April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Do you know how severe the problem of child abuse is in the U.S? Learn about the warning signs of child abuse and what you can do to prevent the abuse of children:
Understanding the Prevalence of Child Abuse
Abuse isn’t just about physical harm. All types of abuse are damaging. Child abuse can come in many forms, including:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
Child protective service agencies report that approximately 702,000 children were substantiated victims of child abuse or neglect in 2014.
1 in 10 children have experienced some kind of child abuse or neglect in the past year, according to self-reported statistics.
In 2014, more than 1,500 children died in the U.S. due to abuse or neglect. Parents acting alone or with another parent were responsible for 79.3 percent of those child abuse or neglect fatalities.
The Effects of Abuse on Children
Whether they are the victims of abuse or a member of their family is being abused, children suffer more than just physical symptoms of abuse. Neglect and abuse can cause stress that disrupts early brain development and growth, as well as damage to the nervous and immune systems.
As an adult, victims of child abuse are at higher risk for physical, mental and emotional health problems, including alcohol and substance abuse and dependency, depression, PTSD, obesity and more.
Children who were victims of abuse or who witnessed abuse within their home are more likely to grow up and abuse family members themselves or once again become victims of abuse.
How to Combat Child Abuse
Prevention is, of course, key. The best ways to combat child abuse are to:
- Create public service announcements to encourage positive parenting practices
- Finance and support parent education programs and emotional support groups that discuss child development, age-appropriate expectations for children and the responsibilities of parents
- Develop family strengthening programs and initiatives that provide families with better access to existing services and resources to help support positive family interactions
- Create and fund widespread awareness campaigns providing info on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect
- Create, finance and advertise parent education programs directed towards teen parents or those within substance abuse treatment programs, both of whom are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect fatalities
- Provide in-home visiting support programs that focus on new and expecting mothers, providing education and resources for the prevention of child abuse and neglect as well as positive parenting techniques
- Provide respite care for families with special needs children
- Develop and fund family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families in low-income neighborhoods
- Provide better access to mental health services, health care and child care programs for low-income families and single parent families
- Provide a support system of role models for new parents