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Child abuse can be caused by a number of factors. Rana Escher, Marketing Manger of Women against
Child Abuse outlines parental, ecological and child factors that could make children vulnerable to abuse.
Parental factors
It is well known that abusive parents often report having been physically, sexually or emotionally abused
as children. However, there are parents who have not been abused as children who become abusive, as
well as parents who have been abused as children and do not abuse their own children.
Characteristics identified in some abusive parents include: low self esteem, low intelligence, hostility,
isolation, loneliness, anxiety, depression, apathy, fear of rejection, narcissism, immaturity, dependency,
distrust, drug or alcohol abuse.
Substance abuse has become an increasing problem. The Child Protection Unit reports that drug use,
combined with the parents history of abuse as children, is resulting in caseloads comprised of
seriously dysfunctional families.
Parents lack of knowledge of childhood development may result in unreasonable or unrealistic
expectations. Lack of parenting skills and inappropriate attitudes can contribute to abusive behaviour,
for example, acceptance of violence as a way to solve problems.
Specific situations, such as unwanted pregnancy, physical illness and the poor ability to empathise with
their children can substantially increase the likelihood of abuse, particularly when social stress and social
isolation characterise the family.
Child factors
Certain children are more vulnerable to abusive behaviour. The childs age and physical, mental,
emotional and social development can greatly increase or decrease the likelihood of abuse.
Younger children, due to their physical size and developmental status, are particularly vulnerable to
certain forms of abuse, such as the battered child syndrome, the shaken infant syndrome and the
failure to thrive syndrome.
The childs behaviour, for example unpleasant crying and unresponsiveness, can increase the likelihood
of abuse, particularly if a parent has a poor ability to empathise with the child and a difficulty controlling
his/her emotions.
In general, children who are perceived to be different, such as disabled children, are at greater risk of
abuse. Children who are socially isolated may also be at high risk. For example, a child who does not
have close relationships with his family and has few or no friends may be more susceptible to offers of
attention and affection in exchange for sex.

Family factors
Specific life situation of some families can increase the likelihood of abuse, such as marital conflict,
domestic violence, unemployment, financial stress and social isolation. However, these factors in
themselves may not cause abuse.
Families involved in child abuse tend to exhibit a pattern of day-to-day interaction characterised by
minimal social exchange, low responsiveness to positive behaviour and high responsiveness to negative
Other research suggests that abusive parents display fewer appropriate caregiving behaviours than nonabusive parents, and they tend to use ineffective and inconsistent discipline tactics.
Environmental factors
Environmental factors are often found in combination with the above factors. The incidence of child
abuse is higher in some cultures and societies than others. What one culture defines as child abuse may
be a socially acceptable interaction in other cultures.
Economic pressure, values concerning the role of the child in the family, attitudes about the use of
physical punishment, and the degree of social support for parents seem to account for these
Stress caused by poverty is associated with higher rates of reported child abuse, as evidenced at times
of increased unemployment and economic recessions.
Abusive families are often isolated from their neighbours and the community. As a result, these families
tend to participate less in community activities and make less use of available economic, health and
social resources.
(Rana Escher, Marketing Manger of Women against Child Abuse, February 2008)


Lack of education

Serious marital problems

Frequent changes of addresses

Violence between family members

Lack of support from the extended family

Loneliness and social isolation


Inadequate housing


Difficulty concentrating
Academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents
Withdrawn and/or difficulty connecting with others
Increased hypervigilance
Difficulty sleeping


Bruises, welts or swelling

Sprains or fractures
Lacerations or abrasions
Difficulty in walking or sitting
Torn, stained or bloody clothing
Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
Lack of adequate supervision, nutrition or shelter
Poor hygiene
Inappropriate dress

What are the effects of child abuse?

