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Child abuse

Related: pedophilia - child - abuse

Fictional films dealing with child abuse: Peeping Tom (1960, UK) - Mommie Dearest (1981, USA)

Most Common Form of Child Abuse, free brochure from the Tennessee Residents and Traffic Safety Educators, date unknown [Nov 2004]


Child abuse is physical or psychological mistreatment of a child by its parents, guardians, or other adults.

The simplest example of child abuse is neglect, where the guardians fail to perform those tasks necessary to the well-being of the child. Another form of child abuse is child sexual abuse which is perceived by the child as a betrayal of trust and may cause long-term trauma to the child. Other forms of abuse include physical and emotional abuse, the latter of which is often the most difficult to detect because it leaves no physical signs (scars, bruises, and the like).

In all types of child abuse, it is believed by many psychologists that the primary benefit realized by the perpetrator is psychological (i.e., emotional). Frequently, the perpetrators were themselves abused as children. They learned unhealthy ways of interacting with others, of exerting power (ability to influence others) and control (ability to deflect or redirect others' influence), and of disciplining children. This dynamic is responsible for the cycle of abuse in which victims of abuse feel a powerful compulsion to relive the trauma they suffered. Some people, perhaps having deeper emotional reserves (or perhaps having none), will inflict the abuse on themselves or instigate situations to force an abuser to inflict it on them. Other people, seeking control over the abuse, will become perpetrators, inflicting the abuse they suffered on someone else. In this latter case, the perpetrator relives their trauma vicariously, by reversal with or projection into the victim.

It should be noted that while the existence of child abuse and neglect is uncontroversial, there is often great controversy whether particular acts constitute child abuse and neglect or not. For instance, what one person considers acceptable corporal punishment others may consider criminal. This applies not only between different individuals: different societies and legal systems have differing attitudes to the physical punishment of children, the withholding by parents of medical treatment on religious grounds, age-appropriate sexuality, etc.

For example, people who violently shake or beat infants typically do not see their actions as abusive, despite the well-documented consequences of their actions including neurological trauma, brain damage and death.

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