The Relatioship Between Mental Illness and Child Abuse

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Child abuse affects millions of children every year. Child abuse is defined as “the hurting or causing harm to a child” (Stewart, 2003, p. 6). Most people do not understand why a parent would want to hurt their children. “The general belief is that parents who maltreat their children are pathological and certainly not like us” (Polonko, 2005). It is not just parents that abuse the children it is also teachers, babysitters, and daycare workers (Stewart, 2003). Lingern (2008) reported the following:

Child abuse was not recognized as a serious problem in the United States until the 1960s. The number of cases reported has increased each year since 1976, when statistics were first kept. In 2004 almost 1.9 million child abuse and neglect cases were reported in the US. Of those reported, nearly 80% of perpetrators were parents.

The most common types of child abuse are physical abuse, mental maltreatment and neglect, and sexual abuse (Olive, 2007). “Physical abuse includes scalding, beatings with an object, severe physical punishment, and a rare form of the abuse called Munchausen by proxy” (National Research Council, 1993, p. 59). Mental abuse is when there is a “continuing pattern of parental behavior that is psychologically destructive to the child” (Olive, 2007, p. 67). Neglect happens when a child is “ignored or left alone so much that their well-being is endangered, yet the parent is able, but fails to provide for their basic needs.” (Olive, 2007, p. 67). Lastly, the most unreported type of child abuse is sexual child abuse. Sexual child abuse is “sexual activity between an adult and a child that is initiated by the adult, and from which the adult receives some sort of sexual gratification” (Olive, 2007, p. 78). ...

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...(2007). Child abuse and stress disorders. New York: Infobase.

National Research Council. (1993). Understanding child abuse and neglect. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press

Polonko, K. (2005). Child abuse and neglect: The need for courage. Retrieved Febraury 20, 2011 from Old Dominion University, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice’s website:

Rinaldi, J. (2009, October 5). Mom’s depression tied to child abuse in some families. Reuters News Agency. Retrieved February 20, 2011 from idUSTRE59455Z20091005

Stewart, G. B. (2003). Understanding issues: Child abuse. Farmington Hills, MI: KidHaven Press.

Thurston, C. (2006). Child abuse: recognition of causes and types of abuse. Practice Nurse, 31, 51-57. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
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