Child abuse is defined as a non-accidental behavior by parents, caregivers, or any other adults that is outside the norms of conduct and can cause physical or emotional harm to a child or a young person (Bromfield, 2005).
There are five main types of child abuse:
- physical abuse
- emotional maltreatment
- sexual abuse
- the witnessing of family violence
Physical abuse is defined as a non-accidental use of physical force that can cause harm to a child. This includes: shoving, hitting, slapping, shaking, throwing, punching, kicking biting, burning, strangling and poisoning (Bromfield, 2005). It doesn’t matter whether an adult had an intend to cause a child harm or not, if an action lead to harm, it is regarded as abusive anyway. Physical abuse can also depend on the age of a child and the nature of the behavior: an action which can be regarded as dangerous and potentially harmful for a child of a certain age can also be regarded as physical abuse.
Emotional abuse is defined as an inappropriate verbal or symbolic act towards a child that can lead to child’s problems on a psychological level.
There are five main kinds of psychological maltreatment:
- rejecting: the adult refuses to acknowledge the child’s worth and the legitimacy of the child’s needs;
- isolating: the adult cuts the child off from normal social experiences, prevents the child from forming friendships, and makes the child believe that he or she is alone in the world;
- terrorizing: the adult verbally assaults the child, creates a climate of fear, bullies and frightens the child, and makes the child believe that the world is capricious and hostile;
- ignoring: the adult deprives the child of essential stimulation and responsiveness, stifling emotional growth and intellectual development;
- corrupting: the adult “mis-socializes” the child, stimulates the child to engage in destructive antisocial behaviour, reinforces that deviance, and makes the child unfit for normal social experience (Garbarino et al. (1986) p. 8)
Another kind of abuse is neglect. It means that either parents, or caregivers do not provide children with enough care as it is expected compared with the norms of society. It consequently can affect child’s physical and psychological development.
Types of neglect include:
- physical neglect: characterized by the care giver’s failure to provide basic physical necessities, such as safe, clean and adequate clothing, housing, food and health care;
- emotional (or psychological) neglect: characterized by a lack of caregiver warmth, nurturance, encouragement and support (note that emotional neglect is sometimes considered a form of emotional maltreatment);
- educational neglect: characterized by a care giver’s failure to provide appropriate educational opportunities for the child; and,
- environmental neglect: characterized by the care giver’s failure to ensure environmental safety, opportunities and resources (Dubowitz, Pitts, & Black, 2004)
Sexual abuse is defined as a use of a child in any sexual activity, with or without consent, and often without child’s understanding. Sexual abuse can happen within a family between family members, with an adult with no familiar relation to a child, or an adult that is in a position of power and authority over the child. Witnessing of family violence is a kind of an abuse that happens when a child is present while a family member is subjected to any kind of violence. Some researches however tend to include this type of an abuse in an emotional type of an abuse.
Bromfield, L. M. (2005). Chronic child maltreatment in an Australian Statutory child protection sample (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Deakin University, Geelong.
Dubowitz, H., Pitts, S. C., & Black, M. M. (2004). Measurement of three major subtypes of child neglect. Child Maltreatment,9(4), 344-356.
Garbarino, J., Guttmann, E., & Seeley, J. W. (1986). The psychologically battered child: Strategies for identification, assessment, and intervention. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc.
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