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Violence has, unfortunately, become a common occurrence of today's society. Everywhere we turn, all we see are visions of violence that are wrongly showcased as solutions to problems. This makes it even more difficult for parents to teach their children proper morals and behaviors when the media projects violent acts in ways that children view as normal. However, some parents aren't even trying to halt this wave of aggression. These parents choose to put this epidemic of violence in the express lane. One or both parents are involved in more than half of the astounding 3 million reported cases of child abuse each year (Kim). This number doesn't include the hundreds of cases that are left unreported. How are children to learn how to effectively solve everyday dilemmas, sans violence, when role models are using brutality to solve problems in the home? Abused children are more likely to lead a life that involves violence than children who have a stable, normal upbringing.
While there isn't a nailed down definition of child abuse and neglect, and different states and localities have their own definitions, it can be simplified to a general explanation. “Child abuse, or neglect, is the failure of a parent or caretaker to act, which results in physical, emotional or sexual maltreatment or death (Salus). Abuse can take many different forms. One type is physical abuse, which obviously involves an infliction of physical harm on the child. Another is sexual abuse, which not only entails physical sexual activity, but also includes non-physical, sexual exploitation (Salus). Emotional abuse is another form, which results when someone is verbally threatened and or humiliated. There are also several different levels of neglect. A child can be subject to physical neglect, which means the caretaker fails to provide for the child physically. Educational and emotional neglects can also be inflicted on a child. Educational neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide a child with the opportunity to gain an education. Emotional abuse is when a child doesn't receive the proper amount of affection or nurturing (Salus). No specific type of abuse can be labeled as the most severe or damaging. However, we know that all types of abuse and neglect can influence a child in a negative manner.
As said above, when a parent abuses a child, they start a circle of violence in that child's life. A parent could be driven into abusive behavior by many different factors. Depression is one of the main factors leading up to abuse. Twelve percent of mothers with young children are depressed (Kim). Depressed mothers are also more inclined to notice and correct the child's poor behaviors, while ignoring the pleasant behaviors (Embry). Mothers can then children in emotional and physical distress by ignoring their needs. Taking care of a child, or multiple children, can be a very stressful task. People who are paid as caretakers for children are shown to have higher depression rate than those in high-risk professions such as police officers and firemen (Embry). When a child is cared for in a depressed environment, the chances of the child experiencing with substance abuse and falling into delinquency are three times more likely (Embry). Depression is more or less a communicable disease. While it may not be directly visible, depression will hurt and affect everyone that comes into contact with it. Another factor is substance abuse by the parent. Parental drug addiction can lead to child neglect or abuse if the parent becomes angry as a result of the drug (Kim). Also, over half of the assaults and homicides of domestic abuse cases involve alcohol (Elliott).
Other acts of domestic violence in a household also contribute to child abuse. In a household where domestic violence occurs, child abuse is fifteen times more likely to happen (Kim). Horribly, domestic violence has practically become an ordinary and familiar part of our lives. The statistics show that it continues to be on the rise in the United States. Spousal abuse occurs every fifteen seconds, solely in the U.S. Half of the nation's couples have encountered at least one violent event between them. Also, of all assault cases, a shocking 70% involve spousal abuse (Bledsoe).
As sad as it seems, battered mothers often turn into abusers. These mothers often take the stress caused by the abuse out on their children. In 50% of all households that contain spousal abuse, child abuse is also present (Bledsoe). Therefore, the conclusion can be made that the more domestic abuse there is in the world, the more child abuse there will be. An excuse often used for this mother-to-child abuse is that the children need to learn to behave better in order to avoid agitation of the abusive father (Kim).
However, even if the abused mother does not inflict abuse on the child, he or she can still be in danger in an environment that contains domestic abuse. The child may get injured in an attempt to break up the altercation (Kim). Psychological damage is also common in this situation. The child will begin to think that abuse is a normal part of a relationship, and they will feel unsafe in the relationships of their future (Minerbrook). Furthermore, it is dangerous for a child to be exposed to any of these factors in the home as they may lead to abuse, neglect, psychological issues or even death.
