Child Abuse Has Many Different Shapes Article Review

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Child abuse has many different shapes and forms. For the purpose of study, child abuse types are generally divided into two major types: physical and psychological. While these are not the same and their effects vary, they are related, and often manifest in the same relationships (Greenfield and Marks, 2010, p. 162). Sociologically, it is vitally important to study the phenomenon and its many manifestations in order to be of help to victims and minimize its long-term effects.

It is likely that children who experience one type of violence is likely to experience other types as well. Hence the importance of studying various types of Child abuse as perpetrated in isolation as well as together against the same victims. This is a current gap that Greenfield and Marks (2010, p. 162) have identified in the literature.

There is a tendency among academics focusing on the subject to single out types of child abuse, its victims, or its perpetrators without recognizing the fact that these could intermingle, with varying effects. Although there have been recent attempts to address the issue, population sizes and types have been significantly uniform, for example with a focus on a certain age group or specific gender. A current need is therefore a wider population group with a history of varying types of physical and psychological violence perpetrated against them.

In order to address this gap, the article by Greenfield and Marks (2010) includes data from a wide variety of population groups, organizing them in terms of the type of violence experienced, by whom the violence was perpetrated, and how frequently violence was experienced. The findings of such research can then provide valuable data not only for future study, but also for practical application to therapeutic situations, where victims of violence are in need of specific types of help.

for men and women.


Although the authors recognize physical and psychological violence as distinct but related types of violence, they also recognize that there remains significant controversy regarding the distinction of the psychological type of violence from other types (Greenfield and Marks, 2010). There are various approaches to defining psychological violence, as cited by the authors. One approach for example is to examine the acts of violence themselves, and the long-term consequences of the acts in terms of their nature as physical or non-physical. This model promotes an understanding of violence as not only physically devastating, but also psychologically, whether the act itself was physical or psychological. In general, according to this view, violence has both physical and psychological effects. According to the authors, it is also important to recognize that physical and non-physical violence are distinct but related; hence they should be studied not only in conjunction, but also independently in order to promote a full understanding of the phenomenon.

In the current literature, there is a lack of research on the long-term effects of psychological violence, whether by itself or in conjunction with physical violence. The long-term psychological effects of physical violence have however received considerable attention. The authors cite several studies that indicate the likelihood of both physical and psychological violence experienced during childhood to affect mental health in adulthood.

The authors then built upon these studies to determine the linkages between physical and psychological violence to adult mental health. Three factors were considered: frequency of violence, gender differences, the dimensions of mental health. The existing literature also leaves a gap in terms of low-frequency violence. The tendency is for example to study the long-term effects of high-frequency or chronic family violence rather than transient events of violence as a result of specific occurrences in the family history. Regardless, theorists recognize that both high- and low-frequency violence should have an effect upon childhood development and subsequent adult functioning.

Another gap in the literature concerns gender differences in the long-term effects of violence. While scholars have hypothesized that women would probably be more vulnerable to feelings of guilt or intense feelings during confrontations with the opposite gender, these theories have not been sufficiently addressed by empirical study. Although some studies have found such differences, these are accompanied by those who found no such difference; hence no empirical basis could be established for the theory that men and women suffer different effects from their respective childhood experiences with violence.

In terms of the emotional paradigm, studies on the long-term effects of violence have also focused somewhat narrowly only upon the negative emotional effect of violence. In other words, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress have been covered to some extent. The more subtle psychological functions have however not been addressed. Greenfield and Marks emphasize that the psychological dimension encompasses much more than emotional well-being; instead it involves optimal psychological functioning within the context of life itself. These paradigms may be damaged without any evidence of emotional difficulty. These deeper-lying paradigms include a sense of purpose, positive perceptions, and positive relationships with others.

The study by Greenfield and Marks then resulted in several interesting findings, which contribute well to the existing literature on this important subject. The authors for example found a prominent link between poor emotional health in cases where there was a combination of physical and psychological violence, regardless of who perpetrated the violence (Greenfield and Marks, 2010, p. 169). This is substantiated by existing studies, where poor mental health in adulthood is highly likely as a result of multiple violence types in childhood. The authors also found that those experiencing only one type of violence in childhood exhibited a greater risk of negative emotional health in adulthood. Interestingly, this is not related to the frequency level of violence. When violence was perpetrated by fathers, negative emotional health was a result of both psychological violence only and physical violence only.

The authors reported an unexpected results in terms of rare physical violence from fathers with no psychological violence -- there was a lower level of negative emotional health in adulthood. The authors noted that this phenomenon would require more research to fully understand.

While poor psychological well-being was also associated with physical and psychological violence perpetrated by fathers, the results regarding gender-specific responses were inconclusive and difficult to quantify. For this, the authors noted that more in-depth research in the specific family relationships surrounding or indeed encouraging the violence would be required. Specifically, qualitative work would serve well to highlight the possible nuances that could account for the long-term effects of specific types of violence upon children and adults.

Factors that the study could not include are for example genetic factors, other forms of maltreatment beyond the extent of physical and psychological violence, and other types of difficulties that families might suffer, and which could contribute to the specific type of violence experienced (Greenfield and Marks, p. 170).

Limitations also included the possible subjective influence upon personal accounts of childhood violence; where adults in poor mental health could recall childhood events differently from the way in which they in fact occurred.

Furthermore, only gender differences were considered, whereas factors such as developmental stages at the time of abuse, along with other variants, have not been investigated. All these limitations indicate fertile fields for future investigations. Indeed, the study has highlighted important issues in terms of the necessity for studying the issues surrounding family violence and its long-term effects upon children. Continued studies in this regard will reveal important recognition, intervention and treatment paradigms for professionals working with afflicted families, children and adult individuals who have been affected by childhood violence in their families. Most importantly, a better understanding of the issue will learn to a better understanding of prevention techniques.


There are perhaps few family problems that affect children as badly as family violence. Whether physical or psychological, violence against children likely never occurs without some effect upon the development and ultimate adulthood of these children. Hence, studies into the phenomenon to better understand it and mitigate its effects are vital for the health of society today.

An interesting issue that was highlighted is that rare physical violence from fathers with no psychological abuse compared better in terms of long-term effects than other types and frequency of violence. The authors mention briefly in this regard that such violence could have been rationalized in the family context as discipline. Hence, the effects of violence could have been mitigated by an otherwise good relationship between the father and children.

In terms of family counseling, it is vitally important for both families and counselors to recognize that there is a very thin line between abuse and discipline. It is important that parents not be allowed to cross this line. While the study indicated a lower level of negative effect upon children so afflicted, this does not mean that there is no effect. What parents may see as fair punishment for wrongdoing could cause unforeseen harm to the developmental and future psychological health of the child. Indeed, the child in question may grow up to be a mildly abusive parent him- or herself, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Article Review:

APA Format

Child Abuse Has Many Different Shapes.  (2010, August 16).  Retrieved December 12, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Child Abuse Has Many Different Shapes."  16 August 2010.  Web.  12 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Child Abuse Has Many Different Shapes."  August 16, 2010.  Accessed December 12, 2019.