Hundreds of thousands of children become the victims of child abuse and neglect each year, Often at the hands of their parents. Most victims, however, never come to the attention of authorities. Their abusers may have threatened them with harm if they tell someone, or they may feel intense guilt for things that aren't their fault. Emotional and physical scars can last well into adulthood and can affect the overall health of former victims, as well as their future relationships with others.

Types of Maltreatment

Physical abuse: This means intentionally causing an injury to a child. This includes hitting, burning, shaking, or otherwise harming a child.

Neglect : Both physical and emotional neglect are possible. Neglect means failing to provide for a child's basic needs, whether they be for food, water, a place to live, or love and attention.

Sexual abuse : This category includes any inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, including touching, or taking photographs.

Emotional and verbal abuse: This mean rejecting children, blaming them, or constantly scolding them, particularly for problems beyond their control.

Death is the most tragic consequence of maltreatment. More than 1,000 children die in the U.S. each year because of abuse or neglect. Over half of all victims of neglect. Neglected children may fail to develop mentally and physically at the same time rate as their peers. Physically abused children may bear physical scars or become permanently disabled. All abused children suffer emotionally. They often feel lonely, uninvolved, guiltu for no reason, and unworthy of care and attention. These feelings may persist into adulthood and cause problems in relationships.

Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse and Neglect

When abuse or neglect occurs, there are usually signs in both children and adults. Neglected children are often absent from school, steal food or money, have poor personal hygiene, and lack protective clothing for wet or cold weather.

Physically abused children may have bruises, broken bones, or burn marks that cannot be explained. This is not always the case, thought. Not all physical abuse leaves marks on visible parts of the child's body, such as the face or arms. Some abusers intentionally leave no marks when they hurt children.

Children who are sexually abused sometimes run away, refuse to participate in physical activities, and exhibit sexual knowledge beyond their normal level of development.

Emotionally abused children often show aggression, act inappropriately like an adult (bossing other children), or like a very young child (rocking back and forth)

The following signs that children may be being mistreated:

  • Learing problems that cannot be explained
  • No adult supervision
  • Withdrawal from others
  • No desire to go home after school or other activities
  • Fearfulness, as though waiting for something bad to happen
  • Changes in school performance or behaviour
  • Has untreated medical conditions

Who Abuses Children?

An adult in the home is most often to blame for physical abuse. Statistics indicate that mothers abuse children more often than fathers do.

In sexual abuse cases, however, it is most often another relative or a family friend who harms the child, not a parent.

People who abuse children often have difficulty controlling their impulses. While many parents feel frustrated when a child is crying or whining. People who abuse children often act without thinking. Abusers often feel depressed, extremely anxious, or overwhelmed. In many cases, they were abused children themselves as children and they don't know how to discipline children in a constructive way. Abuse may come from only one parent. The other parent may deny that it's happening. Sometimes, only one child in a family is targeted for abuse.

Why does Child Abuse Occur ?

Children are never responsible for the abuse or harm that others inflict on them. Some children, however, are more vulnerable to maltreatment than others.

Children with physical and mental disabilities are more likely to be abused. Younger children are neglected more often, and they are more likely to die of maltreatment.

When children are sexually abused, the abuse most often occurs before age seven. Girls are more often the victims of sexual abuse than boys are.

Immature mothers who have children at a young age are more likely to abuse children. So are people who live in poverty and have few resources to help with child care and other responsibilities. Child abusers may be socially isolated or stressed die to unemployment. However, abuse can occur in households of any income or education level, ethnicity, or religious background. In families with domestic violence where one parent abuses the other, children are more likely to be hurt as well.

Abusive parents often don't know enough about child development to have reasonable expectations. Some expect even very young children to obey them promptly or remember rules given earlier. If abusers get help, they can learn what to expect from children of various ages and how to nurture them.

What Can Be Done ?

Abusing or neglecting children in any way is illegal. People who work with children, including teachers, doctors, nurses, and counsellors are required by law to report maltreatment if they are evidence of it.

While others may not have a legal obligation to report abuse, they should contact child protective service agencies as soon as they suspect it. Every state has a child welfare agency.

When an agency hears a report of possible child abuse, it send someone to investigate if the child is thought to be in danger, the court may place the child in a foster home, if there is a history of abuse, or if the child has severe injuries, parents may be arrested and charged with crimes. Ultimately, their parental rights may be terminated and their children may never live with them again.

Putting abusers in prison gives children temporary protection but doesn't solve the problem. In most cases, abusers undergo treatment and counselling to understand the reasons for the abuse and to end it.

Most abusive parents must learn how to care for their children and treat them in living ways. Several programs are available to help them.

Some communities have crisis nurseries, child care facilities where troubled parents can go when they have nowhere else to turn. Many are open open 24 hors a days and provide short term free child care. Crisis nurseries provide children with a safe environment. Using a crisis nursery gives parents a chance to cool off and cope with their frustrations, anger, and problems without hurting their children. These facilities often provide parenting classes, counseling, and job training.