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Sarah Alazzary

Dr. Sharma
Sociology 131- 8

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“In 2005, 899,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect, according to reports from
child protective service agencies around the nation.” (Dew) Child maltreatment is a devastating
social problem in American society. Every child deserves a safe childhood and a life without
violence, and child abuse and neglect violate that right. The simple belief that child abuse is only
limited to sexually assaulting or physically harming a child is wrong, because child abuse can be
emotional, physical, and psychological. According to Child Abuse, by Jacqueline L. Longe,
“Child abuse is the term for an act of harming children by neglect, physical force, violence,
sexual attack or by inflicting psychological or emotional distress.”. It is considered a sociological
phenomenon because it is not an innate behavioral patter for human beings to follow. Many of
child abuse cases are primarily problems within the family, and nonfamily members abuse can
occur but most victims are abused by one or more of their parents. One of the first and most
influential groups that we as human beings interact in is with our family units. Within our family
is where people learn much of what makes them who they are as adults and if abuse is learned as
a child, many times it is performed when the abused child is an adult themselves. Child Abuse
results in long term effects for the children, and it can completely alter their present and future
life. So as a society there should be an understanding of what is child abuse, what the factors are
that contribute to child abuse, and the long term effects of it.
The definition of child abuse has been constantly changed within a society over time and
differs from person to person depending on their culture and traditions. “Some Americans view
spanking as an unacceptable act while others view it as appropriate form of discipline. Until the
1900s, much of what is now thought to be child abuse was not considered illegal or even
immoral. Children as young as five and six years old regularly worked long hours in factories or
mines, performing dangerous tasks.” (Child Abuse) As stated above, some families completely

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believe in spanking in their child while other families would look upon that as extremely
immoral and border line abuse. Back in the 1900s children were held to a different standard
where they were treated as adults instead of what society today defines a childhood lifestyle to
be. So there has been evidence of change when it comes to the issue of child abuse, in the 1900s
the Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was created.
The systematic study of child abuse in the United States
began in 1962 with an article called The American Medical
Associated called “The Battered Child Syndrome.” Responding to
the evidence of widespread child abuse, the federal government
enacted the Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. The law
defined child abuse as “the physical and mental injury, sexual
abuse, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child under the age
of 18 by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under
circumstances which indicate that the child’s health and welfare is
threatened or harmed. (Child Abuse)
Even though there is a clear general definition as to what constitutes as child abuse, “It is
difficult to find reliable national statistics for instances of child abuse because each state keeps its
own records and has its own definition of what constitutes abuse.” (Longe) There are also myths
present stating that children from lower income families are generally more abused but in reality
there is no barrier of social class when it comes to child abuse. “Physical abuse is, however,
recorded more frequently in poor families versus other families since middle class and wealthy
families have their child treated by a sympathetic personal physical who may be less likely to
diagnose and report injuries as child abuse.” (Longe) Physical abuse is only one of the
subcategories of Child Abuse, and while bones heal, repeated beating, intimidations, incest and
any other forms of child abuse have long lasting psychological effects on an individual not only
in childhood, but throughout his or her lifetime. If a parent yells a certain statement at their child,

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whether it be because of anger or frustration or even exhaustion, it can be defined as emotional
abuse and could have severe consequences. Examples of emotional abuse are,
Labeling children as bad instead of labeling their behavior. (Instead
of saying "You are a bad boy!" say, "I love you, but it's not OK for
you to draw pictures on the walls. I get angry when you do that".
Telling children, they are a burden (for example, "I wish you were
never born") Controlling too much, not controlling enough or
being unpredictable. (Lawrence R. Ricci)
Constant emotional abuse can be such as damaging as physical abuse, the
child can be insecure, have horrible self esteem and even turn to drugs and
alcohol to feel self worth. Whether it’s emotional, physical or physiological abuse
the child will live his or her life attempting to fix the damage imposed on them by
their family.
“The factors contributing to child maltreatment are complex and the
family structure and socioeconomic status, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic
violence are contributing factors to child abuse and neglect.” (Doak) Humans
depend on others for personality to develop, especially children. Family is
considered to be the most important socializing agent and if a nurturing loving
atmosphere is not present throughout early childhood, it can have dire results.
There are existing factors that society identify as the contributing factors to child
abuse. A couple examples are mother or father who were abused as children, a
mother or father who are too young and have too many children that they cannot
provide for, and a mother or father who are substance abusers. There are
differences in both parental factors though, “Mothers are almost twice as likely as
fathers to be involved in child maltreatment. Compared to fathers, they also are