Abuse is harmful to children. Children may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical
problems and trauma as a result of being abused or neglected.
All forms of abuse are likely to result in emotional problems for the child, in particular, a lack of self
esteem and distrust of adults. The longer the abuse goes on, the more serious are the effects. Abused
and neglected children are more likely than other children to be self destructive or aggressive, to abuse
drugs and/or alcohol, or become young offenders or "street kids". In some situations abuse and neglect
may result in permanent physical damage.
In the longer term, adults who have been abused as children are also more likely to abuse their own
children and often experience difficulties in forming satisfactory relationships with other adults.
Treatment and counselling services for children who have been abused assist in working through the
trauma and in reducing the effects of the abuse. The most serious effects are likely to occur when no
one takes action to stop the abuse and to protect the child.

Understanding child abuse prevention and what to do when children are at risk. Includes frequently
asked questions and links to related Federal and national organizations and State contacts that work to
prevent child abuse.
Promoting child & family well-being
Information on well-being and ways programs and systems can support it. Includes resources on
protective factors, marriage, fatherhood, and parenting.
Public awareness & creating supportive communities
Tools for sharing a child abuse prevention message with your community and building community
Prevention programs
Standards for prevention programs, research on what works, information on the role of related
professionals, and resources for specific types of programs.
Developing & sustaining prevention programs
Considerations for managing a prevention program, including community needs assessment,
collaborating with community partners, family engagement and retention, cultural competence,
training, and funding.
Evidence-based practice
Child abuse prevention programs and strategies supported by scientific research.
Evaluating prevention programs
Evaluating program effectiveness and conducting cost analyses. Features the Evaluation Toolkit and
Logic Model Builder.

1) Be a nurturing parent. Being a nurturing parent involves meeting basic physical needs as well as
consistently seeking to meet your childrens emotional needs. Each child is different, as is each parent,
so a nurturing relationship can take many forms. Check out these great tips for being a nurturing
2) Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Everyone sometimes feels stressed, overworked and out of
patience, but these kinds of emotions, if left unabated, can lead to regrettable parenting decisions. If
you notice that a parent you know seems to be having a rough time, thats a great cue that they may
need a little break. Even small gestures can mean a lot and relieve a stressful parent. Here are ten ways
you can help out a stressed out parent. Remember, just because a parent is stressed, doesnt mean that
they are abusing or neglecting their children. But a little help from a trusted friend may do a lot to help
them be the parent they want to be.

3) Help yourself and de-stress when necessary. If you find yourself being the one who is stressed
out, then maybe its time to let a trusted friend or family member in to help on occasion. Here are
someideas for coping with the stress of raising children. Sometimes a few good nights sleep away for
the weekend is all it takes.
4) When your baby cries, be patient. When a baby wont stop crying, it can be frustrating,
heartbreaking and even defeating. If you have a baby who is prone to long bouts of crying, take a look at
these tips for calming an infant. Never shake a baby. Shaking a baby can result in severe injury and even
death. For more information about shaken baby syndrome, please click here.
5) Get involved. Tell other people about child abuse resources in your community and services like
the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD). Share resources like this blog and dont shy away
from speaking out against child abuse and neglect.
6) Help develop parenting resources. Are you a parent who feels like they have wisdom and
experiences to share? Contact your local library and offer to help them develop parenting resources.
7) Monitor your childs media intake. This includes things like television, YouTube videos, movies,
social media activity, and even texting. Watching violent films and television shows can be harmful to a
young childs development and can be desensitizing to older children and teens. For tips on how to
decide what your children are allowed to watch, visit CommonSenseMedia.org, and for ideas to set
internet safety rules and boundaries, click here.
8) Promote programs in school. Help the schools in your community be the source of education
about child abuse, not just math, English and science. Childhelps Speak Up Be Safe program provides an
age appropriate curriculum for schools, parents and kids to take a stand against child abuse.
9) Volunteer at a local child abuse prevention program. Another way to get involved in the fight
against child abuse is to volunteer your time. Childhelp has local chapters and Wings programs which
raise funds and awareness for Childhelp programs. Without these tireless volunteers, we would not be
able to do what we do.
10) Report suspected abuse or neglect. Last, but certainly not least, if you suspect abuse, report it. If
you are being abused, dont stay silent. Anyone can call the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-ACHILD 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at no cost, anonymously. Certified counselors are there to assist
callers with deciding what the next step to take is. For more information about what a hotline call is
like,click here.