The Different Types Of Child Abuse And Their Effect On Children

Throughout history, the definition of child abuse has changed dramatically to fit a changing view in the society. Where once hitting your child with a belt or a switch was considered the norm, we are now able to look at it for what it truly is: a form of abuse. Spanking, only recently considered a proper method of punishment, is generally (though not always) considered abuse by parents, teachers, and other members of society. But these types of physical abuse are not the only abuse out there that children suffer. It's important to be able to define physical abuse, but also emotional abuse, so that these types of abuse do not negatively impact a child later in their life.


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The Truth About Physical Abuse

If you've ever thought about someone being abused, you probably immediately thought of physical abuse. Things like being hit or kicked or, otherwise, injured by someone in your life are physical abuse, and it can be extremely damaging not only to the physical well-being of any child, but to their spirit as well. Physical abuse doesn't have to be extensive and it doesn't have to occur frequently to be called abuse. Even if it happens only once, it's considered physical abuse and something should be done about it before it becomes even more serious.

If you look at the definition of physical abuse, it states that any intentional act that causes injury or trauma to someone else is considered abuse. It means that anytime someone lays a hand on you intentionally and it causes you any kind of pain (whether physical or not), it is abusive and that means it's not okay. For children, however, it can be difficult to do anything about physical abuse, even though it's the most likely to be noticed by someone outside of the family. After all, bruises are easy to see and can be more difficult to explain.


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Signs of physical abuse could include unexplained or strange bruises, broken bones or other injuries, including burns or scratches. But there may be more signs as well, such as strange behavior in the child themselves. They may appear more withdrawn or may wear clothes that seem strange for the day, such as long shirts in the middle of summer. What some don't understand, however, is that these behaviors are not necessarily the case. Some youth become even more boisterous or outgoing in an attempt to hide the abuse, no matter what kind they may be suffering.

The Truth About Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be one of the hardest to explain, because the entire point is to make someone feel worthless, stupid or, otherwise, inferior. Children have the hardest time explaining this type of abuse or even understanding that it is abuse in the first place. After all, if you've been told something about yourself long enough, it's easy to simply accept it as fact and believe it's true, especially when it comes from someone who you think of as someone important to you.

Where the physical abuse definition is intentionally laying your hands on someone, the emotional abuse one is a little more complicated. It means someone subjecting another to any type of behavior or treatment that could result in some type of psychological trauma. If someone says or does something intended to hurt you or make you feel bad about yourself, it's considered abusive. When someone does these things to you repeatedly, we consider it psychological or emotional abuse. Of course, even doing it once is still considered abuse, it is most likely to happen again.


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Youth who are emotionally abused may react by emotionally abusing others. They may be more prone to name calling, insulting, or mocking other students. They may be prone to violent or extreme outbursts as they get older. On the other hand, they may also seem self-conscious and withdrawn or have few social skills, resulting in a lack of friendships. They may not appear to have a close relationship with their parents or may constantly seek approval from parents or others. In truth, there are many different ways that an emotionally abused child may act, and it's difficult to pick out an abused child by using a simple list of behaviors alone.

The Truth About Sexual Abuse

Though all types of child abuse are horrible, it's sexual abuse that we seem to see most frequently on the news, and it's the one that most people seem to experience the most outrage on. There are many reasons for that behavior, but the important thing to note is that all types of abuse can be just as damaging as any other. A child who is emotionally abused has many of the same risk factors as one who is sexually abused or physically abused. The types of risk factors may vary slightly, but none are more or less severe than others.

Sexual abuse is considered any type of undesired sexual behavior from one person to another. When one of those persons is a child, any type of sexual behavior is automatically undesired, no matter what an abuser may say to lay the blame anywhere but on themselves. It's important to note that absolutely nothing that a child does, says, or thinks about is 'asking for' or 'giving permission for' sexual abuse (or any type of abuse, for that matter).The abuser may attempt to put blame on the child, members of the family or outside of it to make excuses, but those excuses are entirely invalid.


