Child abuse is the mistreatment of a child by an adult in any way. A more comprehensive definition of child abuse is generated by different scholars as a non-accidental act that is done by an older person in order to harm the child. Child abuse has raised a lot of controversy in society since ancient times. The age bracket of children, when being mistreated, is not specifically stated for an act to be termed as child abuse. The extent of mistreatment is not clearly measured for an act to be termed as child abuse. The level a child’s acts deserving punishment has also not been quantified for an act countering their behavior to be termed as child abuse. The topic has raised such controversies and needs to be addressed to either support or dismiss child abuse. The various forms of child abuse are as follows; physical, emotional, and sexual and neglect child abuse.
Physical child abuse according to Newton and Gerrits (2011) could be termed as a non-accidental act by an elderly person that undermines a child’s physical or emotional development (Newton & Gerrits, 2011). According to early society, children ought to be punished when they display acts of indiscipline. Different societies used different methods of instilling discipline in their children, for example, scolding, caning and denying them specific things. The African societies are known for using a more physical approach (caning) to establish discipline while other societies use an emotional or psychological approach (scolding or neglecting). It is often wondered which method is efficient in making sure children do not repeat the mistakes.
Often, the physical approach has proved to be more efficient, but the degree or amount of caning done to correct a child is not known precisely. From the definition of child abuse, physically harming a child is wrong whatsoever. This information conflicts with child morals because society requires children to respect their elders. Indiscipline without punishment leads to a poor upbringing of children (O’Brien, 2012).
From the discussion above, it might be thought that emotional and psychological methods are appropriate to curb child abuse. In essence, a psychological approach, for example, like grounding a child from playing with his or her friends for a period is child abuse. Children’s minds are too young to understand this form of punishment depending on age. According to the Kempe’s (1978) book on child abuse, some children can tolerate high levels of abuse without feeling any form of hate. The same, however, cannot be said for others (Kempe, Kempe, 1978). It is difficult to determine the age and weight of indiscipline that deserves psychological punishment because while discipline is being administered a child could be suffering.
Neglecting children is another form of child abuse. It could take many forms, for example, denying a child the basic needs for survival and not paying attention to their health. Although most parents do not do this to their children regularly, some might use this as a way to punish a child for indiscipline. All children deserve to have the basic needs in life and good health provided by their parents or guardians. It should not be conditional on the conduct of the child. Children should have good morals as they grow up regardless of having to be punished in this manner (Diner, 2007).
Sexual child abuse is also another form of child abuse. In the modern day society, children have been subjected to sexual acts by their parents, guardians or strangers. This form of abuse is not always done to correct a child’s mistakes but out of pure malice (rape). Sturt (2006) describes the term ‘sequelae’ as the effects of childhood sexual abuse. One main effect is the moral damage of a child, which could lead to insanity. When described, it might seem like a problem, but in some cases, both parties engaging in the activity are willing.
As discussed, child abuse is a massive controversy in modern day society. According to Ciccheti and Carlton (1989), there are many definitions of child abuse but all of them have the same similarity of vagueness. The question on how to punish a child for doing wrong or disobedience without hurting them in any way contradicts ancient society, which required the child to have good morals and virtues. It further advocated for child punishment if the child was going astray.
The question who is to discipline or punish a child also leads to heavy contradiction. In the early society, many communities believed that if a child did a mistake, any elderly person within the family was allowed to punish them. It was believed that that was the most effective way of correcting a child’s mistakes. This tradition did not account for a child misbehaving in environments outside home. If a child was punished by someone outside the family, it was considered as child abuse. The contradiction comes when a child misbehaves in school, in the presence of his or her teachers. If the society wants to emphasize discipline and good morals, teachers should be allowed to punish children.
In as much as the government protects the rights of children, they must also learn to respect their elders and be obedient. This will avoid them being punished or being abused in any of the forms discussed. There should be a fine line of respect between an adult and a child. It is difficult to determine the level of respect one should give the other. Child abuse may arise due to this difficulty and miscommunication.
Ciccheti, D. & Carlson, V. (1989). Child Maltreatment: Theory and Research on the Causes and Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Cambridge, UK: Press Syndicate of The University of Cambridge.
Diner, M. P. (2007). Child Abuse: Prevention and Detection Guide. Miami, Florida: PDAXpert a division of South Horizon, Inc.
Kempe, R. S. & Kempe C. H. (1978). Child Abuse. USA: Library of Congress in Publication Data
Newton, S. & Gerrits, J. (2011). Straight Talk about Child Abuse. China: Crabtree Publishing Company.
O’Brien, L. (2012). The Girl Nobody Wants: The Shocking True Story of Child Abuse in Ireland. Leicester, UK: Troubador Publishing Limited.
Sturt, M. S. (2006). Child Abuse. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.