“What is child abuse? The term “child abuse” can be defined as any behavior directed toward a child by a parent, guardian, caregiver, other family member, or other adult, that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development” (National 1). Factors which often contribute to child abuse are alcohol and substance abuse, lack of parenting skills, economic difficulties or poverty, domestic violence and previous victimization (National 1).
The consequences of abuse may be mild or severe; disappear after a short period or last a lifetime; and affect the child physically, psychologically, behaviorally, or in some combination of all three ways (Gateway 1). Though all traumatic not all child abuse is the same, there are four different categories that child abuse is classified into, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Though all are different they all share the dangerous possibilities of having the abused child or children become an abuser themselves in the future.
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, with 59% of the substantiated reports of maltreatment classified as neglect in 2007 (USDHHS 2009). Neglect is very common because it is the simplest form of child abuse, being defined as a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision (Smith and Segal 1). There are many ways to spot neglect in a child like being poorly clothed, looking malnourished, lack of attendance in school, and having medical needs not met or up to date.
With neglect being the most common form of abuse among children it is trailed fairly close with physical abuse which is also a highly common form of child abuse. Physical abuse is defined as follows: “Physical abuse involves physical harm or injury to the child. It may be the result of a deliberate attempt to hurt the child, but not always. It can also result from severe discipline, such as using a belt on a child, or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age or physical condition. Many physically abusive parents and caregivers insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline—ways to make children learn to behave.
But there is a big difference between using physical punishment to discipline and physical abuse. The point of disciplining children is to teach them right from wrong, not to make them live in fear” (Smith and Segal 1). Then comes sexual abuse as yet another form of child abuse. “Every 2 minutes, someone in the U. S. is sexually assaulted” (RAINN 1). This statistic shows the prevalence in sexual abuse in the United States, though not as common in children as in adults, sexual abuse still affects 44 percent of people under the age of 18 (RAINN 1).
This is still almost half of rapes accounted for by a group largely still considered children themselves. Sexual child abuse is defined as: “Incest, sexual molestation, rape, sodomy, child pornography, exhibitionism and exploitation are terms most often used when describing child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can be physical — including genital or oral stimulation, fondling and intercourse; non-physical — including indecent exposure, obscene phone calls or “peeping toms”; and/ or violent — as in rape or other forms of sexually violent behavior” (National 1).
Also another scary effect of being sexually abused is that a large percentage of those who sexually abuse children were themselves victims of sexual abuse as children (National 1). Meaning that being sexually abused as a child can possibly lead to future sexual abuse towards another child or children. The final form of child abuse is emotional abuse. This is the least common form of child abuse just because of the fact that it is so hard to prove even though it might be just as likely as the other three forms of abuse.
Emotional abuse occurs when a child is verbally assaulted and the withheld of positive emotional support (National 1). Much thought has gone into the idea that “the abused become abusers” its only logical to think that abuse would be a continuing cycle. “Abusive parents often have experienced abuse during their own childhoods. It is estimated approximately one-third of abused and neglected children will eventually victimize their own children” (Gateway 1). A victim of abuse is likely to become an abuser due to biological factors, power struggles, and a need to heal.
The biggest reason this takes place is because of biological means. This means that when abuse happens it changes something chemically in your body. This was shown when an experiment was done on monkeys who abuse their offspring: “In earlier research on abuse of infant monkeys, Maestripieri and his colleagues studied females that were switched at birth between abusive and non-abusive mothers. That research showed that the offspring of non-abusive mothers were likely to become abusive themselves if they were raised by abusive mothers” (Nauert 1).
After this experiment was done a physical sample was taken from the monkey’s brain and the following results were yielded: “The team found that infants who became abusive as adults had about 10 to 20 percent less serotonin than did infants who did not become abusive as parents or infants who were not exposed to maternal abuse. The reduced level of serotonin remained constant into adulthood” (Nauert 1). The research also showed that abused females who became abusive mothers in adulthood had lower serotonin in their brains than abused females who did not become abusive parents (Neuert 1).
With monkeys and humans having almost the exact same genetic makeup and brain structure it can be inferred that the results would be highly favorable to stay the same had the same test been done on a human being. Someone that was abused as a child might also seek power as It is a search for power and control by becoming an abuser, someone who has been abused can play the role of the more powerful person in the relationship, in an attempt to overcome the powerlessness they felt when they were being abused (Hartney 1).
This power they seek gives them the false reality that once they attain it, they will compensate for the power they lost as a child when being abused. But when they find that it doesn’t fill the hole for them they will continue to be abusers themselves to try and compensate creating a never ending search for compensation thus continued abuse toward others. People who have been abused carry a lot of anger about what happened to them, and abusing others can be a way to express that anger (Hartney 1).
This further shows an abused person’s need for an outlet for the anger cause by their abuse, usually ending with them continuing the cycle of abuse. It is an attempt to heal by becoming an abuser, a victim of childhood abuse can try to undo the abuse by taking the opposite, seemingly more powerful position. By engaging in a relationship with another abuser, they can try to re-live the relationship with their original abuser in the hope that they can get it right this time (Hartney 1).
The abused person from the past can also take the approach of trying to relive the abuse they suffered as a child to try and heal themselves by re enacting the act possibly putting themselves in the position of control. “Immaturity, the absence of parenting preparation skills, and a lack of understanding of child development often result in the creation of unrealistic expectations for a child’s behavior. When the child fails to meet these expectations, frustration on the part of the parent may erupt in anger toward the child” (Hartney 1). hey can also try to heal themselves by seeking out abuse again because its the only way the know how to feel intimate. With the facts out there it can be reasonably assumed that it is highly likely for a previously abused person to have a high chance to become an abuser themselves, and this can be proven by biological means, taking back power, and trying to relive their abuse in an attempt to heal themselves.