Why does it occur?

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Child Abuse: Why does it occur?

Child abuse can affects boys and girls and children of any age, race, and family income level. Although we often think of children being harmed or mistreated by strangers, most abuse and neglect comes from a parent, caretaker, or someone who the family knows. There is no single cause of child abuse and neglect. Professionals who work with families recognize a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and a number of protective factors that help prevent child abuse.

Child-related risk factors

  • Age – young children of small physical size and the need for constant care
  • Disability – children with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities
  • Illness – chronic illness and frequent separations from the parent due to hospitalizations
  • Temperament – a child whose personality or temperament is considered by the parent as difficult or a child who is unresponsive to affection

Parent/caregiver-related risk factors:

  • History of abuse or neglect as a child
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Stress and stressful life events
  • Isolation from family and community
  • Negative attitudes about a child’s behavior
  • Unrealistic expectations of the child’s abilities
  • Poverty or unemployment
  • Lack of social support
  • Violence in the home
  • Use of harsh discipline
  • Lack of knowledge on how to parent

Factors that help keep children safe:

There are five main protective factors that help keep children safe even when parents are stressed and face challenges.

  • Nurturing relationships – warm, trusting relationships, strong attachments
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development –how to set and enforce limits and how to encourage appropriate behaviors
  • Parental resilience – ability to handle everyday stressors and overcome crises by problem solving and self-care
  • Social connections – trusting and caring relationships to provide emotional support and occasional assistance
  • Use of community services – to assist with basic needs including food, clothing, employment, health, utilities, child care and social services to assist with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, etc.
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