Child Abuse (cont.)

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What is known about the perpetrators of child abuse?

Over 80% of inflicted abuse is a result of parental action. Parental risk factors include young or single parents, those who did not graduate from high school, and those who either were abused themselves as children or endured a severely dysfunctional home life. Adults using drugs, abusing alcohol, and those with psychiatric disease (for example, depression, impulse-control disorders) are more likely to abuse children. Females account for 54% of perpetrators.

A common theme when interviewing abusive individuals is an unrealistic expectation of infant or child behaviors. Often they expect developmental-milestone maturity beyond the age of the child (such as toilet training). Commonly, the child is incapable of providing what many parents anticipate to be unconditional love. The normally self-centered nature of childhood behavior clashes with the abusive adult's expectations with disastrous results.

Is there an association between poverty and child abuse?

While children of families in all income levels suffer maltreatment, research suggests that family income is strongly related to incidence rates. Children from families with annual incomes below $15,000 per year are more than 25 times more likely than children from families with annual income above $30,000 to be harmed or endangered by abuse or neglect. Poverty clearly predisposes to child abuse. Currently, social scientists are questioning the previous interpretation of such data. Recently new research is challenging this belief. Some argue that poor families have increased contact with reporting agencies -- social workers, police, etc. Some also argue that affluent families are more often given the benefit of the doubt by those who might be more suspicious of individuals of poorer means. In addition, wealthier families are felt to have a better access to legal counsel that, realistically or not, provide an "escape hatch" from investigation and prosecution.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2013

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