Child abuse takes place in every part of the world irrespective of caste, culture, age and even gender. It is a universal crisis which can be done sexually, physically, emotionally, or just neglect. It jeopardizes the norms of the society where we live. We see an enormous increase in the rate of child abuse every year. According to a study conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in 2017, about 53% of kids have reported to have faced one of the other forms of sexual abuse.
Violence against a child infringes their human rights. The prevention of child abuse consists of the efforts of different people including political leaders, government, and law enforcing agencies, every individual citizen of the society, the child and the parents. The relationship between the parents and their child plays an important role in defining the act of child abuse. A bitter relationship of a child with the parents makes the child more prone to get abused.
We often blame the parents for abusing their child but we do not try to know the depth of the factor that obliged them to behave in such a manner. This study is particularly made with the objective to understand the reason or factor that leads them to abuse their child. In this study we will focus the different factors affecting child abuse from an anthropological approach. Because the problem is not the way a parent behaves but the problem is the root cause which needs to be identified and fixed.
The hypothesis developed for this study will be to discuss on the three dimensional study: are the three factors namely child factor, environmental factor and family factor responsible for child abuse?
Abusing a child is the most ominous and heinous act any person can ever do. And it becomes more ominous if the act is done by a person known to the child. It is very important for us to understand what exactly the term ‘child abuse’ consists of. Child abuse is about harming a child physically, psychologically, sexually and emotionally. Child abuse is nothing but an act done by a person who is himself having psychological disorders because any sane person will never think of harming a child in any way. In India we see lots of cases in our surrounding where a child is abused, tortured, kept malnourished, beaten, exploited and neglected. This constant behaviour of physically abusing a child further transforms that child to become more violent and mentally ill, that is often termed as ‘Bettered Child Syndrome’. BCS is a medical term that was introduced in the year 1962 by Dr. C. Henry Kempe and his colleagues in their paper, The Battered Child Syndrome. BCS is a medical condition that describes that there were collective injuries sustained by a child as a result of frequent act of ill-treatment or severe harm and the psychological and physical effects given by a caregiver. Another type of physical abuse is Child Sexual Abuse that is the most monstrous act done by a person. When a child goes through CSA he goes through mental and physical trauma but they are not given that required amount of care and therapeutic assistance which leaves a child with no option but to fight alone. Every abused child will show some of the signs and symptoms of being abused whether through physical aspect or through behavioural aspect. It is we who have to identify those symptoms and help that child. But, it is the disturbing truth that many cases are identified but not given importance. That is where the child neglect starts. The term ‘neglect’ simply means that we know that something is wrong with our child or something is harming our child (could be physically or mentally) but then also we are overlooking it as if it is not at all important.
As the name suggests, the factors related to a child are included in the child factors. These factors are a child’s age, his physical incapacities, gender and adopted children.
When a child is born disabled, he is considered to be a great topic of concern in the family. The family feels huge financial pressure due to the child’s special needs. To meet such needs a parent often goes through mental trauma, stress and depression. And due to this stress they ill-treat their children. Secondly, when a child becomes permanently disabled it creates a sense of irritation inside parent’s mind and they start neglecting their child thinking that whatever efforts they do it won’t change the fact that their child is ill. Because a disabled child do not have that proper knowledge of what is right and what is wrong for them. They are unable to understand the inappropriate behaviour done to them by others.
Gender is also a factor that can probably affect the rate of child abuse. A girl child is more prone to get abused than a boy is. In a country like India where girls are still observed as burden to family, is often maltreated, abused, indulged in heavy loading household work, beaten and used for sexual pleasures. Gender based differences are also made as the girls are not given the love, care and attention as the boy gets and also they are not given the opportunity to study in their choice of schools. A girl child is likely prone to go through sexual abuse by different men. And this is the shocking truth that the mothers of the girl child do not stand by the girl even after knowing what is going on with the baby.
Age plays a vital role in the child abuse. Because a child from his birth to the age of 3 years are likely to get maltreated or neglected than a child more than 3 years of age. But this does not change the fact that beyond the age of 3 a person still gets abused. The main reason for age being a factor in child abuse is the child’s developmental status. The child’s small physical size and requirement for continuous care could be possibly weak from a parent’s side that leads to certain injuries or illness. One of the examples of such neglected approach of the parent is Shaken Baby Syndrome and physical neglect.
