Child Abuse in America Post 1

Since the 1960s, when the press discovered the “Battered Child Syndrome,” reported cases of child abuse have increased at an alarming rate. This year, close to two million such incidents will come to the light nationwide.

The national center on child abuse and neglect says that child abuse is now the leading cause of death in children under the age of 15. The encyclopedia of social work defines child abuse as a situation “in which a child is suffering from serious physical injury inflicted upon him/her by other than accidental means; is suffering harm by reason of neglect, malnutrition or sexual abuse; is going without necessary and basic physical care; or is growing up under conditions that threaten his/her physical and emotional survival.”

The growing national concern over the problem of child abuse has led to the recent formation of a task force on family violence. This nine-member federal panel has been given half a million dollars and six months to produce a report focusing on the abuse and molestation of children, spouses and the mistreatment of the elderly. The breakdown of the family unit in the United States is often cited as a major reason for the rise in child abuse and the outpouring of violence as a whole. Other causes rest in the individual character of the abusive parent. Offenders are found in every socioeconomic, religious and ethnic group, but there seems to be a greater incidence of abuse and neglect in families with low incomes, few skills and minimal education.

The National Institute of Mental Health has dissented from the widely held belief that most child abusers were themselves abused as children. There is probably no surprise then, when we see the front page of our newspaper that reads, “Twelve-Year-Old Boy Gets Life.” However, it is interesting to note that in a survey of violent offenders imprisoned at San Quentin, California, 100 percent claimed to have been abused seriously enough before the age of ten to require medical treatment or hospitalization.

It is generally agreed that child abusers suffer from low self-esteem, self-hatred, fear of rejection, abandonment and low tolerance for frustration. They are ordinary people trapped in a stressful life situation beyond their control or tolerance limits. Parents often ask, “What are the clues to identify child abuse?”

Both abusers and their children are victims of a vicious cycle. Symptoms produced by these recurring patterns often allow battered children to be detected. Childhelp USA, one of the national organizations equipped to counsel victims of child abuse, offers the following guidelines for identifying a problem:

Symptoms for physical abuse include: bruises or welts revealing the shape of the object that produced them; especially those that are unexplained or located on unusual parts of the child’s body like burns that could have been inflicted by cigars or cigarettes, boiling liquids, rope friction or hot metal objects; unexplained fractures, abrasions or adult-sized human bite marks. What are some signs of possible physical neglect? Some of these may include (but not limited to), a lack of supervision in dangerous situations (including Internet); clothing not suitable to weather conditions; constant hunger; evidence that the child’s medical or physical needs are not being met.