these anomalies may include signs of hyperactivity, aggressiveness, disruptiveness, shyness, withdrawal, or complacent behavior. A good example is Precious' behavior. She is so aggressive toward her teachers, schoolmates, and neighbors. In one instance, she retaliated against her teacher's request to open a page in the coursebook (Sapphire, 1996). Surprisingly, she also uses mean and derogatory language while responding to her teachers and classmates.

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Often, emotional abuse in children comes as a result of negative support and verbal assaults from adults and peers. Precious mum physically and verbally accused her; she called Precious a slut, yet she was raped and assaulted during her pregnancy. It can be a significant factor in tainting the image that a child has towards their physiques or self. Derogatory words, intimidation, threats, blames, and sarcastic statements can disrupt a child’s self-esteem. Precious despised herself and never saw herself capable like other children (Sapphire, 1996). She viewed herself as a failure. Also, the affected children may misbehave and become overly aggressive in child play. Most of the reported case of emotional abuse is a result of derogatory words. In turn, the affected children tend to use derogatory words in their speech regardless of the person they engage in any conversation.

Alternatively, sexual abuse includes sexual molestation, sodomy, incest, exhibitionism, exploitation, rape, and child pornography. Also, sexual abuse towards children includes all the activities that an adult or an elderly peer may engage in through oral or genitalia stimulation, indecent exposure, intercourse or fondling, rape, obscene text, and calls. It is one of the most damaging abuse since it infringes on the privacy of the affected children and disrupts their self-esteem. As a result, the affected children mostly show signs of depression, fear, guilt, confusion, aggression, school difficulties, and withdrawal symptoms. Precious was a victim of rape by her father. She got pregnant twice by her father.

Lastly, neglect is a form of child maltreatment, where parents or caregivers fail to give enough attention, care, or protection to the minors. As a result, the children grow up in an environment of poor hygiene, malnourishment, and insufficient medical aid. Besides, extreme factors of neglect may force a child to lack the most basic needs; shelter, food, clothing, or any other element that may pertain to the security and protection of the minor. Precious gets neglected by her mother (Sapphire, 1996). When she went to school, her mother did not give her money for food, yet she was hungry that she gets to the point of stealing. The catapult effects of child neglect are the capability to relate with adults and peers, the inability to form close friendships, and truancy. Furthermore, the affected children may fail to comply with the social norms of society, face scrutiny from different angles, and portray a consistency of poor grades in school.

The effect of child abuse can either be behavioral, societal, or physical. Physical impacts involve the obvious consequences on the child, which include health cases. Health cases may consist of gynecological problems and irritable bowel. When a child gets sexually abused, they may face gynecological-related issues such as bleeding and frequent emptying of the bowels. Some empty their bowels on themselves even at a mature age. Physical consequences even cause the death of the child. Psychological consequences include low self-esteem and severe dissociation. On the other hand, cognitive effects involve learning disorders, brain syndromes, and attentional problems. Most victims of child maltreatment can rarely manage their anger and personal problems. Therefore, child maltreatment not only affects the victims but also affects the entire society at large.

Child maltreatment causes children to dissociate themselves from activism often. They don't get involved in play, or classwork, and prefer stigmatization. Also, they remain silent and are afraid to express themselves, and they cannot speak about what they feel or even voice out their opinions. Many times Precious wanted to express herself and talk about what she felt, but she preferred to keep all to herself. While other children were playing, she remained seated.

The cognitive consequence is a common impact of child maltreatment. Most abused children find learning difficult. Others cannot read as quickly as their peer, which makes them stay in school too long and in the same grade. Precious was old enough for her class due to the effects of child abuse. Moreover, he scored poor grades despite her will to be in school and learn. She found it hard to read and saw all pages being the same and could only differentiate pictures. Also, their performance on tests is always poor despite their will to learn. As a result, many end up giving up on education and dropping out of school. Others engage in sexual activities which risk their health and others use drugs and engage in criminal activities. Another cognitive consequence is suicidal thoughts. The victims often go into depression and feel like dying. Others attempt to take their own lives.

Also, another effect of child abuse is backward growth. Most of them grow slowly compared to their age mates. Poor growth can be caused by not eating enough balanced food. Most abused children lack the appetite to eat, which affects their health. Also, the victims may experience poor brain development which affects their entire life. Trauma is also a common problem among the abused. Most recall the events of abuse and think about it, which becomes part of their lives. Precious was traumatized and kept recalling the abuse by her father. Societal consequences involve the cost of child abuse costs the community. The costs are associated with criminal activities, mental illness, and substance abuse. The cost is caused by facilities needed by the victims such as educational systems, health care, and human services.

Signs indicating child abuse

  • Symptoms that could indicate child abuse among school-age children include;
  • A student simulating sexual activities with other children or toys could be an indication of sexual abuse (Merrick & Latzman, 2015).
  • Behaviors of early childhood, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting, could be due to emotional abuse.
  • Sudden changes in a child's normal behavior, such as sudden sadness or becoming very angry could be a sign of physical abuse (Merrick & Latzman, 2015).
  • Difficulty in walking, urinary tract infections, and anal or genital pain are symptoms of sexual abuse (Merrick & Latzman, 2015).

Factors Associated with Effects

Over the past few years, numerous researches have revealed that there are factors that increase the propensity of child maltreatment. In the same context, there are factors that decrease the probability of harm. These factors exist in not only the microsystem but also the macro and Exo systems. While some of these factors may be present in the ideal family, it does not mean that such families are neglectful or mistreat their children. Therefore, the factors which increase the probability of child maltreatment can be classified into child factors, family factors, caregiver factors, and environmental factors.

