The World Health Organization (2016) defines child maltreatment as a behavior beyond the norms of conduct subjected to a child and may involve the risk of causing emotional or physical harm. It encompasses all forms of emotional/psychological abuse, neglect, physical, and sexual abuse as elaborated by Gosselin (2013). Consequently, although there are several subcategories of child abuse, a majority of the states in the United States recognize these four primary categories.
Categories of Child Maltreatment
Emotional/ Psychological Abuse
Neglect encompasses the concept of parents abandoning their duties or obligations to provide children with basic needs because they are also unable to do the same for themselves. In particular, child neglect is usually defined as a parent’s failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and ensuring the health and safety of the child. Among the four forms of child maltreatment, neglect is the most common form of child abuse with statistics showing that in 2011 at least 78 percent of children were subjected to neglect by their parents or caregivers. Under neglect, there are four subcategories, which include emotional/psychological, medical, educational, and physical neglect.
Physical abuse is defined as any intentional physical injury inflicted to a child. Child physical abuse can be in the form of kicking, burning, biting, stabbing, or striking a child. Child physical abuse encompasses any cultural practices that may leave some bruises or marks on a child that mimic child abuse. Some cultural practices that are considered physical abuse include coining, cupping, and moxibustion.
Child sexual abuse encompasses the use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct. Sexual abuse also involves rape, especially from family members or caretakers expected to take care of children. Additionally, according to Gosselin (2013), sexual abuse involves a wide range of behaviors such as anal, oral, genital penile penetration or no penetration, indecent exposure, exposing children to child prostitution, pornography, and other sexually exploitative acts.
Gosselin, D. K. (2013). Heavy hands: An introduction to the crime of intimate and family violence. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
World Health Organization. (2016). Child maltreatment. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/child-maltreatment
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