Children are precious gift from almighty God. They need to be cared for, loved, cherished, appreciated and adored in a reliable manner. In African context, children are so regarded that a family without a child is seen as incomplete institution. Ononuju (1993) stated that children are not enemies of adults irrespective of their misconducts, which are mostly age oriented. As an important arm of the society, they should be seen as objects of love and parental happiness.
Who is a child? Onuzulike (2002) generally stated that a child is an individual under the age of eighteen years. Child abuse is defined as the portion of harm done to a child, which may be from human action, or inaction that is proscribed or proximate and preventable. Preventable here implies that it is not accidental but intentionally inflicted on the child by perpetrator who do not care about the outcome Alabi (1986).
On the other hand, the ANPPCAN (1986) stated that child abuse is the intentional, unintentional or well intentional acts, which endanger the physical health, emotional, moral and educational welfare of the child.
According to Maduewesi (1993) stated also that child abuse is both planned and sometimes unplanned acts and activities directed against the child, which can cause emotional harm. Based on these definitions, this write up stated strongly that child abuse is any action, which prevents a child from achieving his physical, emotional or psychological potentials. Therefore, child abuse involves total of ill treatments and neglect that is emitted to the child including what ought to have been done to enhance the child’s development but was not done. Various forms of child abuse. These includes (i) physical (ii) sexual abuse (iii) emotional abuse (iv) social abuse (v) cultural abuse etc.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves maltreatments such as kicking the child with leg, burning, strangling and disfiguring the child. Abuse can also occur through neglect. However, physical force that is used to discipline or control a child or adolescent can cause serious physical injury. Examples of these abuse take place in some homes even among caregivers and surrogate parents.
Sexual Abuse: These includes forced marriage, female child circumcision, rape, fonding of genital parts for sexual satisfaction by adults, exposing the child to blue films and others. Sexual abuse of children may result in depression, anxiety and general dysfunction later in their lives.
Emotional Abuse: These involve stripping naked the child publicly, confinement in a locked room, inadequate care, giving him/her various names and illicit verbal abuse. Kalish (1988) children some times exhibit childish behaviours. On the least provocation, some adults and caregivers emit emotional abuse on the child through their reckless use of words. Such words as you are hopeless, a bastard, useless, stupid, good for nothing, idiot and a fool; I brought you from your poor parents and many other offensive utterances are used by some caregivers. In some instances, the child is abused in spite of his innocence.
Consequently, the abuse gets into the child’s subconscious being and starts nurturing until it comes to pay. According to Hangard and Reppucci (1998), the child stamps the abuse into him/herself and behaves likewise. He/ she sees their self as stupid, good for nothing and believes he/she can never do well. He therefore does not see the need to work hard in the school and elsewhere. This is in line with Nwachuku (2000) when he observed that children whose emotions are grossly abused have poor academic performance due to lack of confidence produced in them by the abuse. They develop negative self-emotion. Other negative influences on the child emotional includes depression and low self esteem which affect his work, other habits and general life also, hostility, poor relationship with peers, loss of appetite, fearfulness and suicidal reactions.
Social Abuse: Social abuse include abandonment by parents or guardians, exploitation, prohibition from playing or associating with peers, over protection of the child going to lesson from school without adequate rest or relaxation after the rigorous long hours of the regular school activities. Child trafficking, deprivation from going to school, looking tattered, humiliating, intimidation or terrorizing the child and over restriction form self expression. For examples language is used for self-expression but children unfortunately, are restrained from using language to freely express their feelings. Culture supports this by imposing a lot of restriction on children and their use of language.
Cultural Abuse: Different cultural beliefs play role on the risk of child abuse. Lack of knowledge and skills about childcare may predispose parents to child abuse and neglect possibly because of frustration and stress created by the needs of the child and its apparent lack of co-operation. Contributing reasons for child abuse seem to be social isolation, lack of friends, dangerous neighborhoods or lack of access to transportation etc.
Neglect: This simply means abandoning the child. The parents don’t care about the children basic needs. Neglect may be physical e.g failure to provide necessary food or shelter or lack of appropriate supervision. Neglect children are left on their own without adult supervision and many neglect children engage in self destructive behaviours.
Causes of Child Abuse and Neglect
Cause of child abuse and neglect include the following
1. Age of the Parent: Teenage parent are at high risk for abusing their children because they themselves are not fully development adults. They are not as well equipped to respond to the needs of their children because their have not been met.
2. Poverty: This can cause child abuse in a family where food is not available, the mother may decide to send the child for hawking when others are in school learning, the child will be on the way
3. Single Parent: Children of single parent were at a high risk of physical abuse and of all types of neglect and were over represented among seriously injured moderately and endangered children. Typically a single parent family has less income than a two-parent household and the single parent is trying to do the job of two parents. Thus, in the worst cases, their lack adequate social and economic supports which may make the condition ripe for abuse. For example if a women is the one that is taken care of her children. Because she is doing the job of two parent alone, some times she may feel annoyed and she may now raise the annoyance on the child by abusing him.
4. Mental Health Problem: Parents suffering from depression or a psychiatric illness are at a much high risk of abusing and or neglecting their children’s needs.
5. Emotional: When parents are not emotional balance. They will neglect the need of their children. And if their children request for something because they are not emotional balanced they will abuse the child by either kicking the child, which will also cause abuse.
6. Drugs and Alcohol Problems: Parent with drug and alcoholic problems are at mush high risk of abusing their children. Parents with drugs and alcohol problem are three times more likely to physical or sexual assault their children than those parents without such problem.
i. The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical consequences.
ii. Psychological consequences
iii. Behavioural consequence.
Physical Consequence: Physical health consequences such as damage to a child growing brain, severe broken bones, heamorrhage or even death can have psychological consequences such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties. Psychological problem often manifest as high-risk behaviours depression and anxiety, for example, may make a person more likely to smoke abuse, alcohol or illicit drug or over eat. High risk behaviours in turn can lead to health long term physical health problem such as sexual transmitted disease cancer and obesity.
Physical Health Consequence: Physical affect of abuse or neglect can be relatively (minor bruises or cut) or severe broken bones, haemorrhage or even death. In some cases the physical effects are temporary, however, the pain and suffering they cause a child should not be discount. Meanwhile the long term impact of child abuse and on physical health is just beginning to be explored.