Types of Abuse

Abuse of a child can mean physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, social abuse, or intellectual abuse.

Physical abuse can include (but are not excluded to) the following actions [more] :

Neglect can include (but are not excluded to) the following actions [more] :

Sexual abuse can include (but are not excluded to) the following actions [more] :

Spiritual Abuse: Spiritual Abuse consists of experiences that distort or retard a child's spiritual development. When a parent demands to be the child's higher power by being overcontrolling and disrespectful of the child's reality or by demanding perfection, that
child suffers spiritual abuse. When parents do not follow established family rules and values or when the rules and values are hidden or always shifting, children are spiritually abused. This form of abuse also occurs when a religious representative (minister, priest, rabbi, deacon, Sunday School teacher, choir director) abuses a child in any way, or when a parent is addicted to religion or neglects or abandons a child.

Emotional abuse occurs when a parent ignores, terrorizes, blames, belittles, or otherwise makes a child feel that he's worthless and incompetent.  The American Medical Association AMA describes Emotional Abuse as: "when a child is regularly threatened, yelled at, humiliated, ignored, blamed or otherwise emotionally mistreated. For example, making fun of a child, calling a child names, and always finding fault are forms of emotional abuse." [more]

Social abuse occurs when a parent directly or indirectly interferes with the child's access to peers, when children aren't allowed to have friends visit or are afraid to have them visit because of family secrets, or when their parents' addictions are so out of control that the children must stay home to do the housework.

Intellectual Abuse occurs whenever a child's thinking is attacked or ridiculed and when parents present themselves as perfect, in complete control, and without doubts and uncertainties. When parents rigidly set forth their beliefs and ideas as absolute truth and are unwilling to share their doubts or to tolerate children's ideas and perceptions, those children are intellectually abused. When they are not taught that having problems is a normal part of life and are not given problem-solving skills, children suffer in their intellectual development. Intellectual abuse also occurs when children are not supported in developing ideas and beliefs that differ from those of their parents.

Shaken baby/shaken impact syndrome is a specific form of child abuse. It's the leading cause of death in child abuse cases in the United States. Most incidents last just 5 to 20 seconds, but that's enough time to cause sufficient brain damage to kill the baby. In some cases, a blow to the head accompanies the shaking. 


Types of Abusers

Donald Dutton describes three types of abusers in his book The Batterer, a Psychological Profile

Psychopathic Abusers- absence of remorse

Overcontrolled Abusers- control freak

Cyclical Abuser- stereotypical abuser

There is no clear definition of what constitutes an abusive parent. Only a small number of child abusers are mentally ill or psychotic. Most simply cannot control their impulses under stress. They take out frustrations, or make up for a lack of self-esteem, by abusing children.

A sad fact is that many child abusers were, themselves, abused.  Their behavior is handed down from their own parents. In these cases, neither the child nor the abuser may know what the limits should be. 

Abuser Behavior (Physical):  Uses harsh discipline inappropriate to child's age, transgression, and condition; Has performance expectations which are beyond the age capabilities of the child; Offers illogical, unconvincing, contradictory, or no explanation of child's injury; Seems unconcerned about child; Significantly misperceives child (e.g., sees child as bad, evil, a monster, etc.); Psychotic or psychopathic; Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Attempts to conceal child's injury or to protect identity of person responsible. 

Abuser Behavior (Emotional):  Blames or belittles child; Is cold and rejecting; Withholds love; Treats siblings unequally; Seems unconcerned about child's problems.

Abuser Behavior (Sexual):  Extremely protective or jealous of child; Encourages child to engage in prostitution or sexual acts; Has been sexually abused as a child; Is experiencing marital difficulties; Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Is frequently absent from home; Has difficulty in interacting emotionally with adults.

Abuser Behavior (Neglect):  Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Maintains chaotic home life; Shows evidence of apathy or futility; Is mentally ill or of diminished intelligence; Has history of neglect as a child; Overly self absorbed.

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