Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.
Child Abuse Defined
In America, there are over 3.3 million reports of child abuse allegations every year. What constitutes child abuse and neglect varies for each state, though all state laws have to meet the minimum requirements as set forth by federal law. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse as the following:
- 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.
Each state is required to come up with its own definition of child abuse and neglect. The child protection laws in most states do not include harm caused by people other than parents or other caregivers. For example, strangers or acquaintances are not included in most child protection laws.
Four Types of Child Abuse
There are four major types of child maltreatment that are recognized in most states:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
First, let's discuss physical abuse, which is any physical injury that's caused by a parent, caregiver, or some other person that is responsible for the child; and a result of punching, stabbing, burning, shaking, hitting (whether it be hitting with a hand or using some other object), etc. Spanking and other forms of physical discipline are not forms of child abuse, as many believe that in those cases the child does not receive bodily injury and the discipline is reasonable.
Neglect refers to the failure of the parent, guardian, or some other responsible caregiver to take care of the basic needs of the child. Neglect can be physical, such as leaving your child without parental supervision for hours at a time; medical, such as not getting your child the medical care that he or she needs; educational, such as not educating your child or ignoring that your child has special education needs; emotional, such as ignoring a child who drinks alcohol to cope with stress or not providing emotional support.
Sexual abuse refers to the parent, guardian, or some other responsible caregiver coercing the child to engage in sexual behaviors, including exploiting a child sexually, molestation, incest, forced prostitution, sodomy, and touching a child's private areas.
Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, refers to behaviors that have a negative influence on the child's self-worth or emotional development. Emotional abuse may include withholding love until your child behaves in an 'appropriate' manner, constantly criticizing your child, or threatening your child.
Other Types of Abuse
Though these are not as widely accepted as the four we mentioned, some states also identify the following two forms of child abuse and neglect:
Abandonment, when a child is left alone and the location or identity of the child's parents or guardians is unknown. Abandonment also includes instances when the parents or guardians have not kept in contact with the child and did not set up reasonable supervision and support for a specific amount of time, the child is harmed and there is not proper supervision in place.
Substance abuse, which includes exposure in utero to substances in cases where the mother used substances and drugs during pregnancy, creating meth while a child is present or under your care, selling or distributing substances to child, and being under the influence while taking care of a child to the point where you are unable to care for the child
It's important to note that any one of the types of child abuse can occur alone, though it's more common for there to be a combination of abuses, both physical abuse and neglect, occurring simultaneously.
Each state is responsible for determining what constitutes as child abuse while following the minimum guidelines set forth by federal legislation. Physical abuse, physical harm by a caregiver; sexual abuse, coercing a child into sexual behaviors; neglect, failure to care for basic needs; emotional abuse, psychological abuse; abandonment, leaving a child without supervision; and substance abuse, exposing a child to or being under the influences of substances which hinder care, are all forms of child abuse.
When this lesson is concluded, students will have the confidence to:
- Define child abuse
- Identify the four major types of child abuse
- Name and describe two additional forms of child abuse some states recognize
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