How Large Is the Problem of Child Abuse and What Are We Doing About It? Term Paper

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Child Abuse

How large is the problem of child abuse and what are we doing about it?

Children, today, are being abused at an alarming rate. The abuse can range from physical abuse to sexual abuse, psychological abuse or neglect (Righthand, Kerr, & Drach, 2003). Whichever the type of abuse inflicted on the child, he/she is affected in a negative way that many times can carry on into adulthood. Child abuse is a serious problem and statistics have shown that it is not a rare occurrence. According to Grapes (2001), "in 1997, an estimated 3,195,000 children were reported to child protective services (CPS) agencies as alleged victims of maltreatment" (p.16). This information was collected among 35 states, among the United States, which indicated that each state averaged a 1.7% increase in child abuse reports between 1997 and 1997 (Grapes, 2001). When the numbers are crunched, fifteen out of every 1,000 U.S. children were victims of child maltreatment in 1997; which was a similar rate among the prior three years. According to the National Clearing House on Child Abuse and Neglect information, a resource of the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, there were 2,806,000 reports of possible maltreatment in 1998 (Grapes, 2001). About one-third of these (34%) were "screened out" and about two-thirds (66%) were investigated. Of those investigated, about 540,000 (29.9%) resulted in findings of "either substantiated or indicated child maltreatment" (Grapes, 2001). On the other hand, according to Jim Hopper, a research associate at Boston University School of Medicine, asserts that the majority of child abuse victims are not counted in official statistics because "most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of authorities" (Grapes, 2001, p.12-13).

This maltreatment can lead to serious consequences in the child's character or cause psychological disorders that may affect them for years or even throughout life, such as depression, low self-esteem, school learning problems, withdrawal, opposition, compulsivity, anxiety, and/or pseudo-mature behavior (Calam & Franchi, 1987).

Law enforcement agencies must play a crucial role in protecting abused children. Almost every state has passed a law to protect these children who in most cases cannot speak for themselves. In addition, many professionals today, such as counselors and teachers, are required to report any suspected case of child abuse to the proper authorities, which is normally either the police or a child protective agency. These agencies have the same basic goal, which is the protection of endangered children. In order to fully investigate this issue, the following will be discussed: definitions of child abuse, types of and causes of child abuse, consequences of child abuse, society's response to child abuse, and a child's story.

Child abuse can be hard to define and may vary among researchers and authors; however, all of the definitions have one common theme and that is that the abuse of a child is wrong in any way, shape, or form. Before getting to the discussion the issue of defining child abuse, below are two stories of child abuse incidents (Grapes, 2001):

Story 1:

In November 2000, a San Jose man was riding in a female coworker's car when he thought he heard a child moaning. According to Sergeant Steve Dixon of the San Jose Police Department, the man "looked in the back seat." There was no one there. He looked at her [his coworker]. She looked very nervous. She began talking very loudly. He heard the moaning several times. She turned up the radio, apparently to drown out the sounds." The man later called the police, and the woman was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment after her two sons, ages five and seven, told authorities that their mother would sometimes lock them in the trunk of her Honda Civic when she went to work. In describing this incident, Dixon stated, "It's almost unbelievable."

Story 2:

In October 2000, a seventeen-year-old boy called 911 and reported that he and his twelve-year-old brother were chained in their bedroom. When authorities arrived at their home, located in a rural desert community in California, they found that the two boys were not in chains. However, dog chains were found attached to their bedposts, and the boys had marks on their wrists suggesting they had recently been restrained. In addition, they were filthy, underdeveloped mentally and physically, and had scars on their backs.

These stories are only but a few that tell the awful truth about child abuse. Child abuse has been defined in many ways. In our history, Parton (1979) gives a detailed account of a four-stage process by which child abuse came to be recognized and defined (Calam & Franchi, 1987). The four stages are as follows: (1) the discovery of the problem; (2) its diffusion as a problem; (3) the consolidation of the problem; and finally, (4) the stage of reification, with the problem being accepted as a natural phenomenon that should automatically receive professional attention (Calam & Franchi, 1987).

Three approaches to the management of child abuse are identified by Parton: (1) the penal, with emphasis on justice for the injured party and punishment of the offender; (2) the medical, which sees deviance as result of external forces requiring prevention and cure; and (3) the social welfare model, which is the traditional, compassionate, rehabilitation view which sees the parents as psychologically or emotionally inadequate and in need of therapy (Calam & Franchi, 1987).

In the year 1996, Congress changed the reading of the definition of child abuse from "child abuse and neglect" to "The term 'child abuse and neglect' means at a minimum, any recent 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" (Schwartz-Kenney, McCauley, and Epstein, 2001, p.245). According to the Senate, the new definition is intended to protect the states child protective agencies from the perceived burden of unrealistic expectations and inadequate resources.

Barnett and colleagues (1994) developed research definitions and severity ratings for six types of child maltreatment. The subtypes were physical abuse, sexual abuse, failure to provide (physical neglect), lack of supervision (physical neglect), emotional maltreatment, and moral, legal and educational maltreatment (Righthand, Kerr, & Drach, 2003). Severity ratings ranged from level one being the least severe, to level five being the most severe.

Examples of level one physical abuse included minor marks on a child's body, inflicted by a hand or object, in the absence of marks to the child's neck or head. Level two included non-minor marks to the child's body. Level three included marks inflicted on the child's head, face, or neck, minor burns, serious bruises, minor lacerations, and parental handprints as a result of grabbing. Level four included hitting with an object likely to result in serious injury, non-minor lacerations, fractures, concussions, second degree burns, attempts to choke or smother that did not result in hospitalization, and injuries requiring hospitalization for less than twenty-four hours. Level five included injuries that necessitated hospitalization, resulted in permanent physical damage or disfigurement, or were fatal. Severity ratings for the other forms of child maltreatment were established as well (Righthand, Kerr, & Drach, 2003). Barnett and colleagues stressed that their objective was to develop operational definitions and severity ratings of child maltreatment for the purpose of research.

There are different types and perceived causes of child abuse. The types can range from physical abuse to sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. Physical abuse involves acts that result in demonstrable harm or when combined with other abusive or neglectful acts, create a moderate risk of harm (Righthand, Kerr, & Drach, 2003). Physical acts of abuse can include hitting a hand, stick, strap, or other object, punching, kicking, shaking, throwing, burning, stabbing, or choking a child.

Sexual abuse is another type of child abuse. Sexual abuse includes three types forms of abusive behaviors: intrusion, genital molestation, and other or unspecified acts of sexual abuse. Intrusion includes oral, anal, or genital penile penetration. Genital molestation involves some form of genital contact, such as fondling the breasts or buttocks, genital exposure, and other sexual acts. On a side note, sexual abuse has been widespread in the Catholic Church among Catholic priests. It appears that the priesthood and religious life have an alarmingly high number of child molesters. This has been a topic of controversy among the church for many years. The Vatican has beared down and investigated a number of priests for this very reason. Society has spoken out for the children who have experienced child abuse at the hands of priests (Rossetti, 1990). In addition, sexual abuse is widespread, aside from priests, throughout the United States and the world.

Psychological abuse is another type of child abuse. It is a type of emotional abuse that children often experience at the hands of adults. There are three types of psychological abuse, according to Righthand, Kerr, and Drach (2003), the first includes close confinement, exemplified by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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