Child abuse is a devastating issue not only in the United States but globally. Children between 2 to 4 years regularly experience physical or psychological abuse from their parents or relatives (Berkowitz, 2017). Great quantity of underage boys and girls are engaged in sexual abuse by their relatives or strangers. However, physical abuse is the most common form of child maltreatment, legal definitions of which vary depending on the state. Physical child abuse is associated with many risk factors, such as substance abuse, mental condition of the parents, their financial state, and other reasons; it has devastating effects on child’s mental and physical state, which should be prevented.
Child abuse occurs for many reasons, including mental conditions of parents, poor relationship between the relatives, financial issues, family history of domestic violence, etcetera. First, it is essential to note that healthy adults would never deliberately hurt their children. Therefore, the leading risk factor associated with physical child abuse is the abuse occurring within the parent’s childhood. The hazard could increase if a parent developed a mental condition due to the physical abuse in their youth (Berkowitz, 2017). Furthermore, the cycle of violence is likely to continue throughout the generations, adding severe mental illnesses to the people and a higher probability of substance abuse disorder (Smith et al., 2016). Moreover, parents with substance abuse are more likely to have anger issues since drugs and alcohol stimulate the nervous system, making them more vulnerable to unexplained aggression.
Another major issue relates to the financial or medical problems combined with the poor relationship between parents/guardians and children. Due to the pandemic, there is a high possibility of developing economic issues. According to the statistics, the amounts of terminations due to COVID-19 and the lack of financing skyrocketed. Therefore, parents/guardians will be extremely vulnerable to the mental effects of the lockdown, lack of finances, absence of food, and, as a result, they have a weak nervous system (Berkowitz, 2017). Consequently, because of the mentioned issues combined, they could develop a physical child abuse pattern for the minor problem. The lack of understanding and support in a relationship would only make the risk higher.
Moreover, the risk is higher within the young parents of the first child since these people usually have no understanding of hardships that wait for them and struggles of raising a functional human being. A young parent with a lack of parenting skills and no support from relatives, friends, or neighborhoods is more likely to develop a violent behavior pattern towards their offspring (Berkowitz, 2017). The stress of parenting and abandonment is a perfect combination for future physical child abuse.
The effects of physical abuse can vary from person to person. Generally, violent behavior patterns tend to continue through generations, raising broken children, who would later create broken families with hurt kids. The short-term effects could also include depression and anxiety disorders, which quickly deteriorate and potentially lead to suicide (University of Manchester, 2019). Therefore, physically abused children are at higher risk of killing themselves and developing mental disorders.
Another short-term consequence of physical child abuse could be an altered sleep cycle when the child is either oversleeping every day or not getting enough sleep due to the stress they are experiencing in life. Moreover, children from violent households report an increased number of nightmares and sleep interventions, mostly within the preschoolers (Berkowitz, 2017). However, teenagers are at higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, bullying, and self-harm. Consequently, children with hysterical parents/guardians are at higher risk of redirecting their frustration onto others or onto themselves, engaging in risky, dangerous, and destructive behavioral patterns.
Furthermore, the neglected and abused child is more likely to develop their upbringing’s long-term side effects. The most prominent consequence of violent household is physical health problems. Some may appear soon after the initial cruel act, such as brain damage, bruises, cuts, bone-breaking. However, the others may appear in months or even years, including high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung issues, arthritis, and malnutrition (Berkowitz, 2017). Victims are more likely to develop problems connected to their brains with the amount of frustration and stress they have experienced throughout the years. Some areas of the brain could be affected more than others, as one can observe that children suffering from physical abuse tend to be more forgetful and have issues with the processing of emotions.
Additionally, abused children are at higher risk of developing violent behavior patterns, which turns into another long-term side effect – engagement in juvenile crime or delinquency. According to the researchers, children who suffered from physical child abuse are more likely to display antisocial tendencies than average households (Berkowitz, 2017). The same study had also confirmed that males and females have different responses to child abuse (Berkowitz, 2017). For example, females are more likely to internalize their suffering, resulting in a plethora of mental issues, while males externalized their problems, which resulted in crimes and bullying. However, both genders tend to follow that behavior pattern throughout their life.
