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What is Neglect? Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cohen   
Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1973 was enacted to protect children. It defines child abuse (and neglect) as "the physical treatment and mental injuring, sexual abuse, negligent treatment, or maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person who is responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child's health and welfare is harmed or threatened thereby."

A non-accidental injury to a child is physical abuse. Failure to provide a child with basic emotional and physical needs is neglect. Neglect includes not providing a child with basic medical care. Sexual abuse is defined as any sexual activity between an adult and a child.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?
Children of all ages, ethnic and cultural groups, and socioeconomic levels are at risk for abuse. Certain factors put some children at higher risk for being abused. Three particular areas of stress have been shown to increase the risk of abuse to a child.

Child-produced stress factors

These stress factors include a child who may be:
- an adopted child or foster child
- behaviorally different, such as children with attention deficit disorder
- mentally different, such as children with mental retardation or learning disabilities
- physically different, such as children with physical disabilities
- substantially different from other family members in temperament
- temperamentally difficult

Social-situational stress factors

These stress factors include:
- parental relationship with dominant-submissive patterns
- physical or social isolation
- poor housing or frequent moves
- poverty or unemployment
- punishing child-rearing style
- significant change in family finances
- strained parent-child relationship, including unwanted children
- violent parental relationship

Parent-produced stress factors

These stress factors include parents who have the following characteristics:
- depression
- history of abuse as a child
- lack of education about basic child-rearing
- low self-esteem
- psychiatric illness or character disorder
- substance abuse
- unrealistic expectations of their children

What are the treatments for the injury?
A child suspected of having been abused should be evaluated immediately. The treatment will be dependent upon the injury or condition.

There are long-term emotional and psychological problems from being a victim of child abuse. Children who have been abused may benefit from counseling with a therapist. The counselor will help them work through feelings of low self-esteem, anger, and helplessness. They may also help the children learn and use new tools to protect themselves.

The parents or caretakers of the child should also receive counseling. Information about parenting skills and alternative discipline methods can be helpful. Anger management techniques can be learned.

Unfortunately, there are times when a caretaker is not able to adequately care for the child. In these instances, the child typically has to be removed from the home to protect them from further abuse.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
In general, there are no side effects from treatment of child abuse. If medications are used to treat physical or mental conditions, they may have side effects.

What happens after treatment for the injury?
Child abuse can cause long-term psychological and physical problems for the child. Long-term counseling may be needed to help the child work through feelings and develop a healthy self-concept.


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