The Implications of Child Abuse in Canada

The Implications of Child Abuse in Canada

The problem of child abuse is a dominant topic in Canada with more than a third of the total population having undergone child abuse. In Ontario for instance, more than 21% of females and 30% of males had some form of physical abuse at one time in their childhood (Trocme et al, 2003). Further, millions of other people underwent verbal abuse as well as neglect and sexual abuse in Canada. Still, other forms of child abuse include exposure to domestic violence and emotional mistreatment by either parents or nannies. The implications of child abuse are wide and far reaching with a potential of denting the entire lives of the parties involved. Indeed, studies have found effects of child abuse being witnessed many years after the initial action. While the effects are largely behavioral in nature, there is evidence to show that child abuse may result in the manifestation of economic and social implications.

Child abuse takes several forms not only in Canada but across the world. While the most prevalent forms include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, there are significant instances of exposure to violent behavior and neglect. In Canada, the expression of child abuse is manifested either at home or away from home and may be either intra-familial or extra-familial (Murphy et al, 2001). Perhaps the most worrying trend in the maltreatment of children is the fact that it can happen with people they love and know perfectly well. That is not to say that child abuse cannot be perpetrated by total strangers as is most likely the case in the country. The prevalence of occurrence varies across different children with most of the victims having witnessed abuse at least once. In some cases, the victims may suffer prolonged abuse at the hands of different perpetrators across their childhoods.

Perhaps the most prevalent form of child abuse is physical violence that is characterized by such acts as burning, exposure to cold and heat, aggressive kicking and hitting. In other cases, victims have reported instances of being burnt using irons and cigarettes as well as poisoning. The effects of physical abuse are manifested through damages to soft tissue through bruises and cuts as well as fractures on the bones and skull (Chartier et al, 2007). In worst case scenarios, children may sustain brain damages, speech impairment as well as damages on their central nervous systems. Also, studies have reported lower points on the academic performance and intellectual functioning among victims of child abuse. Moreover, these children are prone to aggressive social behavior and psychological issues manifested through poor self esteem, depression and hopelessness. In the long run, victims of child maltreatment are prone to record instances of aggressive behavior such as the mistreatment of their own children and involvement in violent crime. While male adults often result to aggressiveness, female adults have the tendency of inclining towards self-destructive behavior.

Still, Canada witnesses significant instances of sexual abuse among children. The execution of these cases is committed through rape, verbal sexual assault, sodomy, exposure to pornography and touching of the child’s genitalia. In most cases, sexual abuse is manifested when the perpetrator is an adult or at least older than the victim. According to MacMillan, (2000) the classification of sexual abuse assumes that sexual activity between two children is not a cause for concern specifically with regards to sexual abuse. However, cases where there is a difference in power and authority may warrant the classification even when the parties involved are both children. Normally, sexual abuse may affect the child’s understanding of the concept of sexuality. In some cases, the victim may harbor a dislike for related sexual activity with other victims becoming overly engaged in sexual activity. In the latter, the children are bound to display inappropriate or early sexual behavior that is considered too explicit for their age. It is not surprising, therefore, that some victims exhibit consequences such as early pregnancies, prostitution and promiscuity. In other cases, the consequences may be more extreme resulting in suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and psychological effects of depression and psychosis.

The emotional form of abuse and neglect are closely related and sometimes intertwined in their occurrence. Verbal abuse, withholding of contact as well as rejection and degradation all constitute forms of emotional abuse. Although hardly witnessed in Canada, this form of abuse is the most dangerous as it harbors the most detrimental effects on the children (MacMillan et al, 1999). Indeed, emotional abuse is reported to have negative psychological consequences on the victims across their lives.  On the other hand, neglect constitutes such acts as failure to cater for the emotional and physical needs of the child. For instance, victims of neglect may suffer from failure to provide shelter, food and clothing. In addition, a failure to engage the victim through positive emotional and verbal contact may constitute an act of neglect. Some parents are also guilty of failing to protect their children from harm and even failing to offer guidance and supervision to the children. The consequences of neglect are far and wide with a potential of devastating the lives of the affected children in huge ways. Particularly worrying is the fact that neglect may be a permanent style of parenting that is hard to change thus confining the children to a life of abuse. In these instances, the perpetration of abuse through neglect may occur for a very long time without being detected. Ultimately, emotional abuse and neglect may expose the child to school underperformance, poor development, malnutrition and poor health. Evidence of emotional distress in these children is shown through the development of abnormal and unhealthy relationships with other people.

The last form of child abuse is manifested through a child’s exposure to family violence and may constitute a form of emotional abuse. Normally, the acts may be among the parents and in some cases involve the parent and the siblings (Wathen & MacMillan, 2003). Research has shown that a large number of affected children are involved through their presence in the room during the orchestration of the violence. In other cases, the victims of this form of abuse may be involved through hearing the acts of violence from another location within the home. Regardless of the mode of involvement, the consequences of this form of abuse are far reaching. In fact, research has suggested that the first signs of the consequences are displayed through the child’s attempt to intervene in the violence.

The fact that there are permanent reminders of the acts of violence exposes the children to even more abuse. For instance, there could be evidence of broken furnishes as well as physical injury on the involved parties prompting them to visit the health centers. These instances present the child with difficulties at school and there are suggestions that these children experience emotional disorders. Child abuse through exposure to family violence has the danger of misconstruing the victims approach to family (Trocme, 2001). As such, these children are prone to develop an affinity for child maltreatment ion their adulthood and also portray cases of spousal violence either as victims of perpetrators. The very fact that children in more than half a million households across Canada are exposed to family violence should be rather worrying for the future of the country. Recent studies have also drawn increased relationships between instances of exposure to family violence and increased development of negative behaviors.  In fact, children exposed to family violence are more prone to emotional disorders, delinquencies, hyperactivity and aggression.

