Melissa has a Masters in Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology. She has worked as an instructional designer at UVA SOM.
Facts and Statistics of Child Abuse
Healthy relationships between parents and children contribute to the positive growth and development of children. Growth and development can be stifled through abusive and negative relationships, however. A family system, which is intended to provide support and love, can be the cause of pain and violence. This lesson will describe characteristics of abusers and those abused. This lesson will also describe the impacts of abuse and neglect on a child's growth and development.
Child abuse statistics are hard to get a handle on because so many instances go unreported. However, in 2009, a national study found that there were 702,000 unique reports of children who were deemed as victims of child abuse in the United States. Of those 702,000:
- 78.3% suffered neglect
- 17.8% were physically abused
- 9.5% were sexually abused
- 7.6% were emotionally abused
- 9.6% experienced various types of maltreatment
Characteristics of the Abuser
Contrary to popular belief, only ten percent of child abusers have a mental or psychological disorder. Further, abusers come from all races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Researchers have identified commonalities among abusers.
Most often, the abuser was abused as a child themselves. Abusive parenting traits tend to be passed from one generation to another. Approximately 30% of abusers claim they were abused as a child. Researchers have found that the abuse could have been witnessed or the abuser could have been the target of the actual abuse. Observation and direct abuse are predictors of future abuse of children.
Abusive parents, especially mothers, are often abused by their partners.
Abusers often have low self-esteem or confidence, are in insecure partner relationships, and hold low self-efficacy as a parent. These feelings of insecurity, especially in partner relationships cause the abuser to form negative internal working models of themselves, their children, and others. These negative internal working models suggest people can't be trusted and they are difficult to love.
Abusive parents are often unrealistic or uneducated in the care of young babies and children. In non-abusive households, when a baby cries, the parent knows it needs something: food, a diaper change, attention. However, in abusive households, the abusive parent takes the baby cries as criticism of their parenting. They are unable to understand the cries are a form of needs communication.
Characteristics of the Abused
Research does not conclude that the following characteristics are justifiable reasons for abuse. They are, however, present in most cases of abuse.
- The child has medical issues or a disability. The parent may feel powerless to deal with illness or disability and become frustrated. They will be more likely to overreact emotionally when the child is not behaving normally.
- The child has a difficult temperament. Infants that are quiet, healthy, and responsive are easier to care for and tend to be less abused than those that are more difficult to soothe when sick, and cry easily.
The Impacts of Abuse on Child Growth and Development
The effects of direct and observed abuse have multiple negative impacts on child growth and development.
- Intellectual and academic difficulties are prevalent among abused children. One study that was conducted found IQ rates of abused children to be eight points lower, on average, than other children not abused.
- Behavioral problems are observed. Children that are abused and maltreated will often tend to be emotionally unstable and aggressive compared to children not abused. These children typically explode in anger over small disagreements, tend to be rejected by their peers due to these reactions, and avoid interactions with other people in general.
- Finally, children from abusive homes have negative social and emotional development. Lack of caring, empathy and emotion are typical of abused children.
Abuse occurs among 12 out of every 1000 children in America. While much abuse goes unreported, researchers have been able to identify characteristics of abusers and of those abused.
Abusers can be any age, race, or ethnic group, but are typically from abusive households themselves, abused by their partners, have low self-esteem and confidence, and are often unrealistic or uneducated regarding the care of children.
Children that are abused often have medical issues or disabilities or have difficult temperaments.
Abused children face many growth and development delays. Intellectual and academic difficulties are typically present among abused children. Behavioral problems, such as uncontrollable anger and aggression, are also observed among abused children. Finally, children from abusive homes tend to be less caring, empathetic, or emotional toward others.
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