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Negative Consequences of Child Abuse

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‘Child neglect’ or ‘child abuse’ is an ambiguous and all-encompassing term used to describe actions perpetrated by parents on children which are universally deemed harmful by society and as defined by law. Many degrees of child neglect exist within two main categories, emotional/psychological and physical. Historically speaking, child neglect is a relatively new concept and its meaning is in a constant state of evolution. This paper provides a brief historical perspective and examines the present definition(s) held by Western society as well as the types, risk factors and prevalence of incidence but the main concern lies with the consequences of child abuse and neglect.
Until the early nineteenth century, child neglect was more or less a way of life, especially for poor children. The terminology may be a new concept but the practice is long-lived. Throughout the history of mankind, children have been abandoned, killed, mutilated, kidnapped, raped, jailed and otherwise exploited in various ways. For example, children during colonial times in America were regularly beaten with whips because this practice was thought an important aspect of instilling discipline. Until the early nineteenth century, very young children regularly were forced to work more than 12 hours a day, six or seven days per week in mills, factories and mines (Daro, 1988). At the time, neither whipping nor forced labor was considered child abuse or neglect and children had no recourse but to endure what today would be considered horrific living conditions. Largely because of the labor movement in the mid-1900s, many states enacted laws that defined child neglect, required health care workers to report suspected neglect cases and outline punishment for offenders.
Congress gave a formal definition to neglect and stipulated actions states must take so that children would be protected from abuses when it ratified the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. That federally mandated legal definition of neglect is as follows: “The physical and mental injury, sexual abuse, neglected treatment or maltreatment of a child under age 18 by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate the child’s health and welfare is harmed and threatened thereby, as determined in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare” (“Child Protection Act”, 1974).&nbsp.