Child abuse

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Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children.[1] In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children And Families (DCF) 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.[2] Child abuse can occur in a child's home, or in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and 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".[3]

Contents

Types

Child abuse can take several forms:[4] The four main types are physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect.[5]

Physical abuse

Physical abuse involves physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the deliberate infliction of serious injuries, or actions that place the child at obvious risk of serious injury or death, to be illegal. Physical abuse is the intentional or non-accidental production of a physical injury. Bruises, scratches, burns, broken bones, lacerations, as well as repeated “mishaps,” and rough treatment that could cause physical injury, are the results of physical abuse.[6] 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.[7] Some 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.[8][9][10]

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.[11] Sexual abuse refers to the participation of a child in a sexual act aimed toward the physical gratification or the financial profit of the person committing the act.[6][12] 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 with 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.[11][13][14] Selling the sexual services of children may be viewed and treated as child abuse with services offered to the child rather than simple incarceration.[15]

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,[16] post-traumatic stress disorder,[17] anxiety,[18] other mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder[19] and dissociative identity disorder,[19] propensity to re-victimization in adulthood,[20] bulimia nervosa,[21] physical injury to the child, among other problems.[22]

In the United States, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.[23][24][25][26][27] 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.[23] In over one-third of cases, the perpetrator is also a minor.[28]

In a 1999 news story, BBC reported, "Close-knit family life in India masks an alarming amount of sexual abuse of children and teenage girls by family members, a new report suggests. Delhi organisation RAHI said 76% of respondents to its survey had been abused when they were children - 40% of those by a family member."[29]

Psychological/emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is defined as the production of psychological and social deficits in the growth of a child as a result of behavior such as loud yelling, coarse and rude attitude, inattention, harsh criticism, and denigration of the child's personality.[6] Other examples include name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or killing of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation.[30]

Victims of emotional abuse may react by distancing themselves from the abuser, internalizing the abusive words, or fighting back by insulting the abuser. Emotional abuse can result in abnormal or disrupted attachment development, a tendency for victims to blame themselves (self-blame) for the abuse, learned helplessness, and overly passive behavior.[30]

Neglect

Child neglect is the failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child's health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Neglect is also a lack of attention from the people surrounding a child, and the non-provision of the relevant and adequate necessities for the child's survival, which would be a lacking in attention, love, and nurture.[31] Some of the observable signs in a neglected child include: the child is frequently absent from school, begs or steals food or money, lacks needed medical and dental care, is consistently dirty, lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.[32]

Neglected children may experience delays in physical and psychosocial development, possibly resulting in psychopathology and impaired neuropsychological functions including executive function, attention, processing speed, language, memory and social skills.[33] Researchers investigating maltreated children have repeatedly found that neglected children in foster and adoptive populations manifest different emotional and behavioral reactions to regain lost or secure relationships and are frequently reported to have disorganized attachments and a need to control their environment. Such children are not likely to view caregivers as being a source of safety, and instead typically show an increase in aggressive and hyperactive behaviors which may disrupt healthy or secure attachment with their adopted parents. These children have apparently learned to adapt to an abusive and inconsistent caregiver by becoming cautiously self-reliant, and are often described as glib, manipulative and disingenuous in their interactions with others as they move through childhood.[34] Children who are victims of neglect have a more difficult time forming and maintaining relationships, such as romantic or friendship, later in life due to the lack of attachment they had in their earlier stages of life.

Prevalence

According to the (American) National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, in 1997 neglect represented 54% of confirmed cases of child abuse, physical abuse 22%, sexual abuse 8%, emotional maltreatment 4%, and other forms of maltreatment 12%.[35]

A UNICEF report on child wellbeing[36] stated that the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among industrial nations with respect to the wellbeing of children. It also found that child neglect and child abuse were far more common in single-parent families than in families where both parents are present.[citation needed]

In the USA, neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care. Researchers found over 91,000 cases of neglect in one year (from October 2005 to 30 September 2006) using information from a database of cases verified by protective services agencies.[2]

