Child Abuse: A Social Problem
What is a social problem and how does one define it? According to author Robert Lauer, a social problem is defined as, a condition or pattern of behavior that contradicts some other condition or pattern of behavior; is defined as incompatible with the deserved quality of life; is caused, facilitated, or prolonged by social factors. Most times when looking at a social problem, we look at problems outside our homes when in reality we can encounter social problems under our own roof. I feel as though child abuse should be considered a social problem as it affects millions of children and society as a whole. Although this is a major issue, often times it is dismissed or not seen as a big problem by society or even the government. Child abuse is a major issue as children make our tomorrow, if children are being affected from a young age, they are likely to be affected when they are adults and that is not good for them nor society. Child abuse is a recurring issue in America and something jurassic needs to be done to eradicate this problem.
In a recent journal titled, Child Abuse and Neglect/A Multidimensional Approach by Alexander Muela, he historically defines child abuse as,“all actions carried out by caregivers, which significantly interfere in the child’s optimum development and do not adhere to social standards, including things like emotional deprivation, malnutrition, child neglect and physical and emotional abandonment.” This definition touches on everything that shapes why child abuse should be defined as a social problem and not seen as a personal one. Children are the future and imagine if every child in the world were being abused? We would no longer have bright minds shaping the world, inventing new technology, coming up with different ideas to make the world a better place and most of all, we would have a lower population due to some cases leading to fatality. The issue of child abuse is a social problem, and we as a society need to find a solution.
When looking at a social problem, one must first look at the who the issue affects and how they are affected. According to childtrends.org the number of child maltreatment cases/victims have risen from a whopping 860,000 to 1,032,000 over the past few years with the ratio of fifteen incidents to every one thousand children. The first figure alone was saddening but to know that cases have increased by such a disgusting amount should alert us all that there is an issue. Within all these cases, it is reported that younger children experience higher rates of abuse than older children. Statistics from Child Trends also reported that that children three and younger experienced more mistreatment and child abuse as compared to those who were older.
Looking at this statistic, one could guess that this is because younger children cannot really do much about situations they are in. They cannot call and ask for help or really verbalize what is going on in their homes as compared to older children and this is in fact, very sad. As far as ethnicity goes it was also reported that Non-Hispanic Black children we amongst one of the most reported for child abuse and mistreatment in America. As a black woman, who was once a little black girl I am very disheartened by this. It is sad to know that children in the America are in danger and are being abused, with sometimes little to nothing being done over it. Where is the help for children three years old and younger who do not have a voice to cry out for help? The impact of child abuse is also important to look at when researching this, as people need to understand how what they’re doing is hurting these children.
The impact of child abuse does not only include one thing, rather several. When a child has been abused, they are prone to physical/medical, mental, psychological, sociological and developmental issues. Physical abuse, according to Laurer can include, kicking, biting, choking and beating by parents, with a high risk of physical injury and possible disability as a result. Initially when a child is first abused, they feel immense pain almost immediately, suffering from results of previous beatings. In most cases children can suffer from injuries and in worst cases? death. If the child abuse is continuous and prolonged, it could lead to serious consequences for the child. Those were some short term effects of physical abuse, but the long term effects if the child is to survive, are far worse. Some possible long time effects of physical abuse are effects to mental health, lower self esteem, substance abuse (both drugs and alcohol) and a potential to be abusive to your own child as a parent. Physical abuse that starts early can affect a child years down the line when they are adults. We should see this as not just a problem, but a social problem because we are bringing these damaged people and adding them to our society.
The psychological consequences are just as important to understand as the general effect of physical abuse. When children experience any form of mistreatment or neglect, they become at risk of developing mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression or even personality disorders. In a recent article published by childwelfare.gov, it was stated that over 54% of depression and attempted suicide cases in women were connected to their childhood experiences and negative events they endured in that childhood. Behavioral consequences are likely to also appear when children go through abuse. These children are more likely to have a difficult childhood as they can either keep to themselves or act out due to dealing with this mistreatment at home. These children are deprived of a childhood because they are constantly being abused and then develop a list of things even after the abuse has finished taken place. These things do not only impact these children, but also us citizens. We are the ones that have to be amongst these damaged kids, we are the ones that have to live amongst them and wonder what must have happened for them to be acting in such ways. Also, it affects our pockets as a society as well. We fund these different programs because there will be an increase in health care, juvenile detention centers for when the children act out, mental institutions for those admitted, substance abuse clinics and domestic violence centers. We indirectly fund all of these organizations because there is child abuse and something needs to be done to keep up with these programs. Most people hate the idea of an increase in anything where more money is being taken from them, so in order to stop this, we must come up with solutions that will put an end to this.
