Why child abuse is a big problem in America and the world
Why do we need to study and write about child abuse in America and the world? Child abuse is a common problem around the world, simply because children are a very vulnerable population. Child abuse presents in many variations in many different settings. Some of the common child abuse instances are child abuse by a caregiver cases. A wide range of variations of other settings where children are abused include abuse by random strangers, abuse by close relatives other than parents, child abuse in times of war, child abuse by other children, and child abuse in the school setting. Child abuse is encouraged by factors such as poverty, dysfunctional family settings, and low level of education of the parents, and cases where children suffer one or more physical or mental disabilities. In the United States, child abuse is a widespread problem whose prevalence is probably much more than is acknowledged because of the stigma and difficulty of reporting associated with the victims.
Even though child abuse is common in the United States, my direct experience with child abuse is limited to mild cases. I have often witnessed cases where due to lack of education and dysfunctional family setting, children are abused with little awareness of the caregiver and the child. In single parent families that are created by failed marriages or children born out of wedlock, the ensuing conflict between the parents often causes deprivation of parental care, misplaced retaliation, misplaced anger, and even gradual loss of ability to provide parental care in some cases, which amounts to child abuse. Some more severe forms of child abuse I have witnessed are child labor and neglect. In one case, I witnessed a single parent lock children in the house for long hours a day while away. In the period the parent is away, the older of the children in the household took care of the younger children. This is a serious case of child abuse involving physical neglect, emotional neglect, and child labor. The habit of locking children in the house was so frequent that the neighboring families had to report the parent to the Department of Social Services. This is one but an example of many cases of child abuse where the child may not understand the gravity of deprivation and abuse they are subjected to. To a third party, evidence of such abuse often difficult to detect in the children because it only manifests as behavioral problems in the adolescence and adult stages of life.
b) STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF VARIOUS TYPES OF ABUSE
Contrary to the common misconceptions, child abuse occurs in greater varieties other than the more recognizable sexual abuse or physical neglect. Majority of child abuse cases are physical ill-treatment. Other types of abuse include educational neglect, sexual abuse, child negligence, emotional abuse, and healthcare neglect. In their review of pubMed publications on child abuse, Dahake et al. (2018) reveal that the proportion of child abuse cases in the United States associated with physical abuse in the period between 1979 to 1980 was 31.8%, while cases associated with educational neglect were 27.8%, and the cases associated with emotional abuse were 26.3%. On the other hand, the proportion of cases of sexual abuse of children in this period was 6.8% and proportion of cases associated with physical neglect was 7.8%. This data infers that child abuse is far more widespread than the few cases of sexual abuse or physical abuse that are the focus of publicity. For example, emotional neglect may occur for sustained periods without detection by any third party. These instances of abuse manifest later as psychological and behavioral disorders. This is not to say that cases of physical and sexual child abuse do not deserve attention, but it is a revelation that the problem is much more prevalent than is evident in the number of prosecuted cases. More precise statistics can be obtained by
- CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD ABUSE
Child abuse has serious deleterious consequences in children, many of which are permanent and hardly treatable, but experts can write an essay about it online. Physical effects of child abuse include bodily harm such as wounds bruises fractures and even death. Infants may suffer brain damage and even paralysis with little physical abuse, which in turn may have long-term consequences such as impairment of mental and physical development. A child that has suffered physical abuse early in life may show difficulties in cognitive development the point of being unable to develop language skills. Emotional consequences include clinical depression, and a variety of mental disorders. Dahake et al. (2018) say that as children that have been abused become adolescents, their status as victims is overlooked as they develop criminal behavior. Dahake et al. (2018) report that a study by the National Institute of Justice described its findings on the effects of childhood abuse on adolescents and adults as follows: “neglected children were 11 times more likely to be arrested for criminal behavior as a juvenile, 2.7 times more likely to be arrested for violent and criminal behavior as an adult”. These statistics are a pointer to the long-term effects of child abuse where the symptomatic manifestation of child abuse is difficult to identify with a high degree of certainty.