An adopted child is often mistreated by his adopted parents because the parent may not consider him to be their own child because he is not related to them by blood. They often use their adopted child to complete their household work and daily routine chores. They pay less attention towards the adopted child as they feel a sense of detachment to the child. While abusing the child (mentally or physically) they know that the child has no one of his own whom he can complain about whatever appropriate actions are going on with him. And the abuser takes advantage of this fact.
The factors that are associated with the family of the abused child also play a vital role in determining the reason that leads to child abuse. Family’s history, criminal records, behaviour of parents and age of parents are some of the examples of family factors leading the child abuse.
When a parent has a negative attitude towards the child it plays a supporting role in child maltreatment. A parent’s lack of interest and knowledge to understand the needs of the child and know how to treat them may result in impractical outlooks and end in unsuitable ways. Research on maltreatments have shown that parents often lack in understanding the needs of child and often neglect them such as when a child is ill and needs to go to a doctor, the parents are having a negative approach towards the situation as they do not want to go under the burden of parenting duties and due to this a child remains untreated and may get severe harm.
A child when suffers from different medical conditions such as dyslexia and autism they are unable to see things with right direction. The parents who worry a lot about their child’s academic performance become harsher towards their children when they fail to identify the symptoms their child gives regarding their special needs.
When a young or a teenage between the age of 13 to 19 becomes a caregiver of their siblings it becomes a more challenging job for them because they are themselves a child only and have no sense of responsibility as an adult does. They are on the stage to understand their personal needs and when at that time they get someone else’s responsibility they gets more confused as to how to handle such situations. And due to such confusion they often treat their sibling in an abusive manner (intentionally or unintentionally).
The family structure where a single parent is taking care and responsibility of a child is more prone to do child abuse. A number of reasons such as lower family status, below poverty line, backward classes and single earning mother give rise to abuse of children. The single parent tends to abuse their child due to the stress and tension they have since they have no one to share their stressed life with; unlike the family having two biological parents together.
It is observed by many researchers that the maltreating parents were the victims of abuse and neglect themselves. They have gone through the physical, mental and emotional torture which built a sense a retaliation and hatred in their mind and that provokes them to abuse their child.
A family having a history of substance abuse is a contributory factor to child abuse. As the parents are more likely to be alcoholic and drug addict which creates a negative development of the parents and also influences a child in a negative manner. The parents who are a drug addict often neglects their child since they are themselves not in their senses.
Family where domestic violence takes place traumatises a child both mentally and physically. Mentally, they go through the trauma when they witness one of their parents going through domestic violence. And physically they are also beaten badly themselves. The parents are also unsympathetic towards their child due to their own fear and due to this they get neglected.
A parent having personal characteristics such as compulsive nature, low self-confidence, over possessive, over aggressive, inferiority complex, nervousness, depression and rebellious behaviour are more likely to abuse their child as they are over indulged in themselves and neglect their child.
A parent goes through lot of mental pressure regarding financial problems, losing a job, physical illness and marital problems which makes a parent more prone to abuse their child.
The factors affecting a parent or a family from beyond the reach of parents are considered under environmental factors such as poverty, unemployment and societal norms etc.
Poverty has been always a contributory factor towards different crimes one of which is child abuse. Neglect starts first from the family living in poverty. For an instance when a girl gets sexually abused or maltreated by someone more powerful and wealthy than the family (when the girl is working as a domestic labour), the parents often neglect such acts in fear of losing their source of income.
With unemployment come lots of mental stress such as depression, substance abuse and social neglect. And this stress isolates them from the reality that they have to take care and responsibility of their child in a proper manner.
Children living in hazardous neighbourhood disrupts the mental ability of the child to think in a positive manner and they get in a higher risk to get abused.
In support of the above factor of ‘social violence’ we see that there is always a lack of support from the society. When there is a case of rape, the society instead of supporting the child victimizes that child in a negative manner. And this provokes that person to further become more violent and abusive.