Neglect could also take the form of financial abuse by not buying the child adequate materials for survival.[37]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, "female parents acting alone" were most likely to be perpetrators of child abuse.[38]

For FFY 2011, United States reported 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect.[39] Race and ethnicity of victims in 2011: 43.9% of all victims were White, 21.5% were African American, and 22.1% were Hispanic.[39]

According to Manas Akmatov, "A median of 83, 64 and 43% of children in the African region experienced psychological, and moderate and severe physical abuse, respectively. A considerably lower percentage of children in transitional countries experienced these forms of abuse (56, 46 and 9%, respectively)."[40]

Fatalities

A child abuse fatality occurs when a child's death is the result of abuse or neglect, or when abuse and/or neglect are contributing factors to a child's death. In the United States, 1,730 children died in 2008 due to factors related to abuse; this is a rate of 2 per 100,000 U.S. children.[41] Family situations which place children at risk include moving, unemployment, having non-family members living in the household. A number of policies and programs have been put in place in the U.S. to try to better understand and to prevent child abuse fatalities, including: safe-haven laws, child fatality review teams, training for investigators, shaken baby syndrome prevention programs, and child abuse death laws which mandate harsher sentencing for taking the life of a child.[42][unreliable source?][verification needed]

Causes

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes.[43] Understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem of child abuse.[44] Parents who physically abuse their spouses are more likely than others to physically abuse their children.[45] However, it is impossible to know whether marital strife is a cause of child abuse, or if both the marital strife and the abuse are caused by tendencies in the abuser.[45] This commonly used term refers to the process of parents' setting expectations for their child that are clearly beyond the child's capability. When parents' expectations are particularly deviant (e.g., preschool children who are expected to be totally responsible for self-care or provision of nurturance to parents) the resulting frustration caused by the child's non-compliance is believed to function as a contributory if not necessary cause of child abuse.[46]

Children resulting from unintended pregnancies are more likely to be abused or neglected.[47][48] Neglect is by far the most common form of child abuse, accounting for more than 78% of all cases.[49] In addition, unintended pregnancies are more likely than intended pregnancies to be associated with abusive relationships,[50] and there is an increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy.[51] They also result in poorer maternal mental health,[51] and lower mother-child relationship quality.[51]

A study on child abuse sought to determine: the forms of child abuse perpetrated on children with disabilities; the extent of child abuse; and the causes of child abuse of children with disabilities. A questionnaire on child abuse was adapted and used to collect data in this study. Participants comprised a sample of 31 pupils with disabilities (15 children with vision impairment and 16 children with hearing impairment) selected from special schools in Botswana. The study found that the majority of participants were involved in doing domestic chores. They were also sexually, physically and emotionally abused by their teachers. This study showed that children with disabilities were vulnerable to child abuse in their schools.[52]

Substance abuse can be a major contributing factor to child abuse. One U.S. study found that parents with documented substance abuse, most commonly alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, were much more likely to mistreat their children, and were also much more likely to reject court-ordered services and treatments.[53] Another study found that over two-thirds of cases of child maltreatment involved parents with substance abuse problems. This study specifically found relationships between alcohol and physical abuse, and between cocaine and sexual abuse.[54] Although the abuse survivor does not always realise the abuse is wrong, the internal confusion can lead to chaos. Inner anger turns to outer frustration. Once aged 17/18, drink and drugs are used to numb the hurt feelings, nightmares and daytime flashbacks. Acquisitive crimes to pay for the chemicals are inevitable if the survivor is unable to find employment.[55]

A 2010 article in the BBC reports that thousands of African children have been abandoned, tortured and murdered because they are believed to be witches.[56]

Unemployment and financial difficulties are associated with increased rates of child abuse.[57] In 2009 CBS News reported that child abuse in the United States had increased during the economic recession. It gave the example of a father who had never been the primary care-taker of the children. Now that the father was in that role, the children began to come in with injuries.[58]

