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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Injuries and Wounds > Child Abuse
      Category : Health Centers > Abuse and Violence

Child Abuse

Alternate Names : Physical Abuse, Neglect, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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


    Next section


    Child Abuse: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 08/06/01

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