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Sexual abuse can start as young as the first few months of life and may continue on into adulthood, or as long as the abuser is allowed to get away with what they are doing. It may start out in ways that seem harmless, such as providing extra attention or being extremely involved in the child's life. But these actions are generally a type of 'grooming' that the abuser uses to prepare the child for what they are going to do in the future. Sometimes, family members or other friends will notice these things, but may not see anything wrong with them either, until they turn into something else.

The attention, gifts, or involvement turn into touching or other sexual acts that the child may feel they brought on by allowing the attention. The child may even feel like they have to accept these sexual acts because it's 'payment' for the attention and gifts. Abusers may even tell the child this, and they will keep the secret because they want the positive types of attention to continue, or because they want to protect other members of their family or even the abuser themselves.

It's important to note that abusers of children are often part of their family. This means it's someone they love and trust and, therefore, someone they don't want to 'get in trouble' with, which is what an abuser will tell them will happen if they tell anyone. The child then keeps the secret and the abuse is allowed to continue on, causing even more harm to the child.

Signs that a child is being sexually abused can be overt sexual behavior that is inappropriate and strange for the age of the child, increased withdrawal, sudden regression such as bedwetting, extreme emotions of anger or sadness, extreme clinginess, sudden mood or personality changes, and strange fears of certain people or places. Still, these are only a few of the many symptoms that may show up, and you never know just when they could occur.

Child Abuse in Later Life

Contrary to what many of us have been told, those who have been abused as children are actually not guaranteed or even overwhelmingly likely to become abusers. Instead, these youth have a rate of 30-40% chance of becoming an abusive parent. It's not solely the result of the abuse, however, that the child goes on to do similar things in their own adulthood. Rather, research has found that children who feel unloved or unwanted are more likely to become abusive to their own children, regardless of whether they were abused or not.


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Even more important is whether the child (now adult) understands that what their parents did to them was not right. If the child is able to acknowledge and understand that they did not deserve the abuse, and that their parents were not right in abusing them, it's less likely that they will go on to abuse their own children. These factors help to mitigate the continuing cycle of abuse that, otherwise, could become an even worse epidemic.

It's not just what they may do to their own children, however, that keeps an abused child from living a healthy adult life. Abuse does far more than damage the physical body, even if it is physical abuse. Instead, abuse damages the soul and the spirit of a person. It makes them feel weak, unimportant, stupid, useless, or any other number of terrible things that an abuser may say to justify their behavior. With these definitions of themselves swirling around them, it's no wonder that youth have trouble during their later years in life.

The Psychological Effects

The abuse these children suffer in their youth causes may seem to be irreparable harm to their development. They have trouble seeing anything positive in themselves because if they were good, if they were smart, if they were important, why would their abuser have treated them this way? The most important point to make is that nothing the child did, could have done or may have done caused them to be abused. The fault lies entirely with the abuser, no matter what they may have said or done to try and excuse their behavior, or lay the blame on the youth that they abused.

Those who are abused in their early years are almost twice as likely to wind up in prison (men or women). They are also almost 9 times as likely to become involved in some type of criminal activity. They are 25% more likely to have a teen pregnancy and nearly 80% will meet the criteria for at least one psychological disorder by the time they reach age 21. All of these things, however, can be helped, if the youth is able to reach out for help from those around them. Having someone in their life to help them even after they become adults themselves can dramatically help in turning their life around and creating a healthy adulthood.


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For those who are still attempting to overcome the abuse they suffered as a child, it's important to look carefully at that past and their feelings about themselves and their parents. But looking back on that past alone can be difficult, as abused youth may have a higher than average propensity for thinking badly of themselves. With help, however, it's entirely possible that you can overcome the feelings of depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, and much more that can cause that child abuse to follow you, far beyond the time you're actually being abused. That's why it's important to seek help from a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, or other psychological expert from BetterHelp.



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