PATTERNS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT: AN EXPLORATION
Dr. Indu Bansal (HOD)
The problem of child abuse, particularly those associated with the battered baby syndrome, has been extensively documented in industrialized countries ever since early findings alerted society to those aspects of child health. Studies of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of child abuse have shown that in every society the child who is subjected to battering may also be the victim of the emotional, social and nutritional deprivation.
According to the article 19 (1) of the United Nations convention on the right of the child (UNCRC 1989), which is ratified by India. States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child form all form of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents (s), legal guardians (s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
According to World Report on Violence and Health 2002: “child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship responsibility, trust or power”.
Child neglect occurs when parents or guardians fail to perform duties and obligations which fall to their responsibility. This includes denial of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education and toilet facilities or total abandonment. Child neglect is considered as a possible diagnosis for children who are poorly cared for, not fed properly, improperly clothed, denied proper medical care, or treated with indifference to a degree that appears to cause damage or suffering.
In general ‘child abuse and neglect’ is the intentional, non-accidental injury, maltreatment of children by parents, relatives, caretaker, employers, or others including those individuals representing governmental\ non-governmental bodies which may lead to temporary or permanent impairment of their physical, mental and psycho-social development, disability or death.
Different Theories of child abuse and neglect
The existence of child abuse and neglect is sometimes not recognized, because society does not regard it as a serious problem and there is lack of general consensus about definition of child abuse and neglect. In addition, little attention is focused on child abuse due to the prevalence of malnutrition and infections which are the major pediatric problems in rural area of India. There is need for public awareness of the existence of the various forms of child abuse in the society.
From the critical theory perspective, the Marxist theory emphasizes that it is the powerless and deprived class who are most at risk of both engaging in crime and being victims of crime. The radical feminist theory criticizes the class emphasis of the Marxists, as, according to them, the oppression of women and children are both due to patriarchy. Women are more marginalized and poorer than men, yet women abuse less than men (parton, 1990). Feminist theorization identifies male power, hegemony and socialization as the key causal factors of child abuse, not only within the family but also outside of it, in a wide range of settings (Corby, 2002).
Finally, the theory of the intergenerational transmission of child abuse states that children learn how to be abusive or non-abusive from their parents (wiehe, 1992). Abused children develop low self- esteem, poor management of negative emotions and problem solving, and weak communication and social skills. These traits further make them abusers of children as adults, unless they can break the cycle of abuse.
For the purposes of identifying the prevention programmes for child abuse Daro and Donnelly (1993) has classified the theoretical frameworks on cause for child abuse into four general groups:
- Psychodynamic theory suggests that parents would be less abusive if they better understood themselves and their role as parents.
- Learning theory suggests that parents would be less abusive if they knew, more specifically, how best to care for their children.
- Environmental theory suggests that parent would be less abusive if they had greater resources available to them in terms of supportive material or social support for a given set of actions.
- Ecological theory suggests that parents would be less abusive if a network of services or support existed to compensate for individual, situational, and environmental shortcomings.
However, these causes only deal with parental abuse.
Causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect:
There are multiple causes of child abuse and neglect. No true consensus exists about specific causes, but most people agree that child abuse occurs as a result of multiple stressors that interact with and reinforce each other. One must consider factors associated with child abuse and categorize them according to factors related to parents, children, families and the environment.
Certain factors may often be present in families in which abuse occurs, but their presence will not always results in abuse and neglect. Professionals must recognize multiple causes of the problem and must individualize their assessment and treatment of children and families.
The most consistent finding is that abusive parents often report having been physically, sexually or emotionally abused or neglected themselves as children (Garbarian, 1984).
No consistent set of personality traits has been identified in abusive parents. However, some characteristics are commonly identified in some parents: low self esteem, low intelligence, and impulsivity, isolation (from extended family and community).Loneliness, fear of rejection, depression, low frustration tolerance, immaturity and criminal behavior, among others. Substance abuse also is a significant defining characteristic (Am merman & Pats, 1996).
