Child Abuse and How it Relates to the Developmental Stages of Erickson Thesis

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Child Abuse & Erik Erikson

On child abuse

Child abuse is a pressing problem that knows no race, color, ethnicity or religion. It transcends geographic lines and cuts across socio-economic brackets.

Child abuse comes in many forms. Section 10 of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse as "any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm" (Legal Information Institute, 2003). It encompasses everything from something seemingly more subtle as mild neglect or failure to provide the child with basic needs, to verbal abuse, to more severe physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation (Suprina and Chang, 2005).

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Statistics on child abuse in the United States alone is staggering. Although child abuse reports rise up to as high as three million in the United States yearly, it is suspected that the actual number of abuse and neglect is thrice greater than reported. While the U.S. government and certain concerned organizations had taken the upperhand on this issue, as signified by the 906,000 child abuse convictions in 2003 alone, statistics on fatalities are even more alarming. The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect (2003) reported that 1,300 died in 2001 as a consequence of child abuse, 85% of which are children not more than six years old. This even increased lightly in 2003, when records point to four children dying of child abuse every day, with three out of four of these children aged just under four (Child maltreatment Report 2003).

Impacts of child abuse

Alongside these fatalities are many other physical, social, cognitive and psychological problems that victims of child abuse go through. Oftentimes, the harrowing experience scars them until adulthood.

TOPIC: Thesis on Child Abuse and How it Relates to the Developmental Stages of Erickson Assignment

These adverse impacts on one's socio-psychological and socio-cognitive development have been established and proven in various studies. For one, the Administration for Children & Families of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services accounted in that 80% of young adults who had been victims of child abuse met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at the age of 21 (Child Maltreatment Report 2003).

Research has linked child abuse with impaired cognitive development and lower levels of social competencies, ego resiliency, and ego control (Suprina and Chang, 2005). Consistent with this general finding that abused children exhibit socio-emotional difficulties is the study of (Wodarski et al., 1995). Wodarski and his colleagues found that school-age and adolescent abused children were functioning poorly relative to their nonmaltreated peers on every component of socio-emotional development assessed. To wit:

Abused children stood out as markedly problematic in school, at home and in the community, displaying academic deficits, problem behaviors, lowered self-esteem, delinquency, elevated levels of aggression, and pervasive adjustment difficulties in a variety of contexts. (Wodraski et al., 1995: 510)

Wodarski and his team also found that abused children displayed pervasive and severe academic delays and had the higher tendencies of dropping out as compared with their non-maltreated peers.

Further, Hitchcock (1987) posits that victims of child abuse are more likely to develop an abusive lifestyle. Low self-esteem, inability to empathize with others, violence as an acceptable family value that expresses caring, increased feelings of inferiority, striving for superiority, lack of social interest, and a lack of a sense of belonging are also part of this abusive lifestyle (Suprina and Chang, 2005).

All these studies, in parallel with various other research and publications, only show that child abuse is a serious matter with far more serious consequences. The negative impacts of child abuse could not be more emphasized. Such traumatic ordeals at a young age, especially during one's formative years, are bound to leave a mark.

Erikson's Development Stages

It is said that our personality traits come in opposites. We either lean towards the optimistic or pessimistic, independent or dependent, emotional or unemotional, adventurous or cautious, leader or follower, aggressive or passive. In as much as there are temperament traits believed to be inborn, other characteristics are developed and honed based on the challenges and support we receive in growing up. One such example is feeling competent vs. inferior (Harder, 2002).

This was the idea of Erik Homburger Erikson, and it was on this idea by which his theory on psychosocial stages of development was founded on. Erikson maintained that a person's personality development continues throughout a person's lifetime. He outlined eight stages we all progress through, each crucial in the development of our personality.

The first stage is Infancy, during which the ego development outcome is either trust or mistrust. The first turning point of development is whether infants are given loving care and have their needs met or whether their cries go unnoticed. Those whose needs are met develop basic trust. Unfortunately, though, some infants never receive the loving care they need and as a result, they develop mistrust. These children begin a lifelong pattern of estrangement and withdrawal, trusting neither themselves nor other people (Burger, 2005).

The second phase is Toddler stage, when most motor skills are honed and developed. Children who come through this stage with a developed sense of autonomy have a strong sense of personal mastery and are confident that they can navigate their way through the obstacles and hurdles along their way. In contrast, children who are not allowed to explore and exercise influence over the objects and events in their world develop shame and doubt. They are often unsure of themselves and become dependent on others (Burger, 2005).

On the next stage, Early Childhood, children begin to interact with other children and face challenges that come with living in a social world. Children who seek out playmates, get involved in other social activities and resolve conflicts develop a sense of initiative (Burger, 2005). They learn how to set goals and tackle challenges with conviction. In Contrast, guilt and resignation are felt by children who fail to develop a sense of initiative at this stage. They may lack a sense of purpose and show signs of initiative in social or other situations.

In between 6 to 12 years, or the Elementary School Stage, competition with other children begins and inevitably, they compare their talents and abilities with their peers. If children experience success, feelings of competence are developed. But experiences with failure lead to experiences of inadequacy and a poor prognosis for productivity and happiness.

During Adolescence, we seek out to discover who we are as individuals separate from our family of origin and as members of a wider society. Those who understand, accept and appreciate who they are develop a sense of identity. Unfortunately, many teens fail to develop this strong sense of identity and instead fall into role confusion (Burger, 2005).

As the Adolescence years dissolve swiftly and as we enter Young Adulthood, we also move forth a higher challenge: developing intimate relationships. Young women and men search for that special relationships within which to develop intimacy and grow emotionally. Those who fail to develop intimacy at this stage face emotional isolation. They may pass through superficial relationships without finding the satisfaction of closeness promised by genuine relationships.

During Adulthood, we either develop generativity or stagnation. Those who develop a sense of generativity feel their lives are filled with continued meaning and interests through care of others and production of something that contributes to the betterment of society. Adults who fail to develop this sense of generativity may suffer from a sense of stagnation - a feeling of emptiness and questioning one's purpose in life.

The eight and final stage, Old Age, is the age of ripeness where we either develop integrity or feelings of despair. Those who look back on our lives with happiness and are content; feeling fulfilled with a deep sense that life has meaning and they have made a contribution to life develops a sense of integrity. Those who fail to develop this sense of integrity fall into despair. They realized that life is too short now, and they may struggle with whether they have achieved their purpose in life (Burger, 2005).

On child abuse vis-a-vis personality development and casework intervention

Erikson's description of personality development brings to mind the image of a path. We continue down this path from infancy to old age, but each different point along the way we encounter a fork - two directions in which to proceed. In Erikson's model, these forks in the path represent turning points in personality development. He called these points 'crises.' How we resolve each crisis determines the direction our personality development will take and influences how we resolve later crises. Of the two alternatives for resolving each crisis, one is said to be adaptive, the other not (Burger, 2005).

Until adolescence, how we develop our personality is primarily determined by what is done to us, as opposed to what we do. The love, care and support we receive… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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