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Most people do not know how to cope with abused children. I became interested in this topic because when I was a teenager I had a friend who was abused by her stepfather and I didn’t know how to help her. I would like to know how children’s psychological development is affected, and how we can help these children cope with their misfortune. The most common effect is that maltreated children are, essentially, rejected. These destructive experiences impact on the developing child, increasing the risks for emotional, behavioral, social and physical problems throughout life. The purpose of this paper is to outline how these experiences may result in such increased risks by influencing the development of the child’s psychology.
Child abuse is not a new problem. Each year in the United States alone, there are over three million children who are abused or neglected by their parents or caregivers. Many are brutally beaten and permanently injured. Child abuse has been a problem that has existed through out history and in recent years many researchers have begun dealing with this issue. There is a variation among researches on their approach to the topic. Child abuse is not only the mental or physical injury it is also sexual. These kinds of abuses harm the child’s mental and physical health. The emotional and psychological effects of maltreatment may be far more harmful to the well being of the child than the apparent physical injury. Many studies indicate that abused children are at increase risk of becoming like their parents and repeating the abusive pattern of child rearing to which they were exposed (national committee for prevention of child abuse 1983).
Child abuse and neglect has recently become the focus of attention of all prevention centers and organizations for children care. Mistreatment of children has existed through history. Children are unable to protect themselves of physical abuse. They have been abandoned, terrorized, beaten, killed and sexual abused. A major portion of the literature of my review focused on child abuse has dealt with the personality characteristics of the abusive parent and the abused child rather than focus on the psychological damage sustained by the abused child.
When we think of a “family” in a typical setting around the fireplace we may picture a beautiful and calm environment where everything is perfect. The reality here in this domestic tranquility is when we realize that the concept of “family” is the most frequent place of all types of violence (Gelles, 1979).
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In the psychologist aspects of abuse it has been the abusive parent it has been the parent who has receive the primary attention. This seems understandable from the vantage point that when confronted with cases of child abuse, professionals feeling the immediacy of stopping parents from injuring their children, wanted to understand the adult’s dynamics in order to then find the appropriate therapeutic interventions.
The studies that have looked at abusive parents from a psychological viewpoint have shown them to be individuals with poor object relations, low self-esteem, and poor impulse control and as individuals who make use of defense mechanisms characteristics of an early developmental level. Another study reveals that the abused child from infancy and adolescence has the similar personality characteristics as the abusive parent. The abused children also suffer of poor object relations, impaired impulse control, low self-esteem and the use of defense mechanisms. In addition this children were seen as displaying difficulties with aggression, high anxiety states and difficulties in school adjustment and performance. The latter, it seems would result from interference in the child’s ability to sublimate or displace basic need and impulse gratification into more neutralized activities.
Many researchers have declared that the abusive parent major problem is his economy status in this case poverty, and the many environmental factors that could deteriorate the psychological condition of the abuser. Social, economic and demographic factors are irrelevant to the actual act of child abuse according to other researchers. They have claimed that child abuse is due to the deficiency of personality structure of the abusive parent. However these researches have agreed in the aspect of personality of the abusive parent. They suggest that the deficits of the abusive parent’s personality structure cause aggressive impulses that are expressed too liberally (Steele and Pollock, 1968).
Abusive parents had been described as immature, impulsive, dominant and rigid, also they have been isolated from families, they need some one to depend on and they had marital conflicts. Researchers like Steele and Pollock (1968) have found that abusive parents manifested impaired impulse control, poor self-esteem, and poor self concept they stated that parents treated their child as adults and they were unable to understand the different stages of development of their children. Abusive parents cannot be categorized as high or low in intelligence.
All investigators agreed that many parents had themselves been physically or emotionally abused and neglected as children by their parents. Abusive parents had been raised in the same manner and style in which they were raising their own children (Steele and Pollock 1968). In many studies the parents are viewed as emotionally powerless because of unfortunate experiences in their childhood. These abusive parents tend to react to their children by repeating their own personal experience of loneliness, lack of protection and lack of love. In a study of men and women Merrill (1962) developed a typology of the abusive parent. He identify three different clusters in which is characterized for the study of abusive mothers and fathers. A fourth cluster was also found for the abusive fathers only. Each cluster is a group of certain characteristics involving a psychodynamic. The firs cluster consisted in the characteristic of hostility and aggressiveness. This cluster includes parents who appeared to be angry at something or someone. Their anger was related to the every day problems and their internal conflicts. Their anger was easily stimulated, their angry feeling were rooted in early childhood experiences. In the second cluster the characteristics of the abusive parents were rigid, compulsive and show lack of warmth, lack of reasonable. The parents justify their abusive act as reasonable because it was the right thing to do. The mothers show strong rejection attitudes toward the child. Mothers believed that the child is responsible for all the trouble they had. Mothers first priority were their pleasures. They had the inability to feel love and protectiveness.