Physical child abuse will also have a long-term effect on the child’s psychological health. Experiencing cruelty from parents/guardians usually ends with several disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, behavioral disorders, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating disorder). These patterns would most likely follow the victims throughout their lives until they either get professional help or end their lives. Moreover, the rate of suicide within physically abused children is astonishing, which is two or three times higher than within the regular children. Furthermore, some studies showed that children with depressive disorders who were victims of physical abuse are less likely to respond to medical treatment (University of Manchester, 2019). Therefore, the long-term effects of the abuse appear to be too grave, which is why parents should consider thinking more before conceiving a child.
The last long-term side effect of physical abuse would be the decrease of one’s cognitive abilities. Therefore, kids with violent parents are more likely to receive low grades, have learning disabilities, and have a higher chance of dropping out of school early (Hoehn et al., 2018). Moreover, people who suffered from child abuse tend to have abandonment issues, problems with trust, and other consequences mentioned earlier.
There are several strategies to prevent physical child abuse on a governmental and personal levels. Concerning government strategies in preventing violence within children, they should concentrate on a family unit and improve its stability (Hoehn et al., 2018). Firstly, during the uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the policymakers should financially support families, especially the ones who lost their source of income due to the lockdown. Strengthening families’ economic support can be implemented through family-friendly work policies, maintaining household financial security, and paying some families the money they need. Because of the pandemic, the funds can be useful for families with economic instability.
Moreover, it is essential to increase the amount of education among young parents. For example, positive parenting can be encouraged through public engagement and educational campaigns to develop healthy relationships (Levey et al., 2017). Furthermore, the government could implement early childhood home visitations to ensure that infants are not being abused and treated as human beings (Levey et al., 2017). Intervention to prevent future risk is essential, which is why policymakers should include behavioral parenting training programs and treatment to avoid certain parental behaviors.
Concerning personal strategies, if one is a parent, they should try to understand and support their children, no matter how hard it can appear. It is essential not to expect one’s child to be genius and be right in every possible way. Parents should be supportive, engage in the lives of their children while not being invasive (Levey et al., 2017). Moreover, guardians who engage in substance abuse should get treatment since substances worsen the financial situation and the quality of life (Smith et al., 2016). In an inadequate state, a parent can say aggressive words or fall to violent behavior to appear more influential. Although control is important in the parent-children relationship, the essential part is in not stepping over the line.
To conclude, the issue of physical abuse can appear for a plethora of reasons, which include mental health problems, substance abuse, financial issues, a family history of violence, etcetera. The effects can vary from person to person, but they include mental disorders, delinquent behavior, a higher risk of suicide, self-harm, and other distortive behaviors. To prevent physical abuse from occurring, policymakers need to implement some moderate changes, while parents should act more. Parenting is the most challenging job, and it is essential to make sacrifices to better one’s children.
Berkowitz, C. D. (2017). Physical abuse of children. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(17), 1659-1666. Web.
Hoehn, E. F., Wilson, P. M., Riney, L. C., Ngo, V., Bennett, B., & Duma, E. (2018). Identification and evaluation of physical abuse in children. Pediatric Annals, 47(3). Web.
Levey, E. J., Gelaye, B., Bain, P., Rondon, M. B., Borba, C. P. C., Henderson, D. C., & Williams, M. A. (2017). A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of interventions designed to decrease child abuse in high-risk families. Child Abuse & Neglect, 65, 48-57. Web.
Smith, V. C., Wilson, C. R., & Committee on Substance Use and Prevention. (2016). Families affected by parental substance use. American Academy of Pediatrics, 138(2). Web.
University of Manchester. (2019). Child abuse linked to risk of suicide in later life. ScienceDaily. Web.