Child Abuse (cont.)

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What does the term "child neglect" include?

Child neglect is the most frequently reported form of child abuse (78% of all cases) and the most lethal.

Neglect is defined as the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision, and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional. The assessment of child neglect requires the consideration of cultural values and standards of care as well as the recognition that the failure to provide the necessities of life may be related to poverty.

Physical neglect includes the refusal or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, inadequate supervision, expulsion from the home, or refusal to allow a runaway to return home.

Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.

Emotional neglect involves a marked inattention to the child's needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spousal abuse or parental substance abuse in the child's presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

What actions are viewed as physical child abuse?

Physical abuse is the second most frequently reported form of child abuse (18% of all cases).

This form of mistreatment is defined as willful (as opposed to accidental) physical injury inflicted upon the child. Physical abuse can be the result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, shaking, or otherwise harming the child's body. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child; rather, the injury may have resulted from excessive disciplinary efforts or physical punishment.

There exists a significant controversy regarding physical methods of discipline (for example, spanking) and their relationship to more orthodox forms of physical abuse. A unique form of physical child abuse is Munchausen syndrome by proxy. In this situation, a parent will purposely both invent symptoms and falsify records (such as reporting a fever) resulting in unnecessary tests, hospitalizations, and even surgical procedures. This psychiatric illness of the parent(s) requires a high index of suspicion, and its consideration is part of the investigation of any child with recurrent complaints that are not supported by physical or laboratory findings.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2013

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