Social Problem Definition and Analysis
Child abuse and neglect are a serious problem in the United States. Every day, many children’s well-being and safety are harmed by the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect that their parents and caregivers inflict upon them.
There have been and currently are numerous definitions of what constitutes child abuse and neglect and they vary across time and space. Up until the 1880’s, children were the property of their families and, as such, it was only up to the families to decide how to care for them and whether they would live or die. Today, although it is recognized that parents and caregivers have the right to raise their children according to their own views and beliefs, when those views and beliefs come in conflict with the protection of children from harm or access to basic needs, society has the right to intervene for the welfare of the minors.
In the United States, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides the most basic and universal definition of child abuse and neglect. Under this definition, abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” and neglect is “an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk or serious harm”. Under this definition, a child is anyone under eighteen years old who is not emancipated.
Although there is a main federal definition of child abuse and neglect, other more in-depth definitions exist within states that, while having variation within them, also share some commonalities. Within these commonalities, child abuse and maltreatment is separated into 4 categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect. Physical abuse is considered the physical injury leading to bruises or fractures resulting, for example, from kicks or punches. Sexual abuse is characterized by sexually exploiting children or involving them in sexual behavior and acts, such as, oral, anal or genital contact, penetration. Neglect is generally the omission of care leading to risk of harm or actual harm. In most cases it is considered the lack of provision of basic needs such as shelter, food, medical care, and affection, within other things. Psychological maltreatment is seen as the parent’s behavior of, for example, denying emotional responsiveness, isolating, or terrorizing children, that transmits to them the message that they are not loved, wanted or worthy.
While throughout history, the number of children who are victims of abuse and neglect has decreased, the present statistics are still alarming, making this a still very serious problem.
In 2006, it is estimated that 950,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect. In 2007, approximately 794,000 were victims of abuse and neglect and another 1760 children died because of maltreatment. In a national survey conducted in...