Child-abuse cases go through screeners like Belisle to an "assessment" worker, the job Belisle used to handle. Eventually they reach the various social workers and services (counseling, referral to day care centers and Alcoholics Anonymous in local neighborhoods). Having been abused as a child seems to lead to a repetition with one's own children. Beyond that, the causes of child abuse seem to be deep-rooted anger and frustration and an intolerable sense of physical or emotional inadequacy. Anger most of all. "They don't know how to control it," says Belisle's co-worker Anna Ferzoco.[59]

A 1988 study of child murders in the US found that children are 100 times more often killed by a "non-biological parent (e.g. step-parent, co-habitee or boyfriend/girlfriend of a biological parent)" than by a biological parent.[60] An evolutionary psychology explanation for this is that using resources in order to take care of another person's biological child is likely not a good strategy for increasing reproductive success.[60] More generally, stepchildren have a much higher risk of being abused which is sometimes referred to as the Cinderella effect. The Cinderella Effect is often regarded as one of the great successes of Evo Psych research. It attempts to explain the observation that parents are more likely to kill their stepchildren than their biological children using evolutionary logic - as described by Daly and Wilson: "research concerning animal social behaviour provide a rationale for expecting parents to be discriminative in their care and affection, and more specifically, to discriminate in favour of their own young".[61]

Psychologists conducted a study in the United States in 2010 which examined over 200 regular church attendees from eleven different denominations of Christianity, most of whom were educated, upper-middle class White Americans, found that extrinsic religious orientation was associated with a greater risk of physical child abuse. Those with a more extrinsic religious orientation who also adhered to greater social conformity were particularly more likely to share characteristics with physically abusive subjects. Subjects who adhered to Biblical literalism exhibited a higher potential of physical child abuse. Those who had a more intrinsic religious orientation were not found to be at a greater risk of child abuse, although they sometimes exhibited greater social conformity or a greater propensity for holding literal interpretations of the Bible. Approximately 85% of the study's subjects were parents.[62]

Child abuse worldwide

Child abuse is an international phenomenon. Poverty and substance abuse are common widespread international issues, and no matter the location, show a similar trend in the correlation to child abuse.

Although these issues can likely contribute to child maltreatment, differences in cultural perspectives play a significant role in the treatment of children. In certain nations, the battle for equality within the sexes plays a large part in a child’s upbringing. During the Soviet period, there were conflicts regarding the traditional housewife versus the emphasis on equality within the sexes. Some women felt a considerable amount of pressure to carry out their motherly duties, obtaining an “authoritarian” parenting style, acting dominating and emotionally distant towards her children while overly involved in her own career.[63] Many were encouraged to use more firm and direct disciplinary methods, as well as be overbearing and overprotective of their children.[63]

Now that this Communist Era has ended, there are many positive changes being put into play. While there is a new openness and acceptance regarding parenting styles and close relationships with children, child abuse still remains a serious concern. Although it is now more publicly recognized, it has certainly not cease to exist. While controlling parenting may be less of a concern, financial difficulty, unemployment, and substance abuse still remain to be dominating factors in child abuse throughout Eastern Europe.[63]

A study conducted by members from several Baltic and Eastern European countries, together with specialists from the United States, examined the causes of child abuse in the countries of Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia and Moldova. In these countries, respectively, 33%, 42%, 18% and 43% of children reported at least one type of child abuse.[64] According to their findings, there was a serious of correlations between the potential risk factors of parental employment status, alcohol abuse, and family size within the abuse ratings.[63] In three of the four countries, parental substance abuse was considerably correlated with the presence of child abuse, and although it was a lower percentage, still showed a relationship in the fourth country (Moldova).[63] Each country also showed a connection between the father not working outside of the home and either emotional or physical child abuse.[65]

These cultural differences can be studied from many perspectives. Most importantly, overall parental behavior is genuinely different in various countries. Many may view child abuse, both emotional and physical, as socially acceptable. Each culture has their own “range of acceptability,” and what one may view as offensive, others may seem as tolerable. Behaviors that are normal to some may be viewed as abusive to others, all depending on the societal norms of that particular country.[63]

Asian parenting perspectives, specifically, hold different ideals from American culture. Many have described their traditions as including physical and emotional closeness that ensures a lifelong bond between parent and child, as well as establishing parental authority and child obedience through harsh discipline.[66] Balancing disciplinary responsibilities within parenting is common in many Asian cultures, including China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Korea.[66] To some cultures, forceful parenting may be seen as abuse, but in other societies such as these, the use of force is looked at as a reflection of parental devotion.[66]

The differences in these cultural beliefs demonstrate the importance of examining all cross-cultural perspectives when studying the concept of child abuse.

