Within the UK child abuse is defined as someone causing significant harm to another person under the age of 18years old. A child can be abused in many different forms the most common forms of abuse are listed below and will be covered separately:
Child abusers are not limited to persons over the age of 18, other children can also be the perpetrators of abuse this includes among others friends, bullies or even family members. The majority of abusers are not strangers, this can put added pressure on the child to remain silent or to not 'Rock the boat' as some would say. This does not mean strangers will not abuse, but are rather less likely.
Although not an excuse, not all child abusers realise they are doing harm to a child, or realise that they are abusing at all. Stress and other life events may cause someone to strike or lash out at a child, causing serious physical or emotional harm. A parent or guardian that crosses the line between discipline and abuse, may not realise they have done harm to a child.
This however doesn't matter once that line has been crossed it cannot be undone, permanent damage or emotional scarring may already have been done to the child. It may only take one act of abuse to a child to initiate a negative response, may this be physical or emotional damage. Unfortunately it doesn't usually stop there, cycles of abuse will generally follow with each cycle becoming worse and affecting the child further until action is taken to prevent re-occurrence.
Every child requires their basic needs met, this includes nourishment, shelter, health needs, education, comfort, safety and structured discipline. If any of these are not met sufficiently this is defined as neglect, this can be a basis for a child to be removed from the care they are currently in.
A child can be both mentally and physically affected by the loss of any of these needs, the majority of these are provided without any further thought from either parents or guardians. However living in a dysfunctional family may prevent the child from acquiring these needs.
The difference between neglect and abuse are that abuse is something the parents or guardians need to retrain from, however basic needs are something they need to provide for the wellbeing of the child.
A parent or guardian should always consider a child's needs before their own, this is sometimes difficult for someone with addictions such as drugs, alcohol, hoarders or even a gambler who require treatment to either stop or control the addiction. Another cause of neglect could be in the form of divorce, or meeting a new partner when the child becomes a burden on the relationship at that time, this is difficult as the child could now become secondary to the relationship and this could lead to neglect when primary concern goes to the relationship itself.
Why are children being neglected ?
Not all forms of neglect are done intentionally, on some occasions it is the inability of the parent or guardian to cope themselves or unsure how to look after or deal with a child. Training or guidance is sometimes used to educate the parent in the correct ways of providing these needs, however if a child is in immediate danger of neglect it may be a sign for the removal of the child until the parent is able to cope properly.
There are a number of reasons why a child may be neglected, although not extensive some of the reasons are:
Inherited behaviour from childhood, living in a dysfunctional or abusive family can make it seem normal behaviour.
As a form of discipline, however basic needs should NEVER be used this way. (They are a right, not a privilege)
Due to alcohol, drug, gambling and other addictions.
Inability for a parent or guardian to cope.
Giving primary thought to a relationship or own personal needs, before a child's.
Due to stress or depression.
Culture differences, what is normal in another country is not necessarily acceptable elsewhere.
Symptoms of neglect
Victim feelings & behaviour
Stress and depression.
Poor health and physical development.
Poorly educated, unable to perform basic skills.
Obsessed with attaining basic needs, such as hunting for food, shelter etc...
Having difficulty at school or with classmates.
Unusual eating or sleeping behaviours
Being unresponsive to affection.
Unwashed, dirty and improperly clothed (Lack of personal hygiene).
Unable to socialise or acting anti-social.
Lack of socially acceptable manners or constantly hungry.
Stealing or rooting through others belongings.
No parental supervision.
Careful or fearful of surroundings, including home environment.
Very passive or overly compliant.
Cuts bruises or sores that have had no medical treatment.
Lack of emotion or care from a guardian or parent, regarding the child's wellbeing.
Isolating a child from friends or family for long periods of time.
Preventing a child from having friends or interacting with others.
Rewarding for bad social behaviour.
Promoting violence and bullying.
Not providing enough nourishment for the child's needs
Putting down and not rewarding good behaviour (Reward can be just a simple comment, such as well done).
Unreasonable requests or responsibilities.
Threatening abandonment such as 'Naughty children's home' or 'Threats to remove them from the house'.
Destroying a child's possessions.
Not showing a child affection or showing inconsistent emotion.
Not providing a sanitary, comfortable and habitual home, including sleeping area.
Preventing or not allowing a child basic medical assistance when needed.
No education either home schooling or through regular attendance at school.
Lack of emotional needs, such as hugging, comfort and care.
No guidance throughout childhood.
Not protecting a child from dangers.
Inability to make the child feel safe.
Not teaching a child right from wrong within a social context.
Reasons for not reporting child neglect
Many people do not complain if a child is neglected, although not extensive some of the reasons are:
Feeling that it is not their responsibility.
Fear of reprisals from the person they are reporting.
Belief that the child is just anti-social or a criminal.
Fear that the child will be taken away or those neglecting will be.
Easier to ignore than to complain.
Unsure on how to complain or to whom.
No trust in the authorities due to bad experiences, such as scare stories with regards 'Social Services'.
Fear that a report will make matters worse.
Concern that making a report will negatively impact an existing relationship with the child or others.
Belief that someone else will speak up and do something.
Knowing the family is poor and it is not their fault, they are unable to provide the required needs.