|Consumer > Treatment Center Directory > Ohio >
Family Behavioral Health Services, LLC >
|Patient Education Center
Family Behavioral Health Services, LLC
6559-C Wilson Mills Road, #102
Jefferson Park Complex
Mayfield Village, Ohio 44143
Child abuse and neglect is a widespread problem in American society. A child of any age, sex, race, religion, and socioeconomic background can fall victim to child abuse and neglect. To prevent and treat child abuse and neglect effectively, we must have a common understanding of the definition and the extent of the problem.
It is important to understand how the definitions of physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and mental injury (also referred to as emotional/psychological abuse) are operationalized in practice.
Physical abuse is characterized by physical injury (for example, bruises and fractures) resulting from punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, or otherwise harming a child. Although the injury is not an accident, the parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. The injury may have resulted from over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age or condition.
The injury may be the result of a single episode or of repeated episodes and can range in severity from minor bruising to death. Any injury resulting from physical punishment that requires medical treatment is considered outside the realm of normal disciplinary measures. A single bruise may be inflicted inadvertently; however, old and new bruises in combination, bruises on several areas of the face, or bruising in an infant suggest abuse. In addition, any punishment that involves hitting with a closed fist or an instrument, kicking, inflicting burns, or throwing the child is considered child abuse regardless of the severity of the injury sustained.
Child neglect is characterized by failure to provide for the child's basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. The latest national incidence study defines three types of neglect:
Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, inadequate supervision, and expulsion from home or refusing to allow a runaway to return home.
Educational neglect includes permission of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age, and inattention to a special educational need.
Emotional neglect includes such actions as chronic or extreme spouse abuse in the child's presence, permission of drug or alcohol use by the child, and refusal or failure to provide needed psychological care.
It is very important to distinguish between neglect and a parent or caretaker's failure to provide necessities of life because of poverty or cultural norms.
Sexual abuse includes a wide range of behavior: fondling a child's genitals, intercourse, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. Most State laws distinguish between sexual abuse and sexual assault. To be considered sexual abuse, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of the child (for example, a parent, baby-sitter, day care provider, or other person responsible for a child.) Sexual assault is usually defined as sexual acts committed by a person who is not responsible for the care of the child.
Sexual abuse can involve varying degrees of violence and emotional trauma. The most commonly reported cases involve incest (sexual abuse occurring among nuclear family members), which most often occurs between father or stepfather and daughter. However, mother-son, father-son, mother-daughter, and brother-sister incest also occurs. Sexual abuse may also be committed by other relatives such as aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and cousins.
Mental Injury (Emotional/Psychological Abuse)
Emotional abuse includes acts or omissions by the parents or other persons responsible for the child's care that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. In some cases of emotional/psychological abuse, the parental acts alone, without any harm evident in the child's behavior or condition, are sufficient to warrant CPS intervention; for example, the parents/caretakers use extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as torture or confinement of a child in a dark closet. For less severe acts, such as habitual scapegoating, belittling, or rejecting treatment, demonstrable harm to the child is often required for CPS (the public agency providing services to abused and neglected children and their families) to intervene.
Emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify.
First, the effects of emotional maltreatment, such as lags in physical development, learning problems, and speech disorders, are often evident in children who have not experienced emotional maltreatment.
Second, the effects of emotional maltreatment may only become evident in later developmental stages of the child's life.
Third, the behaviors of emotionally abused and emotionally disturbed children are often similar.
There are some guidelines that can help distinguish between emotional disturbance and emotional abuse. The parents of an emotionally disturbed child generally recognize the existence of a problem, whereas the parents of an emotionally abused child often blame the child for the problems or ignore the existence of a problem. The parents of an emotionally disturbed child show concern about the child's welfare and actively seek help, whereas the parents of an emotionally abused child often refuse offers of help and appear punitive and unconcerned about the child's welfare.
Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found alone, they often occur in combination. And, emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.
Extent of the Problem
In 1997, CPS agencies investigated an estimated 2 million reports that involved the alleged maltreatment of approximately 3 million children. In 1997, CPS agencies determined that almost 1 million children were victims of substantiated or indicated child abuse and neglect.
Several studies suggest that more children suffer from abuse or neglect than are evident in official statistics from state CPS agencies.
Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment, and physical abuse is the second most common type of maltreatment.
Information adapted from:
A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: A Basic Manual
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
Updated July 8, 1999
FAQ on Child Abuse and Neglect
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
Reviewed by AH: 3/2000