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Child Abuse (cont.)

Physical Abuse, Child Neglect, and Emotional Neglect

Physical abuse of children is defined as excessive intentional physical injury to a child or excessive corporal punishment of a child. Torture, beatings, and assault of children are obvious forms of physical abuse.

  • Corporal punishment by parents is subject to evaluation and interpretation. In general, corporal punishment should be avoided, though spanking with a hand and other forms of mild physical punishment that do not leave any marks are still considered within the realm of parental discretion.
  • Punishment that leads to marks that last for more than a few minutes can be interpreted as abuse, regardless of intention. The use of any objects to strike a child (other than with your open hand) is wrong. That includes belts, paddles, sticks, or any other object. A family tradition of beatings or the fact that the parent was subjected to physical abuse is not an acceptable excuse for injury to a child.
  • Excessive physical discipline is harmful and dangerous to children. Small children can be killed by relatively minor acts of physical violence (for example, shaking, dropping, or throwing the child against hard surfaces). Any severe beating with an object, forceful shaking, submersion in hot water, intentional burning, and other forms of intentional infliction of pain are inappropriate and criminal behaviors.
  • Any person who has been reared in an environment of violence may be more likely to inflict violence on others. People who recognize their tendencies to get angry, out of control, or violent should seek help. They can learn anger-management and child-rearing techniques, and try to suppress their violent tendencies through conscious and diligent effort at all times.
  • Seeing others inflict physical abuse on children should prompt immediate action by the observer. People who are physically violent generally demonstrate violence again -- at escalating levels. Early intervention is the best strategy to avoid lifelong consequences.

Child neglect in any form, when it concerns a child's welfare, is generally considered to be criminal behavior. Child neglect is considered as a possible diagnosis for children who are poorly cared for, not fed properly, improperly clothed, denied basic safety or necessities, denied proper medical care, or treated with indifference to a degree that appears to cause or put the child at risk for damage or suffering.

  • Parents, caregivers, and guardians of children must seek help from medical and social services in situations in which children have less-than-adequate care. Children can develop long-term medical, emotional, and developmental problems from such neglect.
  • Failure to continue to get help for a child who is not doing well or who is improperly cared for may be interpreted as another form of neglect. This can result in criminal action or action by local child protective services that may result in children being removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Emotional neglect is a condition in which children do not get adequate attention from their parents or guardians. Emotional abuse refers to children being harmed by emotionally negative behaviors by a caretaker.

  • With mild forms of emotional neglect or abuse, children can develop rebellious behaviors or become alienated from their parents.
  • In more severe cases of emotional neglect or abuse, especially with babies or very young children, neglect can result in very abnormal behaviors, such as these:
    • Listlessness
    • Profound detachment from the parents
    • Poor bonding with other people
    • Poor interactive skills with other children or at times inappropriate attachment to anyone who will pay attention to them
  • These abnormal behaviors in young children continue as they get older and can transform into other personality or mental disorders that can be difficult, if not impossible to treat.
  • Parents who feel their relationship to their children is causing problems, is stressful, or not working well should consider the following questions:
    • Are you spending time with your children in recreational and learning activities in which they are the focus of your attention?
    • Do you show your children love and affection?
    • Do you feel out of control of your children or detached from them and their activities?
    • Do you have excessive behavioral problems with your children?
    • Are you supervising your children's time during which you are caring for them or letting them be on their own and unsupervised?
    • Is there excessive yelling, anger, or punishment?
    • Do you engage in calling your child hurtful names or making negative statements toward them?
    • Do you yourself exhibit bad behaviors in front of your children that disregard the children such as drug use, profanity, physical violence, bigotry, or ignoring the child's feelings and concerns?
  • Parents who recognize any of these problems can avoid the consequences of emotional neglect through parental training courses, reading, and effort. Seeking a little help can achieve big results. Children are very responsive to any positive effort put forth by a parent to improve the parent-child relationship, especially when children are young. Children need to be shown that they are cared about and that you are aware of their need to be loved as they grow up.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2014

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Child Abuse & Neglect: Physical Abuse »

Physical abuse, a subset of child abuse, is defined in various ways by different states.

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