Concept of Child Abuse

Category: Education

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CONCEPT, NATURE AND CAUSES OF CHILD ABUSE IN INDIA Dr.Sudhir K. Samantaray Assistant Professor in Psychology Post Graduate Govt. College, Sce-11, Chandigarh Mobile: 91-9417243879 E-mail:

Overview of Child Abuse: : 

Overview of Child Abuse: Children play a crucial role in any country. Early childhood foundations are laid down in the childhood and adolescent period of life. India is home to 440 million people under the age of 18 —almost 19% of the world's children and more than one-third of the country's population.

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In India, over the centuries, children have been subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect. Children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. The manifestations of these violations are various, ranging from child labour, child trafficking, to commercial sexual exploitation and many other forms of violence and abuse. By any objective measures, this issue should rank high on the global agenda but in practice it is surrounded by a wall of silence and perpetuated by ignorance.

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Child sexual abuse is a dark reality that routinely inflicts our daily lives but in a majority of cases it goes unnoticed and unreported on account of the innocence of the victim, stigma attached to the act, callousness and insensitivity of the investigating and the law enforcement agencies, etc.

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Child Abuse in India takes various forms. Often, cases of Child Abuse are not reported or considered serious. This makes it difficult to understand the real dimension of the issue. Child abuse includes physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse and mental (emotional) abuse of a child less than 18 years of age by a parent or other caretaker or any member the society.

Types of Child Abuse: : 

Types of Child Abuse: Verbal Abuse Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Emotional /Psychological Abuse Neglect

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Verbal Subjecting the child to constant abuse by nature of calling the child a variety of hurtful names such as ‘stupid’, ‘fatty’ etc.

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Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. It may, however, be the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age.

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Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child. It includes fondling a child's genitals, making the child fondle the adult's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism and sexual exploitation.

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Emotional/Psychological Abuse: Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma.

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Neglect: It is the failure to provide for the child's basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (heat or cold). It may include abandonment. Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, never attending to the child, substance abuse including allowing the child to participate in drug and alcohol use.

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A common theme underlying most forms of maltreatment--physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse and exploitation--is that of emotional hurt. The child who is physically abused often suffers emotionally from inconsistent parenting and fear. The sexually abused child suffers from the lack of affection or supervision which leaves him/her vulnerable to the subtle advances of the perpetrator; and the neglected child becomes anxious or apathetic about a life in which basic needs aren't met. One general consequence of child maltreatment is developmental fixation or "freezing." The child who comes to the attention of the counselor due to difficulties in the classroom or poor social adjustment may very well be a maltreated child.

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Thus in general child abuse refers to the intended, unintended and perceived maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child, including any of the following: Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual and emotional maltreatment. Any act, deed or word which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being. Unreasonable deprivation of his/her basic needs for survival such as food and shelter; or failure to give timely medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his/her growth and development or in his/her permanent incapacity or death.


INDICATORS OF CHILD ABUSE Slapping, Beating with stave/stick, Pushing, Shaking, Punching, Kicking, Biting, Throwing, Stabbing, Choking, Hitting with a hand, stick, strap, or other object, Burning, etc.

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Sexual Abuse Severe Forms: Sexual assault Making the child fondle private parts Making the child exhibit private body parts Exhibiting private body parts to a child Photographing a child in nude Oral, anal, or genital penile penetration; Anal or genital digital or other penetration; Genital contact with no intrusion;

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Fondling of a child's breasts or buttocks; Indecent exposure; Inadequate or inappropriate supervision of a child's voluntary sexual activities; Use of a child in prostitution, pornography, Internet crimes, or other sexually exploitative activities.

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Other Forms: Forcible kissing Sexual advances during travel situations Sexual advances during marriage situations Exposure- children forced to view private body parts Exposure- children forced to view pornographic materials

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Emotional/Psychological Abuse Humiliation is the lowering of the self esteem of the child by harsh treatment, ignoring, shouting, or speaking rudely, name calling and use of abusive language Comparison in between siblings and with other children

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Girl Child Neglect Lack of attention to girl child as compared to brothers Less share of food in the family Sibling care by the girl child Gender discrimination


CAUSES OF CHILD ABUSE: Well after defining child abuse and listing and understanding the various forms of abuse, the next question to be considered is: "What causes a child to be abused? Child abuse is most often, not the result of a single mitigating factor, rather, it is a combination of multiple forces acting on/or within the family that acts on the abuser/s resulting in an act of child abuse.

The causes of child abuse are multidimensional in nature like: : 

The causes of child abuse are multidimensional in nature like: Abused parents may be involved in abusing activities, Poverty and lack of fulfilling basic needs compel children, parents to be involved in abusing activity, Lack of socialization, Lack of education, Lack of parental attitude for parenting, and Lack of proper mind set amongst general public etc.

