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Child Abuse and Bullying

By Alexander Libreri FInstCM FIDiagE FRSPH

Child abuse can be divided into two parts – that abuse which occurs directly onto children and that abuse which occurs due to a child’s requirements not being met.
The most common forms of active child abuse are physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Other ways of abusing a child may be due to not providing the child with the basic life and emotional necessities.
One common form where a child may be abused by adults - including parents and teachers - can take the form of misguided discipline where a child is physically punished for even the slightest misdeed.  A number of years ago parents and teachers often smacked or belted a child, often bruising the child, as an accepted form of discipline for misbehaving. Fortunately nowadays, through adult education, these types of punishments are becoming less common.
Occasionally a parent, when disciplining the child, can become so angry while inflicting physical punishment on the child that he/she may seriously injure the child. There have been cases where a baby dies after being aggressively shaken when the parents cannot tolerate any more the child’s continuous crying. Apart from the child suffering physical injuries, the child may suffer from prolonged emotional and psychological disorders.
Another aspect as to why an adult may inflict physical injuries on a child can be because he/she sees himself/herself as to being powerful and would want to wield this power on a weaker person. This form of power-wielding sometimes takes the form of the adult burning the child with cigarettes. When adults inflict injuries on a child, this may be an indication that they are frustrated and may be that they need attention focused on them. Such actions may also be a cry for help. Obviously this type of aggression is abnormal and the adult may need psychological or psychiatric help.
Children sometimes become victims of abuse, when the parents are separated or divorced and the children are victimised by the parents when they cannot agree on the children’s custody. The children would be abused by one parent in the aim of hurting the other parent. Overprotection of children may also be harmful to children and can be classified as child abuse.
Unfortunately a child may be the victim of sexual abuse. Such abuse is not confined mainly to strangers who molest children but is also often afflicted by members of the family (like relatives) even in their own home. Such incidents may be signs of adult behavioural problems projected onto children. Incidentally, sexual abuse may also occur as an act of bullying between children themselves, such occurrences has been seen in schools and youth centres.
Apart from physical abuse, a child may also suffer from emotional abuse. This type of abuse can take the form of the children being bullied by their own parents when they are called ugly, stupid or incapable of doing anything. This type of abuse can create strong negative emotions which may affect the child even when he /she grow up. Such abuse may render the child to become timid, self-conscious and may also feel to be inferior to other children.
Both physical and emotional abuse may instil a sense of aggression and frustration in the child who may resort to abusing his/her own children when h/she grows up. Psychological help will be needed for both the abused child and the abuser. It is worth noting that there are a number of organisations available who can help both the children and the parents with their emotional psychological needs.
Religious beliefs and customs may lead to certain types of child abuse, such cases can be seen in female circumcision and boys having their skin scarred or burned as a sign of reaching adulthood in certain cultures. Some sects are against blood transfusions with parents refusing to allow their children to receive the necessary blood transfusion, even if this means that their child will die as a consequence.
Other child abuses are caused by having the children neglected; this can take the form of children not being given the necessary medical or dental attention, not being given adequate food or clothing, not caring for their education or of babies not having their nappies changed and bathed etc.
Another form of child abuse is definitely bullying. Bullying can occur by adults towards children, in cases where the child’s self-esteem is attacked or the child is continuously criticised or between children themselves. Bullying is a factor in compromising the child’s natural development and compromising their well being.
Some types of bullying between children can take the form of hair pulling, tearing clothes, damaging belongings, asking for money, threats, insults, name calling, ridicule, shouting, sarcasm, fighting, horseplay etc. Such bullying may affect the child’s schooling, emotional well-being and may also result in anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Such psychological disorders may also persist in adulthood.



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