April is Child Abuse Prevention Month-Part Three


Child Abuse Prevention Month #3


Causes of Child Abuse


By Terry Bailey



One of the critical factors relating to child abuse is the human brain’s ability to not function correctly once the “tip over” point has been reached. Most folks can deal with stressors in their lives when they are within their ability to cope. However, once the circumstances of their environment exceed their ability to cope, their behavior becomes erratic. It is a certain fact of life that some parents tend to cope with a great number of stressors with seemingly a calm demeanor while others reach the tip over point much earlier.


Factors that may increase a person's risk of becoming abusive include:


  • A history of being abused or neglected as a child.

  • Physical or mental illness, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Family crisis or stress, including domestic violence and other marital conflicts. Fifty to seventy percent of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children.

  • Single parenting, or young children in the family, especially several children under age five. Many single parents have no family members living close meaning they are alone in their parenting duties.

  • A child in the family who is developmentally or physically disabled

  • Financial stress or unemployment

  • Poor understanding of child development and parenting skills

  • Alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse. Drugs or alcohol contribute to 70 percent of cases of child maltreatment, meaning physical abuse or neglect. Kids under 5 are the most susceptible to abuse or neglect by a substance-abusing parent and represent the fastest growing population of foster children.




Symptoms of Abuse


A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or family friends. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:


  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities

  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance

  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence

  • An apparent lack of supervision

  • Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus

  • Rebellious or defiant behavior

  • Attempts at suicide


Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.




Physical abuse signs and symptoms


  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns

  • Injuries that don't match the given explanation

  • Untreated medical or dental problems




Sexual abuse signs and symptoms


  • Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age

  • Blood in the child's underwear

  • Statements that he or she was sexually abused

  • Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain




Emotional abuse signs and symptoms


  • Delayed or inappropriate emotional development

  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem

  • Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm

  • Depression

  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

  • Desperately seeks affection

  • A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school




Neglect signs and symptoms


  • Poor growth or weight gain

  • Poor hygiene

  • Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs

  • Taking food or money without permission

  • Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation

  • Indifference



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