Child maltreatment is at times referred to as child abuse and neglect. Child abuse is a foremost dilemma in our country today. Do you know what child maltreatment is? According to World Health Organization (WHO), child abuse includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development or dignity. Five subtypes of abuse have been noted by WHO – physical and sexual abuse, neglect and negligent treatment, emotional abuse and exploitation.Protecting children (2)

WHO reports that approximately five to10 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported  being sexually abused as children, also 25–50 percent of all children report being physically abused.  People must be educated about the problem, mainly the types of abuse, enduring consequences of child maltreatment, for the benefit of the child. When you see child abuse never keep silent because it is your responsibility to inform the responsible authorities about the situation.

Physical abuse consists of purposeful aggressive actions which cause pain on the child. Examples of signs of physical abuse are bruises, wounds, burns and sore muscles.

Like many children in abusive homes, 13-year-old Supun lives in fear of his father coming home from work. He couldn’t clean the back yard today after school and is worried that his father will become furious again, and will scream and hit him. He wonders if his father has been drinking in the evening, which will only make the hitting worse.

Many of us automatically picture some sort of sexual abuse if we hear someone speak of childhood abuse.  When one touches a child in a sexual way or commits a sexual act with him or her, the person has committed sexual abuse. The examples for sexual abuse comprise of fondling, forced sexual acts, or indecent physical exposure. Abuse may include one secluded incident or events that can go on for years.

While many people have stereotypes of what a sexual offender may look like, the evidence supports the fact that they are often relatives of the child or someone much known to the child. Mostly people that family or friends would never imagine behaving in such ways are more often than not the culprits.

13-year-old Ramani is a Grade Five scholarship holder. She was very good at her studies and was a very active girl. She used to cuddle with her parents a lot. All of a sudden she started to be isolated. She complained about headaches and acted nervously. She told her parents she doesn’t want to go to school anymore.

Teachers started complaining that Ramani doesn’t pay attention to school work anymore and her test marks were low. Ramani was no more an active, loving girl. She even refused to hug her parents. They have no idea what has happened to her. With much effort she revealed that she had been touched inappropriately by the school van driver and had been told not to say anything to anyone. It is important that her parents encourage her to share what is on her mind when they notice her reappearing anxiety and they insist that whatever happens they will be loved her unconditionally. That helps Ramani to come out with her problem.

Do you know when parents are constantly unavailable for their children, it constitutes abuse? Neglect, or the absence of parental care, can have harmful consequences on a child’s well-being. It becomes the most common form of child abuse. Parents may neglect children because they are abroad, abuse a substance and are not aware enough to care for others or it can be due to poverty. They may have an illness that keeps them home lying in bed. While they may be present, they are not truly present for their children. Sometimes parents may be consumed with a job, activity, or another person, to the point that they are hardly ever present for their children or caring for their needs.

All behaviors that cause mental torture or deficits constitute psychological abuse. It is also named as ‘emotional abuse’ because damage caused to one’s mental state inevitably creates emotional damage. Besides strong critical statements, emotional abuse can also include withholding kindness or affection, prolonged periods of silence, yelling frequently, and harsh jokes, to name a few examples. Like any type of abuse, there may be degrees in severity, but the actions still constitute abuse.

Researchers have found out the lifelong consequences of child maltreatment cause physical, psychological as well as behavioral consequences of a child even as an adult. Ultimately, child maltreatment can contribute to diminish a country’s economic and social development.

Harvard researchers led by Dr. Martin Teicher studied 200 people aged 18 to 25, who were mainly middle class and well-educated. They were recruited through newspaper and transit ads for a study on ‘memories of childhood,’ as the authors wanted to look specifically at the results of abuse and neglect. They found out child maltreatment often leads to conditions like depression and PTSD (2008). Also brain scan studies identify the changes associated with child maltreatment that may raise people’s risk for anxiety, disassociation, eating disorders, addiction, suicidal thoughts, personality disorders such as antisocial behavior (aggression or withdrawal) , attachment disorders or problems in interpersonal relationships can be caused by child abuse (Time Magazine, 2012).

Scientists have found out 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21 (Silverman et al., 1996). Children who experience maltreatment are also at increased risk for adverse health effects and certain chronic diseases as adults, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, liver disease, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, (Felitti et al., 1998; Danese et al., 2009).

An American psychologist John B Watson has stated that give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.

Hence, the environment plays a huge role. The environment is the society where we live. It doesn’t have to be your child, but any child is a child. Every child is innocent. As an adult it is your responsibility to protect them.

What is pedophilia and who are pedophilic? What is antisocial behavior and how does antisocial personality disorder come into play in child maltreatment? We’ll discuss the answers next week.