Parental factors include the experiences, behavior, and nature of the parents. The factor can be subdivided into parents' history of abuse, child-rearing approaches, personality, and age of the parents. In this sense, the parent's mental health is significant in determining a child's protection from adversities (Doidge et al., 2017). For instance, a parent who has a dissociative identity disorder may become too violent for a child to bear, thus, increasing the probability of physical harm. Alternatively, some parents may have misled beliefs about destiny. Such parents may believe that certain events are unavoidable or caused by external forces which may be beyond one's control. Precious ‘mother believed that her daughter was the cause of the pregnancy. She believed that Precious had seduced her father with her body and so she decided to make her eat fatty foods so that she could look less appealing (Sapphire, 1996). Also, teen parents who are less informed about the world may fall prey to child maltreatment.

The history of abuse increases the chance of child maltreatment. According to Almuneef, Alghamdi, and Saleheen (2016), a large percentage of maltreated parents were once the victims of neglect and child abuse. Widom et al., (2015), further add that a third of all children who were subjected to maltreatment will eventually abuse their own children. Additionally, children reared in violent families learn the behavior through witnessing violence. Such children learn to justify their actions and behavior at such an early age that it becomes so hard for them to revert to the norm.

Also, research reveals that there is a close relationship between the abuse of substances and child maltreatment. Drug abuse clouds the ability of parents to make sound decisions. Ultimately, the parents may misbehave or harm them. A good example is Precious’ father, who takes away her dignity after getting dunk. In contrast, some parents may harm their children, even in a sober state. Such parents are those that deploy the authoritative style of parenting. In most cases, authoritative parenting has higher than normal expectations towards their children; a slight regression from the parent's expectation leads to severe punishment. For instance, Precious mother become violent towards her child when she realized that her daughter’s pregnancy emanated from the least expected person; her husband. Research reveals that authoritative parents are more likely to use harsh methods of discipline and less motivated to use reasoning or time outs. Besides, the parents may fall short of recognizing their children's successes.

Nonetheless, specific family situations may contribute to child maltreatment. One of them is the family structure. A child raised in a single-parent family is more likely to be maltreated than a child who resides with both biological parents (Tran et al., 2018). A single parent may find it hard to make both ends meet single-handedly. As a result, the parent may get a lot of pressure which he or she may vent on their child. On the other hand, research reveals that 60 percent of children reared in households engaged in domestic violence have a higher chance of becoming victims of physical abuse or neglect.

Lastly, factors such as disabilities can be a significant cause of child maltreatment. Children who require special attention or are perceived as 'different' may be at a higher risk than the average kids. The demands of such children may overwhelm the parents to the point that they may feel overburdened. On the other hand, some parents may feel ashamed of their children who have such conditions. Besides, there is a significant risk of disruption in the attachment and bonding period since parents may be too busy to concentrate on the bonding part. Also, the parents may continue to maltreat their children since the affected kids may not understand inappropriate behavior.

Response to Child Maltreatment

Response to maltreatment involves methods to prevent the abuse, reporting those who maltreat children, and ways of handling children who are victims of maltreatment. To prevent abuse, campaigns against maltreatment should be done. Campaigns also educate people on why maltreatment is not good and the adverse effects it has on children. Also, those who abuse children should be reported to the relevant authorities. When the abusers are not dealt with, they take advantage of the situations, and the children are left prone to abuse. Therefore, everyone should protect children from harm. Children who are victims of maltreatment need people who can understand and help them through their experiences. People should be kind towards them and not say mean and harsh words. Most victims need affection. Therefore, parents and adults should control themselves and not punish, embarrass, or blame their children. They have been through much already, and society should support them emotionally. Victims should get guidance from specialists who will help them overcome their depression and suicidal thoughts.

Also, child maltreatment has been responded to through the laws that protect and pass regulations regarding the welfare of children. It ensures that each parent or guardian is responsible for their children. It requires parents to be concerned with their children's safety at all times, encourages openness among children, discusses sexual abuse issues with their children, teaches children about avoiding lonely and dangerous places, and understands their children. Everyone is required to ensure that children feel protected and secure.

Although most of the aforementioned responses to child maltreatment have proved to be effective, there are numerous norms and attitudes which influence the way people respond to child maltreatment. These norms and attitudes deter people from acting against child maltreatment. A good example is Precious ‘case where her neighbors believed that she decided to be a sex worker to help her family make ends meet. Also, norms on child disciplinary practices such as physical punishment contribute to child maltreatment. Contrary to the efficient ways of disciplining a child, some parents go to the extent of maiming their children, causing burns, or fracturing bones in a stance to punish their children. Some communities stick to misled traditions that have a high propensity to encourage child maltreatment. Such practices may include female genital mutilation and scarring.

References

  1. Almuneef, M. A., Alghamdi, L. A., & Saleheen, H. N. (2016). Family profile of victims of child abuse and neglect in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi medical journal, 37(8), 882.
  2. Doidge, J. C., Higgins, D. J., Delfabbro, P., & Segal, L. (2017). Risk factors for child maltreatment in an Australian population-based birth cohort. Child abuse & neglect, 64, 47-60.
  3. Killion, C. M. (2017). Cultural Healing Practices that Mimic Child Abuse. Annals of Forensic Research, 4(2), 1042.
  4. Merrick, M. T., & Latzman, N. E. (2015). Child maltreatment: A public health overview and prevention considerations. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(1).
  5. Sapphire. (1996). Push. New York: Alfred A. Knoff.
  6. Tran, N. K., Van Berkel, S. R., van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Alink, L. R. (2018). Child and family factors associated with child maltreatment in Vietnam. Journal of interpersonal violence, 0886260518767914.
  7. Widom, C. S., Czaja, S. J., & DuMont, K. A. (2015). Intergenerational transmission of child abuse and neglect: Real or detection bias? Science, 347(6229), 1480-1485.
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