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Serious long-term consequences are observed in children who have suffered sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. Cashmore and Shackel (2013) report an Australian study that shows sexual abuse of children is strongly correlated with drug and alcohol dependency in adulthood. Other negative consequences that were found to have a strong correlation are psychological depression. According to Cashmore & Shackel (2013), substance abuse, aggressive behavior, social anxiety, and failed marriage were also found to be strongly correlated to childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse involving penetration is also associated with future schizophrenia and psychosis. Evidently, sexual abused children suffer serious consequences compared to those who suffer mild emotional abuse. Any form of physical or sexual child abuse carries with it crippling emotional consequences that translate into lifelong suffering and even multiplication of symptoms as the affected individual becomes increasingly antisocial and conflicted with society. As such, the consequences of child abuse cannot be generalized into a single picture, but must be recognized as lying within a continuum of degree of severity.
d) HOW EASY IS IT TO DETECT AND PROSECUTE CHILD ABUSE?
The substantial variance in writing the nature of consequences of child abuse evidently causes ambiguity in diagnosis. This is a new perspective to me; that the consequences of child abuse may sometimes be obvious and severe, but in other instances, they may be subtle and hardly recognizable. For example, an individual with a history of abuse as a child may have several failed marriages, but even a marriage counselor, a qualified psychologist, may fail to notice the coincidence since failed marriage is normalized in the contemporary society. On the other hand, a psychiatrist is likely to immediately recognize the association of childhood abuse and schizophrenia, since this particular mental disorder is not a normalized condition in the society. Alternatively, the consequences of child abuse may not be discernible because they may be mistaken for the normal variation of character and temperament. This reality brings into perspective the difficulty of identifying cases of childhood abuse and quantifying the magnitude of the problem in the society.
Child abuse cases are difficult to prosecute in any setting for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the victims are usually the very vulnerable children, whose privacy the justice system needs to protect. For this reason, processes that would help a case for the prosecutor such as cross-examination of the victim as a witness cannot be done. As Walsh et al. (2008) suggests, the justice system can only rely on other types of evidence such as reports from medical examiners. The most significant barrier to prosecuting child abuse cases is the problem of low rate of reporting. Children are usually abused by authority figures on whom they rely for support. For any child, it is very difficult to report a caregiver and provide reliable evidence for successful prosecution. For example, in the case I witnessed of a parent being negligent with children, proving criminal liability is difficult especially if there is a no clear distinction between a case of negligence and a case of regular strain on the schedule of the parent. Finally, even laws are usually unable to capture some forms of abuse adequately, and as evidenced by Walsh et al. (2008), child abuse cases require different types of complimentary evidence to prosecute. It is quite clear that child abuse is not only widespread, but also difficult to prosecute.
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In conclusion, child abuse is a complex problem largely borne out of other societal problems such as poverty, drug abuse, failed parental relationships, and clinical mental disorders. From the information gathered in research, I realize that even though most researchers consider prosecution a viable avenue for reducing incidence of child abuse, it would probably be more effective to use other approaches to reducing the vice. For example, it is impossible to eradicate child abuse while a significant proportion of the society remains poor or absurdly economically disadvantaged. Similarly, child abuse will continue to occur as long as the prevalence drug abuse in the United States remains high. Perhaps the best approach to solving the problem of child abuse is to identify vulnerable children in risky environments and institute measures to eradicate problems associated with child abuse. It is much more sensible to eradicate the causative agent rather than retaliate against perpetrators while doing little to ensure that the incidence of child abuse remains low. Asymmetric approach to eradicating and writing about child abuse is particularly useful where criminal prosecution is not possible, and this is perhaps the case for the majority of cases.
Cashmore, J., & Shackel, R. (2013). The Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi: 10.1037/e567322013-001
Dahake, P., Kale, Y., Dadpe, M., & Kendre, S. (2018). Impact of Child Abuse & Neglect on Children: A Review Article. MIDSR Journal of Dental Research, 1(1).
Walsh, W. A., Jones, L. M., Cross, T. P., & Lippert, T. (2008). Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse. Crime & Delinquency, 56(3), 436–454. doi: 10.1177/0011128708320484