As of 2006, between 25,000 and 50,000 children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had been accused of witchcraft and abandoned.[67] In Malawi it is also common practice to accuse children of witchcraft and many children have been abandoned, abused and even killed as a result.[68] In the Nigerian states of Akwa Ibom and Cross River about 15,000 children were branded as witches.[69]

Effects

There are strong associations between exposure to child abuse in all its forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. In the United States, the strongest evidence comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE's) series of studies which show correlations between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high-risk health behaviors and shortened lifespan.[70] A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse,[71] makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public-health issue that should be addressed by the healthcare system. A big concern with researchers is the degree to which maltreated children grow up to be maltreating adults or if they exhibit social signs of abuse or neglect. Studies show that 90 percent of maltreating adults were maltreated as children in their life. When children were two, studies show that 16 percent of 267 high-risk mothers mistreated thir own children, to different effects.[72] The first two years of a child's life is when parents invest the least in their children. Almost 7 million American infants go to child care services, like day care, and a majority of that care is poor. Serious consequences occur when young children are maltreated, including developmental issues.[73] 16 percent of those 267 high risk mothers mistreat their two year old children in different ways. 55 percent of the children experienced physical abuse, 55 percent experienced neglect, 43 percent experienced hostile and rejecting parenting, and 43 percent experienced unavailable parenting.[72]

Psychological effects

Children who have a history of neglect or physical abuse are at risk of developing psychiatric problems,[74][75] or a disorganized attachment style.[76][77][78] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[79] as well as anxiety, depressive, and acting out symptoms.[80][81] A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment.[82][83] When some of these children become parents, especially if they suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative symptoms, and other sequelae of child abuse, they may encounter difficulty when faced with their infant and young children's needs and normative distress, which may in turn lead to adverse consequences for their child's social-emotional development.[84][85] Despite these potential difficulties, psychosocial intervention can be effective, at least in some cases, in changing the ways maltreated parents think about their young children.[86]

Victims of childhood abuse, it is claimed, also suffer from different types of physical health problems later in life. Some reportedly suffer from some type of chronic head, abdominal, pelvic, or muscular pain with no identifiable reason.[87] Even though the majority of childhood abuse victims know or believe that their abuse is, or can be, the cause of different health problems in their adult life, for the great majority their abuse was not directly associated with those problems, indicating that sufferers were most likely diagnosed with other possible causes for their health problems, instead of their childhood abuse.[87] One long-term study found that up to 80% of abused people had at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21, with problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.[88] One Canadian hospital found that between 36% and 76% of women mental health outpatients had been abused, as had 58% of women and 23% of men schizophrenic inpatients.[89]

In the case of 23 of the 27 illnesses listed in the questionnaire of a French INSEE survey, some statistically significant correlations were found between repeated illness and family traumas encountered by the child before the age of 18 years. According to Georges Menahem, the French sociologist who found out these correlations by studying health inequalities, these relationships show that inequalities in illness and suffering are not only social. Health inequality also has its origins in the family, where it is associated with the degrees of lasting affective problems (lack of affection, parental discord, the prolonged absence of a parent, or a serious illness affecting either the mother or father) that individuals report having experienced in childhood.[90]

Physical effects

Rib fractures in an infant secondary to child abuse

Children who are physically abused are likely to receive bone fractures, particularly rib fractures,[91] and may have a higher risk of developing cancer.[92] Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28% more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.[93]

The immediate physical effects of abuse or neglect can be relatively minor (bruises or cuts) or severe (broken bones, hemorrhage, or even death). In some cases the physical effects are temporary; however, the pain and suffering they cause a child should not be discounted. Meanwhile, the long-term impact of child abuse and neglect on physical health is just beginning to be explored. The long-term effects can be:

On the other hand, there are some children who are raised in child abuse, but who manage to do unexpectedly well later in life regarding the preconditions. Such children have been termed dandelion children, as inspired from the way that dandelions seem to prosper irrespective of soil, sun, drought, or rain.[96] Such children (or currently grown-ups) are of high interest in finding factors that mitigate the effects of child abuse.

