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Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Most child abuse occurs in a child's home, with a smaller amount occurring in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with.
There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and child sexual abuse. Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing a child from his/her family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge.
According to the "Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect," child abuse is "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, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm." A person who feels the need to abuse or neglect a child may now be described as a "pedopath."
Main Types of Child Abuse
Child neglect is where the responsible adult fails to provide adequately for various needs, including physical (failure to provide adequate food, clothing, or hygiene), emotional (failure to provide nurturing or affection), educational (failure to enroll a child in school), or medical (failure to medicate the child or take him or her to the doctor).
Child neglect is defined as "the failure of a person responsible for a child's care and upbringing to safeguard the child's emotional and physical health and general well-being." Like acts of commission, harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence.
The following are types of child neglect (not legal definitions):
FAILURE TO PROVIDE
FAILURE TO SUPERVISE
Exposure to violent environments
Physical abuse is physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. It can involve punching, striking, kicking, shoving, slapping, burning, bruising, pulling ears or hair, stabbing, choking, or shaking a child. Shaking a child can cause shaken baby syndrome, which can lead to intracranial pressure, swelling of the brain, diffuse axonal injury, and oxygen deprivation, which leads to patterns such as failure to thrive, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, bulging or tense fontanels, altered breathing, and dilated pupils. The transmission of toxins to a child through its mother (such as with fetal alcohol syndrome) can also be considered physical abuse in some jurisdictions.
Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the infliction of physical injuries or actions that place the child in obvious risk of serious injury or death to be illegal. Beyond this, there is considerable variation. The distinction between child discipline and abuse is often poorly defined. Cultural norms about what constitutes abuse vary widely. Among professionals as well as the wider public, people do not agree on what behaviors constitute abuse.
Some human-service professionals claim that cultural norms that sanction physical punishment are one of the causes of child abuse, and have undertaken campaigns to redefine such norms. The use of any kind of force against children as a disciplinary measure is illegal in 24 countries around the world, but prevalent and socially accepted in many others.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, physical contact with the child's genitals, viewing of the child's genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography.
Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor's visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, other mental illnesses (including borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder,] propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, bulimia nervosa, physical injury to the child, among other problems.
Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbours; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.