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Child abuse

Child abuse is any behavior towards a child which causes harm to the child with no clear psychological, physical, or developmental benefit for the child.

The simplest example of child abuse is neglect, where the guardians fail to perform those tasks necessary to the well-being of the child. Another form of child abuse is child sexual abuse which is perceived by the child as a betrayal of trust and invariably causes long-term trauma to the child. Other forms of abuse include physical and emotional abuse, the latter of which is often the most difficult to detect because it leaves no physical signs (scars, bruises, and the like).

Some people have contended that the Columbine High School massacre was a direct response to emotional abuse by classmates (commonly termed "bullying" or "teasing").

In all cases of child abuse, it is understood by psychologists that the primary benefit realized by the perpetrator is psychological (i.e., emotional). Frequently, the perpetrators were themselves abused as children. They then learned unhealthy ways of interacting with others, of exerting power (ability to influence others) and control (ability to deflect or redirect others' influence), and of disciplining children. This dynamic is responsible for the cycle of abuse[?].

It's important to understand that this is not simply a matter of habit but that victims of abuse may feel a powerful compulsion to relive the trauma they suffered. Some people, perhaps having deeper emotional reserves (or perhaps having none), will inflict the abuse on themselves or instigate situations to force an abuser to inflict it on them. Other people, seeking control over the abuse, will become perpetrators, inflicting the abuse they suffered on someone else. In this latter case, the perpetrator relives their trauma vicariously, by reversal[?] with or projection[?] into the victim.

It should be noted that while the existence of child abuse and neglect is uncontroversial, there is often great controversy whether particular acts constitute child abuse and neglect or not. For instance, what one person considers acceptable corporal punishment another person considers criminal. This applies not only between different people: different societies and legal systems have differing attitudes to the physical punishment of children, the withholding by parents of medical treatment on religious grounds, etc. The difference between acceptable parental corporal punishment and child abuse is well illustrated in the following phrase: slap on the bottom or fist in the face.

For example, people who violently shake or beat infants typically do not see their actions as abusive, despite the well-documented consequences of their actions including neurological trauma, brain damage and death.

Medical and other types of professionals have learned to recognize a list of common symptoms of child abuse.

  • Emotional abuse[?]
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • sexual/romantic promiscuity/neediness
    • shyness
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • temper tantrums/violence
  • Neglect[?]
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • general dirtiness
    • general unhealthiness
    • lice, fleas and similar parasites
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
  • Physical abuse[?]
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • distinctively shaped scars, most especially:
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • temper tantrums/violence
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
  • Sexual abuse
    • emotional withdrawal/distance
    • injured vagina or anus
    • semen in the vagina or anus
    • parental refusal of needed medical care
    • stunting of mental/emotional growth
    • unusually young preoccupation with sex

Child abuse by authorities

Schools and correctional facilities are frequently charged with child abuse. One particularly notorious program is the Tranquility Bay operation on Jamaica run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools.

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