Prevention

A support-group structure is needed to reinforce parenting skills and closely monitor the child's well-being. Visiting home nurse or social-worker visits are also required to observe and evaluate the progress of the child and his/her caretaking situation. The support-group structure and visiting home nurse or social-worker visits are not mutually exclusive. Many studies have demonstrated that the two measures must be coupled together for the best possible outcome.[97] Children's school programs regarding "good touch...bad touch" can provide children with a forum in which to role-play and learn to avoid potentially harmful scenarios. Unintended conception increases the risk of subsequent child abuse, and large family size increases the risk of child neglect.[48] Thus a comprehensive study for the National Academy of Sciences concluded that affordable contraceptive services should form the basis for child abuse prevention.[48][98] "The starting point for effective child abuse programming is pregnancy planning," according to an analysis for US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.[48][99]

April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983.[100] U.S. President Barack Obama continued that tradition by declaring April 2009 Child Abuse Prevention Month.[101] One way the Federal government of the United States provides funding for child-abuse prevention is through Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (CBCAP).[102]

Resources for child-protection services are sometimes limited. According to Hosin (2007), "a considerable number of traumatized abused children do not gain access to protective child-protection strategies."[103] Briere (1992) argues that only when "lower-level violence" of children ceases to be culturally tolerated will there be changes in the victimization and police protection of children.[104]

Treatment

A number of treatments are available to victims of child abuse.[105] Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, first developed to treat sexually abused children, is now used for victims of any kind of trauma. It targets trauma-related symptoms in children including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression and anxiety. It also includes a component for non-offending parents. Several studies have found that sexually abused children undergoing TF-CBT improved more than children undergoing certain other therapies. Data on the effects of TF-CBT for children who experienced only non-sexual abuse was not available as of 2006.[105] The purpose of dealing with the thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma is to deal with nightmares, flashbacks and other intrusive experiences that might be spontaneously brought on by any number of discriminative stimuli in the environment or in the individual’s brain. This would aid the individual in becoming less fearful of specific stimuli that would arouse debilitating fear, anger, sadness or other negative emotion.In other words, the individual would have some control or mastery over those emotions.[34]

Abuse-focused cognitive behavioral therapy was designed for children who have experienced physical abuse. It targets externalizing behaviors and strengthens prosocial behaviors. Offending parents are included in the treatment, to improve parenting skills/practices. It is supported by one randomized study.[105]

Rational Cognitive Emotive Behavior Therapy consists of ten distinct but interdependent steps. These steps fall into one of three theoretical orientations (i.e., rational or solution focused, cognitive emotive, and behavioral) and are intended to provide abused children and their adoptive parents with positive behavior change, corrective interpersonal skills, and greater control over themselves and their relationships. They are: 1) determining and normalizing thinking and behaving, 2) evaluating language, 3) shifting attention away from problem talk 4) describing times when the attachment problem isn’t happening, 5) focusing on how family members “successfully” solve problematic attachment behavior; 6) acknowledging “unpleasant emotions” (i.e., angry, sad, scared) underlying negative interactional patterns, 7) identifying antecedents (controlling conditions) and associated negative cognitive emotive connections in behavior (reciprocal role of thought and emotion in behavioral causation), 8) encouraging previously abused children to experience or “own” negative thoughts and associated aversive emotional feelings, 9) modeling and rewarding positive behavior change (with themselves and in relationships), and 10) encouraging and rewarding thinking and behaving differently. This type of therapy shifts victims thoughts away from the bad and changes their behavior.[34]