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more likely to abuse or neglect their children in every category of maltreatment
except sexual abuse.” (Dew)
First, fathers who are poor, unemployed or underemployed are
more likely to engage in maltreatment, compared to middle class
and upper class fathers with good jobs. Fathers without an
adequate income or job are more likely to be stressed, and stress
increases the likelihood that fathers will become abusive.
Underemployment or unemployed also can undercut a father’s
sense of self worth which also makes him more likely to resort to
abusive behavior with his children. Second, substance abuse is a
central factor in paternal abuse and neglect. Third, a range of
psychological problems are also implicated in paternal
maltreatment. Fathers with low sense of self worth may engage in
abusive behavior as a way to compensate for their feelings of
powerlessness or to distract themselves from their own emotional
difficulties. Finally, fathers who are not engaged in the lives of
their children are more likely to engage in physical or sexual
abuse. (Dew)
In order for children to develop and have a healthy personality, he or she
need to have social experiences to learn their culture and to survive. If a child is
raised around abuse, that will be the norm for that specific child and later on in
life he or she could possibly harm other individuals because to them it would be
the correct and normal way to behave. Children who are abused will tend to have
a harder time making friends, because they live in a fearful environment to which
some will not interact with anyone else. This can also lead to social isolation
which is detrimental because without social interaction, basic human behaviors
and beliefs will not be learned and a child will lack basic human interaction skills
resulting in failed friendships, and relationships. The effects of child abuse can
take many forms, emotional, physical, and physiological. The study “Childhood
Victimization: Early Adversity, Later psychopathology” was on of the most

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detailed studied of the consequences of childhood maltreatment by Cathy Spatz
Widom. “The study focused on a 908 children in a Midwestern metropolitan
region who were six to eleven when they were maltreated. A control group of 667
children with no history of childhood maltreatment were used for comparison.”
Widom noted that the victims later psychopathology
(psychological disorders that result from maltreatment during
childhood) manifested itself in suicide attempts, antisocial
personality, and alcohol abuse and/or dependence. When surveyed
in 1989, victims of maltreatment were more likely that individuals
in the control group to report having attempted suicide. Widom
also found that gender plays a role in the development of
psychological disorders in adolescence and adulthood. In 1989
females (24.3%) with a history of childhood maltreatment reported
being more likely to attempt suicide, compared with their male
counterparts (13.4%). In contrast, a significantly larger percentage
of male victims (27%) than female victims (9.8%) developed an
antisocial personality disorder. (Doak)
A form of child maltreatment, they tend to forget that neglect is also
harmful and can result in death. “More than three out of 10 (31.9%) of children
who died of child maltreatment in 2008 died of neglect alone.” (Doak) Neglect
can lead to death in cases such as malnourishment, lacking proper medical care or
Children should not be subjected to maltreatment, because as parents he or
she should not take out their own frustration’s or stressors onto innocent children
who are looking up to them for guidance. Children are extremely influenced by
their surroundings and what is exposed to them as kids can alter their personality
and how they interact with other individuals. As a society, marks and bruises
should not be the only defining factor of child maltreatment, instead there should

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be classes or presentations in schools to identify the different categories of child
maltreatment. To spread awareness in what constitutes as child abuse can inform
parents who may witness child maltreatment and it can also teach the children
themselves what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior so they may report it to
a school’s guidance counselor, etc.
Child maltreatment is a massive issue in the United States and the
understanding of the issue is the first step for society to help decrease the
problem. Spreading awareness is also very crucial and important, in order for
individuals understand what are the causes and the effects of child maltreatment.

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"Child Abuse." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 19 April
2016. Web.
Dew, W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey. "Protectors or Perpetrators?" Fathers,
Mothers, and Child Abuse and Neglect. New York: Insitute for American
Values, January 2008. Research Brief No. 7.
Doak, Melissa J. "Causes and Effects of Child Abuse." Child Abuse and
Domestic Violence. Detroit: Opossing ViewPoints in Context, 2011.
Lawrence R. Ricci, Christina Comenos. "Emotional Abuse: Effects on
Children." n.d.
Longe, Jacqueline L. Child Abuse. Vol. 1. Farmington Hills: The Gale
Encylopedia of Psychology, 2016.
Wienclaw, Ruth A. "Family and Relationships: Child Abuse." The Concepts of
Family Dynamic. Salem Press, 2014. 70-74.