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It is important to note here that listing possible causes of child abuse, in no way meant to negate the effects of child abuse and definitely, not to excuse it. The tricky part is in handling families where child abuse is to remember and not to generalize and draw broad conclusions.

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This is important because certain factors are present among families where maltreatment occurs, but this does not mean that the presence of these factors will always result in child abuse and neglect and the absence of them means there is no abuse. Professionals who have a responsibility for intervening in cases of child maltreatment must recognize the multiple causes of the problem and treat each case individually.

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Besides which differences in cultures and variations in opinion and behaviours, even within the same city must be taken into account and respected, within limits. What might be considered abusive in one country, family, may not be considered in the same way by anther.

Where Violence and Abuse Occur: : 

Where Violence and Abuse Occur: In The Home and Family Settings In Schools and Educational Institutions In Care and Justice System In Work Settings In the Community

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In The Home and Family Settings: The family has the greatest potential to protect children and provide for their physical and emotional safety. Human rights treaties recognize the right to a private and family life and home. But in recent years violence against children by parents and other family members has been documented. This can include physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as deliberate neglect. Frequently, children experience physical, cruel or humiliating punishment in the context of discipline. Insults, name-calling, isolation, rejection, threats, emotional indifference and belittling are all forms of violence that can damage a child's well-being. Children are most frequently sexually abused by someone they know, often a member of their own family. Harmful traditional practices are generally imposed on children at an early age by family or community leaders. Much of this violence is hidden behind closed doors or because of shame or fear.

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In Schools and Educational Institutions: Schools have an important role in protecting children from violence. For many children, though, educational settings expose them to violence and may teach them violence. They are exposed to corporal punishment, cruel and humiliating forms of psychological punishment, sexual and gender-based violence, and bullying. Although 102 countries have banned corporal punishment in schools, often this ban is not adequately enforced. Fighting and bullying are also examples of violence against children in schools. Often bullying is associated with discrimination against students from poor families or marginalized groups, or those with particular personal characteristics such as appearance or a disability. Schools are also affected by events in the wider community – for example, gang culture or gang-related criminal activity associated with drugs.

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In Care and Justice System: As many as 8 million of the world's children are in residential care. Relatively few are there because they have no parents; most are in care because of disability, family disintegration, violence in the home and social and economic conditions such as poverty. Children in some institutions face violence from care-givers and other children. Staff may 'discipline' them with beatings or restraints, or by locking them up. In some institutions, children with disabilities face violence in the guise of treatment, such as being subjected to electric shock to control their behaviour or given drugs to make them more 'compliant'. Children in detention are frequently subjected to violence by staff. In at least 77 countries, corporal and other violent forms of punishment are accepted as legal in penal institutions. Detention of children with adults is routine in many countries, and this puts them at increased risk.

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In Work Settings: Across all regions, violence – physical, sexual and psychological – affects many millions children who are working, both legally and illegally. It may be used to coerce children to work or punish or control them in the workplace. Some categories of illegal work have been identified as 'worst forms of child labour' and so are considered as violence against children. Most workplace violence is inflicted by employers, although those who inflict violence may also include co-workers, foremen, customers, police, criminal gangs and intermediaries. Many girls work in domestic labour, which is often unregulated. They report maltreatment such as physical punishment, humiliation and sexual harassment. The exploitation of children in prostitution or child pornography is not only a form of violence in itself; it also puts the exploited children at risk of physical and psychological violence, as well as neglect.

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In the Community: The community is a source of protection and solidarity for children but it can also be a site of violence – including peer violence, violence related to guns and other weapons, gang and police violence, physical and sexual violence, and trafficking. Violence may also be associated with the mass media and new information and communication technologies. Community violence often affects marginalized groups of children, such as street children. The mass media sometimes portray violence as normal or glorify it. Cyber-bullying through the Internet or mobile phones has been documented in recent times.

Concluding Remarks: : 

Concluding Remarks: Abusive behavior is often cyclic, many health and developmental problems in early childhood can lead to behavioral, educational, and psycho-emotional problems in later adolescence and adulthood, which could lead to the recurrence of abusive behavior Detecting and treating health and developmental problems early in life is important.

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While hospitals including psychologists and psychiatrists, schools, and community agencies have a critical role to play in implementing this child abuse prevention strategy, they cannot fully shoulder the responsibility. Educational campaigns are necessary to make the public aware of the seriousness of the problem and its implications as well how individuals can make a difference. The effectiveness of the preceding prevention strategy will only be realized when there is a fully aware public, committed to preventing child abuse.

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Heart felt Thanks to all Sudhir K. Samantaray

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