Child-parent psychotherapy was designed to improve the child-parent relationship following the experience of domestic violence. It targets trauma-related symptoms in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, including PTSD, aggression, defiance, and anxiety. It is supported by two studies of one sample.[105]

Other forms of treatment include group therapy, play therapy, and art therapy. Each of these types of treatment can be used to better assist the client, depending on the form of abuse they have experienced. Play therapy and art therapy are ways to get children more comfortable with therapy by working on something that they enjoy (coloring, drawing, painting, etc.). The design of a child's artwork can be a symbolic representation of what they are feeling, relationships with friends or family, and more. Being able to discuss and analyze a child's artwork can allow a professional to get a better insight of the child.[106]

Ethics

One of the most challenging ethical dilemmas arising from child abuse relates to the parental rights of abusive parents or caretakers with regard to their children, particularly in medical settings.[107] In the United States, the 2008 New Hampshire case of Andrew Bedner drew attention to this legal and moral conundrum. Bedner, accused of severely injuring his infant daughter, sued for the right to determine whether or not she remain on life support; keeping her alive, which would have prevented a murder charge, created a motive for Bedner to act that conflicted with the apparent interests of his child.[107][108][109] Bioethicists Jacob M. Appel and Thaddeus Mason Pope recently argued, in separate articles, that such cases justify the replacement of the accused parent with an alternative decision-maker.[107][110]

Child abuse also poses ethical concerns related to confidentiality, as victims may be physically or psychologically unable to report abuse to authorities. Accordingly, many jurisdictions and professional bodies have made exceptions to standard requirements for confidentiality and legal privileges in instances of child abuse. Medical professionals, including doctors, therapists, and other mental health workers typically owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients and clients, either by law and/or the standards of professional ethics, and cannot disclose personal information without the consent of the individual concerned. This duty conflicts with an ethical obligation to protect children from preventable harm. Accordingly, confidentiality is often waived when these professionals have a good faith suspicion that child abuse or neglect has occurred or is likely to occur and make a report to local child protection authorities. This exception allows professionals to breach confidentiality and make a report even when the child or his/her parent or guardian has specifically instructed to the contrary. Child abuse is also a common exception to Physician–patient privilege: a medical professional may be called upon to testify in court as to otherwise privileged evidence about suspected child abuse despite the wishes of the child and his/her family.[111]

Organizations

There are organizations at national, state, and county levels in the United States that provide community leadership in preventing child abuse and neglect. The National Alliance of Children's Trust Funds and Prevent Child Abuse America are two national organizations with member organizations at the state level.

Many investigations into child abuse are handled on the local level by Child Advocacy Centers. Started over 25 years ago at what is now known as the National Children's Advocacy Center[112] in Huntsville, Alabama by District Attorney Robert "Bud" Cramer these multi-disciplinary teams have met to coordinate their efforts so that cases of child abuse can be investigated quickly and efficiently, ultimately reducing trauma to the child and garnering better convictions.[113][114] These Child Advocacy Centers (known as CACs) have standards set by the National Children's Alliance.[115]

Other organizations focus on specific prevention strategies. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome focuses its efforts on the specific issue of preventing child abuse that is manifested as shaken baby syndrome. Mandated reporter training is a program used to prevent ongoing child abuse.

NICHD, also known as the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development is a broad organization, but helps victims of child abuse through one of its branches. Through the Child Development and Behavior (CDB) Branch, NICHD raises awareness efforts by supporting research projects to better understand the short- and long-term impacts of child abuse and neglect. They provide programs and observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month every April since 1984. The Children’s Bureau leads activities for the Month, including the release of updated statistics about child abuse and neglect, candlelight vigils, and fundraisers to support prevention activities and treatment for victims. The Bureau also sponsors a “Blue Ribbon Campaign,” in which people wear blue ribbons in memory of children who have died from abuse, or in honor of individuals and organizations that have taken important steps to prevent child abuse and neglect.[116]

See also

References

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Further reading

External links