Social phenomena constitute of all behavior determined by organisms sufficiently alive to react to one another. Different social phenomena in any given society are caused by various factors which may or may not be exactly distinguished by man. In this discussion, child abuse as a social phenomenon as well its causes are to be considered. According to Crosson-Tower (54) child abuse can be defined as neglect of, or harm to, a child by another individual, whether a child or an adult. Child abuse is very common in all ethic, income, and cultural groups. Through research, it has been seen that most child abuse happens in a child's place of residence, while a smaller amount takes place in schools, communities or schools with which the child interacts. Child abuse is categorized into for major types, and they include physical abuse, neglect, child sexual abuse, and emotional or psychological abuse. Child neglect happens when a parent or guardian fails to provide for various needs adequately, and these needs constitute emotional, physical, medical, or educational needs. Emotional needs include love and affection; physical needs include clothing, adequate food, or hygiene; medical needs include child medication; and educational needs include child enrolment in school (Crosson-Tower p.57).
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According to Turton (161) physical abuse is defined as a kind of physical aggression that an adult directs at a child. It can constitute striking, punching, shoving, kicking, burning, slapping, pulling hair or ears, bruising, shaking or choking a child. Child shaking can bring about shaken baby syndrome, and this can in turn lead to swelling of the brain, intracranial pressure, oxygen deprivation, and diffuse axonal injury. A physically abused child experiences vomiting, failure to thrive, seizures, altered breathing, lethargy, dilated pupils, and tense or bulging fontanels. In some jurisdictions, transmission of toxins from the mother to her child can also be seen as physical abuse. Child sexual abuse is another most common form of child abuse which involves older adolescents and adults in abusing children for sexual stimulation.
There are many forms of child abuse, and they include pressuring a child for sexual intercourse, displaying pornographic materials to a child, indecent exposure of genitalia to a child, using a child for the purposes of producing child pornography, physical contact with the genitalia of a child, or having a close look at the child's genitalia. Psychological abuse is another possible form of child abuse which can include degradation, name-calling, ridicule, torture, excessive criticism, withholding communication, humiliation or routine labeling, excessive or inappropriate demands, and destruction of personal belongings. Emotional abuse victims respond by keeping distance from the abuser, defending oneself by insulting the abuser, or interiorizing the abusive words. Child abuse is known as a complex social phenomenon with many causes. For the purposes of dealing with child abuse problem, it is very important to understand the causes of this vice.
Marital Strife is a likely cause of child abuse. Marital Strife can be referred to as any incident of abuse, violence, or threatening behavior between parents at home. Marital Strife is a psychological crisis for children because parents are the very people who are supposed to offer safety and protection. In these families that experience marital strife, children undergo collateral damage because they are put in psychological and physical danger every time they encounter such violence within their homes. Therefore, due to marital strife, a child becomes susceptible to psychological and physical child abuses. Parents who experience marital strife hardly work hard to uplift their families' financial status such that their children likely experience child neglect. Child neglect in this case will come about due to lack of emotional needs such as love and affection; physical needs which include clothing, adequate food, or hygiene; medical needs which include child medication; and educational needs which include child enrolment in school (Finkelhor p.244).
Drugs and alcohol abuse by parents is another possible cause of child abuse. When parents abuse substances such as cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, there is an increased likelihood of mistreating their children in one way or the other. Most of these drugs are costly, such that the addicted parents and other family members spend a lot of money towards buying the drugs for their satisfaction. Such families experience shortage of important resources such as money, which can likely lead into child neglect. Child neglect in this case will come about due to lack of emotional needs such as love and affection; physical needs which include clothing, adequate food, or hygiene; medical needs which include child medication; and educational needs which include child enrolment in school. In some cases, substance abuse affects parents mentally such that they can physically harm their children. Children in such families experience physical child abuse because their parents get involved in striking, punching, shoving, kicking, burning, slapping, pulling hair or ears, bruising, shaking or choking them. Once an individual is mentally affected due to substance abuse, he or she can easily commit such vices like child sexual abuse.
Financial difficulties and unemployment are closely related with higher rates of child abuse. It is common that male parents are not primary care-takers of their children since most of them are bread winners and spend most of their time working. When employment opportunities are limited, even the male parents are forced to provide primary care to their young children. A male parent's temper rises easily when they are annoyed. Thus, there is a likelihood of these parents to physically abuse their children once they get annoyed. When a family does not have enough funds, children may experience child neglect because most of their needs are not adequately catered for.
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