A variety of problems resulting from a lack of skills and knowledge also have been suggested as characteristics of abusive parents including: lack of parenting skills, overuse of physical punishment, problems with coping and self control, marital difficulties and lack of interpersonal skills (Goldstein et al, 1985), as well as lack of knowledge about child development.
Protective measures against child abuse
According to article 19 (2) of the UNCRC, such protective measures should include social programmes to provide support, prevention, identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up, and, for judicial involvement. Further, article 39 of the UNCRC mandates physical and psychological recovery and social re-integration of a child victim.
Although it could be argued that paying close attention to the consequences or effect on a child of being abused is less important than focusing on ways of prevention such abuse happening in the first place, there are many good reason for such careful scouting
First while there is no doubt that all abuse of children likely to have harmful consequence some forms of abuse may be more harmful than other and have different implications for intervention.
Second, there is a prevention aspect to focusing on the consequence of abuse. Greater focus on the effect of abuse can be lead to better treatment measure, which will reduce in the likely hood of abuse being repeated in the next generation.
Third of issue of abuse survival, There are children, who, despite experiencing forms and degree of abuse that would lead us to expect that they would be severely damaged as result, appear to coping well and without apparent psychological ill effect.
According to the traditional theories on causes of child abuse, the preventive programmes should include parent education and social support networks. From the perspective of critical theories, child protection requires poverty alleviation and gender equality. Breaking of the cycle of intergenerational transmission of child abuse requires programmes for developing self-esteem, emotional management and problem solving, and communication and social skills to all the children, especially those who are victims of abuse.
According to (2007) report of Ministry of women and child development, Government of India on study Child abuse, (covering 12447 children in 13 states with 5 evidence groups: children in the family environment, children in school, children at work, children in the street, children in institutions). It was the young children, in the 5-12 year group, who are the most at risk of abuse and exploitation.
Perusal of the literature reveals that child abuse and neglect is a very complex problem with a verity of causes. Some see these causes as idiosyncratic to the individual or to the family; while, others see the causes more fundamentally rooted within the cultural or society. Moreover there is a difference in perception of abuse and neglect. Our understanding of this perplexing social problem is limited in that it is based almost entirely on studies in western nations. Western cultures, however, are rarely reflective of pan-human traits and are often on the extreme end of the cross-cultural continuum for childrearing practices and beliefs.
The traditional Indian family includes an extensive kinship network of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who participate actively in child rearing. As a result of bonds formed early, the Indian child’s self concept is strongly tied of this family, clan and tribe. Protection of children was assured by supportive extended family structure. Now because of changed patterns of family living these ties are not so strong.
Recently there has been an increased interest concerning child abuse and neglect. This interest is due, in part; to the common belief that the child maltreatment is a significant problem in rural areas. Concern about child abuse and neglect in the rural areas is also probably due to the belief that particular factors within rural area contribute to the unique pattern and causes of maltreatment.
The alarming prevalence of corporal punishment in the rural region’s schools, although very little research exists, testimonies from students, parents and teachers, as well as incidences reported in the media, suggest that corporal punishment is a common problem in many schools in rural area. It is known that among the rural poor, there are forms of punishment which can be categorized as violence even though the intention may be to correct the child. Corporal punishment is often used as a deterrent against unacceptable forms of behavior such as stealing and lying.
Not only are children physically and psychologically affected by corporal punishment, violence in school and fear of teachers may contribute significantly to children dropping out of school. Some children suffer a greater risk of corporal punishment due to their ethnic, family or class background. Social conditions such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, poor health care, low educational opportunities, and so on are seen either as contributing powerfully to the incidence of child abuse and neglect of as outweighing the proportion of child abuse and neglect that occurs at the hands of individual caretakers.
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- Belsky Jay (1978) three theoretical models of child abuse: a critical review, Child abuse and neglect, pp.37-38.
- Chen W., Glasser S. et.al (2010) the contribution of a hospital child protection team in determining suspected child abuse and neglect: Analysis of referrals of children aged, 0–9 vol.-32, pp.1664-1669.
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