Child abuse refers to the mistreatment of children through neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. Any act or series of acts either by commission or omission that causes harm, the potential for harm, or the threat of harm to a child may be considered child abuse. Child abuse can occur anywhere, including a child’s home or school.
Child neglect refers to instances where a responsible adult fails to adequately provide for the needs of a child, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, or shelter. The neglect can also include the failure to provide for the educational needs of the child.
Physical abuse includes the act of striking, burning, choking or shaking a child. In some jurisdictions, the transmission of toxins to a child through its mother, such as alcohol (fetal alcohol syndrome) is also considered as physical abuse.
Child sexual abuse encompasses both adult and adolescent abuse of a child for sexual purposes. This includes soliciting or coercing a child into engaging in sexual activities, the indecent exposure of a child, the displaying of pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.
Psychological and emotional abuse of a child includes name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or destruction of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation.
Children with a history of neglect or physical abuse may develop long term developmental and psychiatric problems including dissociative symptoms, anxiety, depression, and acting-out symptoms. Physically abused children are also likely to receive bone fractures, and researches show that they may have a higher risk of developing cancer.
There are several recongnized treatments for victims of child abuse. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is now used for victims of any kind of trauma. Abuse-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, child-parent psychotherapy, group therapy, play therapy, and art therapy are other forms of treatments available to victims of child abuse.
Since 1983, the month of April has been designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. Organizations that provide community leadership in preventing child abuse and neglect include the National Alliance of Children’s Trust Funds and Prevent Child Abuse America,. These organization are national with member organizations at the state level. In addition, the Federal government provides funding for child abuse prevention through Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (CBCAP).