Child Abuse and Violence Unit


ChildAbuse and Violence


Child abuse and exploitation is a sad and sensitive issue in themodern world. It would be expected that after years of humanevolution, human beings would treat each other better. Sadly,children are the most vulnerable members of society are exposed toabuse constantly. Child abuse not only presents a major threat tothe health and well-being of a child but also impacts on the adultlife on that child. The US Child Protection Services defines childabuse and exploitation as any activity or situation that infringes onthe rights of a child as a human being. Thus, child rights should bepromoted and child abuse and abuse fought by all means. To highlightthe importance of this issue, I intend to define child rights andanswer what are the various types of child abuse? What are theireffects? And what are the prevalence levels? Thus, in this paper Ishall seek to provide basic information and create awareness in thegeneral public on child abuse and violence, the various types and theeffects of child abuse by drawing support from relevant sources.

First, it is important to differentiate between a child and adult.The word child is basically borrowed from the Latin word infanswhich means a person whodoes not speak. However, under the regular English languageunderstanding and as per the English law and the Convention on theRights of the Child of 1989, is anyone below the age of eighteen.Thus the discussion on child rights includes infants to teenagers whohave yet to attain the legal age of eighteen. Some countries may havedifferent caps on the legal age ( 2016). Based on this,one may what makes the rights of a child different from the rights ofadults.

Child rights deserve particularinterest simply because of the vulnerable nature of children and aspart and parcel of basic human rights. Thus children’s rightsrecognize the basic human rights such as right to life, human dignityand non-discrimination. According to the United NationsChildren`s Emergency Fund (2016), therights also encompass economic and cultural rights such as access toeducation and decent living standards. The rights must also exist onthe individual and collective level. At the individual level a childhas the right to live with his or her parents, the right toprotection from any form of abuse, the right to food, childcare andhealth among others (Unicef 2016). On the collective level, childrenmust be protected from autochthonous groups, be guaranteed refugeestatus among others. Simply put, children rights are human rightsadapted to the needs of children highlighted by their vulnerabilityand fragility which demands protection.

There are four mainly recognizedcategories namely: physical, neglect, sexual and psychological. Thesedifferent forms of abuse are categorized based on the actualactivities involved and the effects that they have on children bothat the individual and collective level. Other forms of categorizationmay rely on the level of prevalence and geographic distribution ofthe same. However, for the purposes of this essay, I have examinedthe four main types. In total, the global prevalence rates of casesof child abuses have been on a decline as shown in fig 1

Figure1. Prevalence of child abuse (source:

The first type is the physicalabuse. This type of abuse involves physical assault on childrenincluding kicking, biting, punching, scalding threatening and evenburning. In most societies, a certain level of physical punishment orcorporal punishment such as whipping children has been socially andsometimes legally sanctioned as a form of disciplining children. Fromfigure 2 below, high prevalence of child abuse among non-Hispanicblacks and Native Americans may be explained by high prevalence ofsubstance abuse or socially acceptance of caning and other forms ofabuse as a disciplinary measure for children. However, in extremecases, it is perceived as child abuse. The Child Protection Servicesin the US reported about 612 cases of physical child abuse in 2012(CDC 2014).

Figure2 Child abuse by ethnic groups (source:

The other type of child abuse isneglect. This is defined as the lack of provision of parental care tochildren by parents or guardians. Parental care in this case involvesmoral and legal guidance, care love and support, as well as provingthe basic necessities such as food, housing and healthcare. Parentsor guardians may neglect children due to substance abuse or lack ofenough knowledge on the level of parental care needed. In the US,this is the most common form of child abuse with 78% of 3.4 millioncases of child abuse cases in 2012 pertaining to neglect (CDC 2014).

Psychological or emotional abuseis another common form of child abuse. All activities and behaviorstowards children that cause mental anguish or deficits are classifiedas psychological abuse. This form of abuse commonly follows otherforms of abuse such as physical and sexual. However, subtle acts suchas shouting, belittling and even mocking children can cause majormental disturbance in children. Other behaviors such as substanceabuse and family violence have a similar impact. The CDC (2014)reports the prevalence of the cases as per 2012 data at 11% of allchild abuse cases.

Sexual abuse is the other majorcategory of child abuse. This form of abuse not only involvesphysical sexual abuse but also sexual abuse by instilling certainharmful sexual beliefs. Sexual abuse if more common among girls thanboys and disabled children are up to seven times more likely tovictims of abuse than non-disabled children (Richardson &ampWilliams 2008). This form of abuse is also likely to be perpetratedin organized from through child sex rings child phonography andchildren prostitution and trafficking. The prevalence in the US stoodat 9% of 3.4 million child abuses cases reported in 2012 (CDC 2014).

The symptoms of child abuse varyby category and by type perpetrator. Going by the CDC report widelyused in this paper, most of the perpetrators of child abuse are abuseat 80.3% of cases followed by 6.1% relatives and 4.2% of unmarriedpartners of parents. While it is possible that children as peers maysubject one another to abuse (3%) majority of child abuse is carriedout by adults (82%) with women (54%) being more likely to be involvedin child abuse compared to men (45%). Children aged less one year,who are also the most vulnerable and fragile are the largest victimsof child abuse at 21.9 per 1000 children. Again, girls are morelikely to be abused at 8.7 per 1000 compared to boys at 8.7 per 1000(CDC 2014). With such gender differences, the symptoms of abuseacross the gender divide and over time vary significantly.

There are general symptoms andother specific to type of abuse. General symptoms of child abuseinclude anxiety, depression, dissociation, difficulty concentrating,academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents, withdrawnand/or difficulty connecting with others, flashbacks and increasedhypervigilance. In cases of neglect, malnourishment, sores, woundsand general hygiene may indicate cases of negligent. In case ofphysical abuse, wounds, unexplained body marks, anger and physicaldevelopment issues may point to a child facing physical abuse. Moodswings, bed wetting, urine incontinence, excessively advanced sexualknowledge, behavior and language may point to cases of sexual abuse.Emotional abuse can be detected through emotional difficulties, useof abusive language and restlessness ( 2014).

Symptoms of childhood abuse canbe manifested in adulthood in different ways. Adults who experiencedpsychological abuse in their childhood are likely to have mentalproblems and experience difficulties in establishing and maintainingrelationships both at personal and professional levels. They mostlymisinterpret clues and other people’s behaviors which generallyhamper how they interact with others. In adulthood, victims ofphysical abuse exhibit polarized behavior. They are likely to be shyand avoidant to exhibit aggressive and violent behavior. Men arelikely to violent compared to women. Victims of sexual abuse in theirchildhood are likely to exhibit Dissociative IdentityDisorder and other dissociative spectrum disorders. They are alsolikely to engage in self-harm attempt suicide and thus are alsoburdened by mental and physical challenges (Children’sbureau 2013).

In conclusion it is clear that child abuse is a complex issue. Commonbehaviors among adults and parents may inadvertently result in claimsof child abuse. However, it is important to always consider childrenas human beings with human rights like any another human being. Atthe same time, they rights should be adapted to their situationmainly fragility and vulnerability. The discussed symptoms of childabuse are critical in identifying cases of child abuse and the sametime promote better understanding for adults who suffered childhoodabuse. Thus, the paper has answered the question on prevalence, theeffects and the various forms of child abuse as intended by thepaper.


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ChildHelp Data Bank (2016). Child maltreatment. Retrievedfrom,

Children’sbureau (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuseand neglect. Retrieved

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Richardson,T &amp Williams, M. (2008). Child Abuse andViolence. New York: NOVA.