Many child abuse cases turn into child fatalities. This is true in the child abuse case of Kelsey Briggs. Kelsey, a two and a half year old girl, died in 2005 as a result of brutal child abuse. The abuse had begun months earlier, consisting of many broken bones and full-body bruising. Attempts were made to have Kelsey relocated to another family member, but each time she eventually returned back to the house of her mother, where her stepfather continued to abuse her. After ten months of enduring maltreatment, Kelsey died of her wounds. Her father, who was serving in Iraq at the time, came home shortly after this, only finding he had to bury his little girl. The stepfather and mother were both found at fault for Kelsey's premature death (Ballard). 1,400 child fatalities were reported in the United States in 2002 (Child Abuse in the United States). However, an estimated 60% of child fatalities go unreported, according to a study conducted in Colorado and North Carolina. This leaves us to wonder exactly why these terrible crimes are so rarely reported. Each state has its own official definition of child abuse and neglect. How can it be possible to determine the presence of a crime if there are many opinions on what the crime is? The review process of child fatalities also varies from place to place, and the process is often extensive and conducted by people who aren't specialized in recognizing child fatalities. Research concludes that children younger than five years of age are the most at risk. Children under a year old add up to 40% of fatalities. 76% of fatalities are made up of children younger than four years old. Both parents were involved in an astounding 79% of child fatalities (Child Abuse in the United States). Yes, these children obviously cannot become violent, as their abuse ended in death. However, this shows that more and more children are growing into violent adults, whose brutal acts are escalating. While so many innocent children die from abuse and neglect each year, even more victims of abuse survive, equipped with a subconscious pull towards violent behavior.
While not all child abuse cases result in a circle of violence, the statistics show that the chances of that happening are very high. Studies also show that the risk of violent behavior is raised by 40% in children who are exposed to violence early in life. Children learn how to react to situations through social learning. They imitate the actions that they see others do. Children then, regrettably, conclude that violence helps them gain power and that it is the best way to achieve respect (Elliott). They also see their parents who are unable to control anger and often have the same inability to control their own emotions in adulthood. Their aggressiveness builds as the years pass and they begin to only think of solutions that involve violent behavior (Minerbrook). While one would think that now, as adults, these individuals would realize that abusive behavior is cruel, the conclusion is quite the opposite. Parents who were subject abuse as children are six times more likely to abuse their own children than parents who had a “normal” childhood (Kim). They may know that the behavior is wrong, but they subconsciously act with violence to solve issues that arise with their children. The children then pick up the behaviors and begin to become belligerent. These behaviors typically launch in the first few years of the child's schooling.
The preschool years are a period of time where the early signs of aggressive behavior can be seen. While kindergarteners rarely commit felonies, they do often interrupt. The interruptions can take place at home or in the classroom. These interruptions can be disrupting the class lesson or just acting out in an attempt to get attention. Yes, it is normal for a younger child to interrupt activities. However, if the interruptions are excessive, this information can be used to predict more violent behavior many years later (Embry). A person who grew up in an abusive environment has a greater chance of continuing the violence in adulthood.
It has become a common fact that many serial killers and violent offenders had childhoods that were scarred with child abuse. Children often become depressed as a result of abuse. Boys in particular, show aggressive and sometimes unstable behavior while depressed (Embry). This erratic behavior leads them to act impulsively and begin a life of violence that could quickly turn into a life of crime. A common occurrence in our society is the rising number of violent teenagers. In a study of fourteen juveniles on death row, in several different states, twelve had experienced ruthless physical and sexual abuse (Minerbrook). The chance is 40% greater that abused children, versus non-abused children, will be arrested as juveniles and or in adulthood (Stephens). Violence seems inevitable for an abused child to develop.
The statistics are clearly up against those of us who have endured abuse as children. Some say that everyone has free will and that it is their decision to continue the circle of abuse. I cannot argue this fact. However, even as adults, those who have been abused are now subconsciously and maybe even genetically built to produce violence. Without therapy or something of the like, these individuals will be inclined to act violently to situations in their life. In my opinion, those with a history of abuse endure an everyday struggle to overcome their thoughts of brutality. While the majority of these individuals will continue the cycle of violence, there are a few success stories. Some of us overcome the struggles and lead normal and even successful lives. However, the number of people who prolong the sphere of abuse will remain and continue on.