The effects of child abuse vary across different people and their expression may also vary depending on their nature. In addition, the effects of child abuse may also depend on such factors as the severity of the abuse, relationship of victim and abuser as well as the regularity of occurrence. According to Schwartz, (2001) the gender of the victim may also affect the nature of the consequences with girls and boys expressing different reactions. For instance, girls have been reported to generally act inwardly thus resulting in their own suffering while boys tend to act outwardly thus passing their frustrations to other people. The severity of the effects of child abuse is also affected to a great degree by the longevity of the abuse, age of the victim as well as the volume of new instances of abuse. In assessing the consequences of these instances of child abuse, these factors should inherently be considered for better results. Further, the nature of support structures within the victim’s school, response maintained upon reporting as well as the social and economic status of the family play a huge part in determining the severity of the effects.

Perhaps, death of the child is the most lethal consequence of any form of child abuse. In cases of physical abuse, the fatality rate is estimated at 5% with an exception of 10% in case the injured child is returned to the home where violence was instigated (Trothen, 2012). Research points out that about 50 children are killed by their family members in Canada each year. Among these annual child killings, about 86% are perpetrated by the parents and in some cases the step parents. In addition, the age of the child determines their susceptibility to death most of the deaths affecting children below the age of six years. Indeed, studies conducted in Canada have revealed that infants have homicide rates that are five times more than that of children below the age of twenty years. These statistics should be a cause of concern in a country where the rates of child abuse are increasing by day. Further, there is enough evidence to believe that most of the unaccounted infant deaths have to do with concealed case of child neglect and abuse. Some studies have attributed about 10% of the deaths blamed on sudden infant death syndrome to actual cases of child abuse and homicide. Evidently, therefore, Canadian children are not safe from their families.

Death of the child, despite being the most adverse is not the only consequence of child abuse.  Victims of child abuse face a wide array of potentially negative effects following cases of child abuse, some of which are manifested in their adulthood. For instance, victims of child abuse have been found to exhibit evidence of slow learning owing to harder times in succeeding in their studies. Studies have continually indicated the existence of a relationship between lower scores on tests and evidence of child abuse and neglect. Steed, (1994) posits that the consequences of child abuse extend to the child’s cognitive ability thus impairing their performances in school. In particular, the performance of victims of child abuse is mostly affected in their reading and mathematics. In fact, victims of child abuse have much higher rates of failure amongst children of similar gender, age and social economic status. These children are more prone to repeating grades as opposed to their peers and are also more likely to drop out of schools. Evidently, the continued abuse of children increases their levels of anxiety thus inhibiting their process of abstract reasoning that is highly applied in mathematics and reading.

Despite the social negative effects of child abuse, there are bound to be more problems in behavior and interactions. For instance, victims of child abuse tend to showcase behavioral problems at school compared to their peers. These negative behaviors revolve around the lack of self-control, increased anger, distraction and anxiety. In addition, studies have shown that abused children are more aggressive to their teachers and peers in school as opposed to non-abused children (Schwartz, 2001). Such behaviors have led to the reference of these children as unpredictable in their behavior and social interactions. The increased behavioral instability among abused children means that their moods can change from happy to aggressive within minutes of interactions. Often times, the outbursts in behavior may be related to failures in completing academic assignments attempted by the child resulting in frustrations. Recent studies show that abused children tend to question their own perceptions thus resulting in low self esteem. In addition, these children fear adults and are often faced with increased anxiety and depression that may eventually dull their senses. Eventually, a combination of these negativities results in a difficult learning process that curtails their educational development rate.

Some of the abused children tend to receive negative treatment from their parents and teachers thus confining them to even more problems. Partly to blame is the evidence of aggressive behavior in abused children that calls for more disciplinary action from teachers. The consequences of this treatment pose immense challenges to the development of these children. In fact, studies show that on average, about 40% of the abused children are sent to the principal for disciplinary action at least once as opposed to 20% of their non-abused peers (Trocme et al, 2003). In addition, about 26% of the victims of child abuse are suspended at least once during their school life. The rate of suspension among victims of child abuse was three times higher than that of non-abused peers in Canadian schools. The higher probability of suspension among abused students mean that a larger percentage drop out of schools. In fact, the rate of drop-out among victims of child abuse is much higher compared to that of other children in Canadian schools.

The effects of child abuse are quite devastating on the lives of the victims and the general Canadians. While the abused child bears the brunt of direct effects associated with abuse, the society pays for the indirect medical costs and opportunity costs associated with the maltreatment. Indeed, every citizen is affected by the onset of child abuse in one way or the other and especially through the failure of the victims to reach their potential. Abused children face a myriad of problems that are not self inflicted but resultant from the very fact that they were abused. In some extreme cases, victims of child abuse face victimization and marginalization thus resulting in fewer opportunities for growth and development. Even in the workplaces, victims of child abuse have fewer chances of employment and promotion compared to their counterparts. These children are more exposed to the risk of criminal activities and social dysfunction at one point in their lives. Regardless of the nature of child abuse, the consequences are dire and felt across the society.



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