b. History of Child Abuse. Child abuse is a problem that is centuries old. This
problem is not just characteristic of the twentieth century. As early as 1884, Great
Britain founded the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in an effort
to protect children from cruel treatment. Similar societies were founded in other
countries. The first state in the United States to legislate protection for children was
New York with a law protecting children passed in the late 1800s. Through the years,
other states passed such laws. In the early 1960s, child abuse was identified as an
observable, clinical condition which could be a serious threat to a child's life. Child
abuse was given the medical name battered child syndrome. Today, the term most
commonly used is child abuse. In 1962, the federal Children's Bureau prepared a law
detailing how to report child abuse. By 1970, all 50 states, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands had their own laws for reporting child abuse. In
1974, Congress established the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Gradually the problem has been identified and legislation enacted for dealing with child
abuse. Today, there are resources available for children and families who need help.
The task now is to work on the problem of preventing child abuse.
A problem in reporting and studying child abuse is that there are many definitions
of terms rather than standardization of terms. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and
Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as "the physical or mental injury, sexual
abuse or exploitation, negligent treatment, or maltreatment of a child under the age of
eighteen, by a person who is responsible for the child's welfare, under circumstances
which indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or threatened thereby." A
general working definition for child abuse might be this. Child abuse is a nonaccidental
injury or pattern of injuries to a child, injuries for which there is no reasonable
explanation. The word "injuries" includes nonaccidental physical injury, neglect,
emotional abuse, and sexual molestation. These definitions will be helpful in
understanding the problem of child abuse.
Parents are the most frequent child abusers. Other caretakers (such as the
parent's friends, relatives, and day care workers) may also be child abusers.
a. Physical Abuse. Physical abuse includes severe beating, burning, shaking,
human biting, and strangulation.
b. Neglect. Neglect refers to failure to provide a child with the basic necessities
of life such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
c. Emotional Abuse. Emotional abuse includes excessive, aggressive, or other
parental behavior that places unreasonable demands on a child to perform more than
he is capable of doing. Examples of such abuse include belittling or verbal attacks; lack
of love, support, or guidance; constant, excessive teaching.