With every change that needs to be made, I always say we must start with yourself. I feel as though there are two ways to look at this. One way to stop those abusing these children is to help/convict them and the other is to help kids that have been abused as best as we can. For instance, for those doing the abusing, it should be a societal standard to know when someone showcases traits of an abuser and to say something to a higher up. When that is done, said abuser should be further looked into, especially if they have a family, so abuse within the family can be eliminated. Often times, people feel too proud of seeking help for their issues but in a situation like this, help would be needed. For this action to be done, we must become more aware with traits of abusers. Teachers/professors should be making statements in classrooms about reporting abuse within families and let people know where to go for more information. For those who are not in school, I feel as though the media should be utilized and more commercials should be placed on tv screens with information on abuse and where to go to learn more about it. As for the stoppage of abuse on victims and helping them, I researched thoroughly on what could be implemented to help them. In a Social Work Today article by Kimberly Day, there were a list of doable actions that can be implemented by organizations and the government that would prevent continuous child abuse and even worse, death because of child abuse. Some of these doable actions included expanding prevention services for at-risk families, the increase in qualifications of child protection workers, increase funding for child protective service and most importantly changes in confidentiality laws associated with child abuse. I feel as though these were all important actions that could actually make a change if implemented and funded by the government.
If there was an expansion in prevention services that would mean more families would be educated on how to prevent child abuse from occurring, furthering eliminating the step of having events occur to an innocent child. This needs to occur on a national level as this issue is very serious and not something small. These are the lives of children and they matter. I also thought that the increase in funding for child protective services would do a lot for this social problem. With increase in funding from the government, more workers could be hired, meaning more children can be helped as more homes would be evaluated. Ideally, there would be enough funding to get well qualified, experiences people out on the field to make sure that these children were being placed in a safe location and ridden from any kind of abuse. Lastly, it would be very important for there to be changes made in the confidentiality laws associated with child abuse. This would do a lot for this social problem as more people would be able to come out and report any kind of abuse they see or hear from students. These actions can only be implemented if this issue is on a national level and there is a severity seen with child abuse as there is one with other social problems.
To reiterate my earlier statement, child abuse is a social problem that must be eradicated as it not only affects the lives of the children, but society as a whole. There are hundreds of thousands of reported cases of child abuse in America and those are only the ones that are accounted for. Younger children are much more likely to be abused and that is disheartening because they can absolutely do nothing. When abused, children are more likely to be depressed, anxiety ridden, hesitant to form new relations, act out or become an abuser themselves. We as a society need to understand we can do something to change the cycle of damaged growing kids who reciprocate the treatment they received to their kids and so on. This cycle will never be broken as long as we sit back and do nothing. This social problem needs to be recognized as a national problem and the government needs to implement actions such as increasing funding, changing qualifications of child protective services and changing laws of confidentiality when it comes to child abuse. These actions cannot happen over night as they will be a working progress, but we all need to band together to make this change. Children are our future, abuse is our current problem and needs to become a problem of the past.
Child Maltreatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/child-maltreatment
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
Day, K., MSW. (n.d.). What Will It Take to End Child Abuse Fatalities in the United States? Retrieved from https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/exc_042911.shtml
Effects of child physical abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.secasa.com.au/pages/child-physical-abuse-understanding-and-responding/effects-of-child-physical-abuse/
Lauer, R. H., & Lauer, J. C. (2013). Social problems and the Quality of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Muela, A. (2012). Interaction Design for Preventing Child Abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect - A Multidimensional Approach. doi:10.5772/48130