Child Abuse Prevention

Most abusive parents love their children and never intend to abuse them. When these parents find themselves in stressful situations, however, they sometimes lose control of their own actions and emotions, and the children bare the brunt of their frustrations. For abused children, violence is a way of life.

Often, abusive adults were themselves victims of child abuse. They have never experienced, nor have they learned, acceptable ways of disciplining their children. They instead teach their children the same unacceptable ways of dealing with anger through violence. There are four distinguishable types of abuse:

  1. Physical Abuse - injuring a child by hitting, kicking, shaking, or burning, etc. him/her; also includes throwing objects at the child.
  2. Emotional Maltreatment - crushing a child's spirit with degrading derogatory verbal attacks, threats, or humiliation.
  3. Sexual Abuse - sexual contact with a child (incest, inappropriate touching, rape); pornographic use of a child.
  4. Neglect - failure to provide for a child s physical or emotional needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care, physical or emotional attention); failure to provide guidance or supervision, abandonment.

The physical effects of child abuse and neglect are obviously painful injuries, many of which require medical attention and often lead to severe medical problems including permanent disabilities, retardation, and even death. The emotional effects of child abuse and neglect are profound: the abused child has low self-esteem, many insecurity and emotional problems, all of which result in relationship difficulties throughout life.

Recognizing Child Abuse

The first step in helping abused children is learning to recognize the symptoms of child abuse. Although child abuse is divided into four typeslisted above, the types are more typically found in combination than alone. A physically abused child for example is often emotionally maltreated as well, and a sexually abused child may be also neglected. Any child at any age may experience any of the types of child abuse. Children over age five are more likely to be physically abused and to suffer moderate injury than are children under age five.

Parent and Child

  • The parent and child rarely touch or look at each other
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative, or
  • State that they do not like each other.

The Child

  • The child shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
  • Has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, an overachiever, or too responsible, or
  • Comes to school early, stays late, and does not want to go home

The Parent

  • The parent shows little concern for the child, rarely responding to the school's requests for information, for conferences, or for home visits
  • Denies the existence of -- or blames the child for -- the child's problems in school or at home
  • Asks the classroom teacher to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands perfection or a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve, or
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.

None of these signs proves that child abuse is present in a family. Any of them may be found in any parent or child at one time or another. But when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, they should cause the educator to take closer look at the situation and to consider the possibility of child abuse. That second look may reveal further signs of abuse or signs of a particular kind of child abuse.

To report child abuse or neglect contact your local law enforcement agency or 1-800-CHILDREN.

Ten Ways to Help Prevent Child Abuse

  1. Be a nurturing parent. Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams.
  2. Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Being a parent isn't easy. Offer a helping hand: take care of the children so the parents can rest or spend time together.
  3. Help yourself. When the big and little problems of your everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control.
  4. Learn what to do if your baby won't stop crying. Never shake a baby -- shaking a child may result in severe injury or death.
  5. Get involved. Children need your help to live a safe and healthy life. Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of healthy children and families.
  6. Help develop parenting resources at your local library. 
  7. Promote programs in school. Teaching children, parents and teachers prevention strategies can help keep children safe.
  8. Monitor your child's television and video viewing. Watching violent films and TV programs can harm young children.
  9. Volunteer at a local child abuse prevention program. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Prevent Child Abuse America at 1-800-CHILDREN.
  10. Report suspected abuse or neglect. If you have reason to believe a child has been or may be harmed, call your local department of children and family services or your local law enforcement agency or 1-800-CHILDREN.

Alternatives to Lashing Out at Your Child

Tips to Prevent Child Abuse If You are a Parent

  • Take a deep breath...and another. Then remember you are the adult.
  • Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what you child is about to hear. Press your lips together and count to 10… or better yet, to 20.
  • Put your child in a time-out chair (remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.) Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry: is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger.
  • Phone a friend.
  • If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
  • Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face. Hug a pillow.
  • Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
  • Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.