Child abuse is comprised of physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect, according to the Psychology Today Diagnosis Dictionary. Abused children may be severely injured or possibly die. Some are left with deep emotional scars from verbal and emotional abuse that often goes undetected. Those who are neglected may suffer from lack of nourishment, lack of medical care or insufficient love, attention and comfort, says Psychology Today. While there is never an excuse to abuse a child, there are contributing factors and causes that lead to situations that result in child abuse.
Within the Mind
There are personality traits and characteristics often found in parents that abuse their children, although having these traits doesn't necessarily lead to abusive or neglectful behavior. Mental illness, low self-esteem and anti-social behavior, as well as a history of being abused or witnessing family violence while growing up, are among the characteristics that may lead caregivers to abuse the children in their care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway. Substance abuse by the mother or father also increases the risk of child abuse, according to the National MCH Center for Child Death Review. Caregivers who abuse drugs or alcohol may fail to meet their children's needs, have age-inappropriate expectations as well as stricter consequences or spend their money on their addiction instead of on providing a safe environment for their children.
Lack of Appropriate Parenting Skills
Some parents repeat the manner in which they were parented without being aware it is abusive or neglectful. Some parents, for example, teen parents, may be unaware of the demands of taking care of and raising young children. Unrealistic expectations placed upon their children may lead these parents to emotionally, physically or verbally abuse their children when they fail to meet those expectations, according to the article, "Child Abuse and Neglect," published on HelpGuide.org. Seeing a therapist, joining a parenting support group or taking parenting classes can help these parents to learn different child-rearing practices, regulate their emotions and reduce the risk of abusive behavior.
Children who grow up in homes where domestic violence occurs have an increased risk of being harmed or abused, according to the article, "Child Protection in Families Experiencing Domestic Violence," published on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. These children may be hurt or abused intentionally or unintentionally. For example, some children will try to intervene if their father is abusing their mother and may be thrown across the room. Younger children may be thrown down the stairs with the mother who is holding them. Some abusers may turn on their children after they abuse their spouse.
Family stress may be a risk factor for child abuse in some families. In families where high levels of stress coincide with child abuse, it is unclear whether it is actual higher levels of stress, perceived levels of increased stress or exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, depression or rage that is brought on by the increased stress that increases the risk of abusive behavior, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children with special needs or behavioral problems, difficulties associated with single parenting, and marital or financial difficulties can all increase the stress levels in a household, according to HelpGuide.org. Without the proper support, parents increase the risk of becoming abusive.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice
- KidsHealth.org: Child Abuse
- National MCH Center for Death Review: Child Abuse and Neglect
- Psychology Today : Child Abuse
- HelpGuide.org: Child Abuse and Neglect
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Child Protection in Families Experiencing Domestic Violence