Causes of child abuse | Social Science homework help


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Child Abuse

















Cases of mental health problems keep on increasing in society due to poor social upbringing of children. Mental health is regarded as the sound nature of the brain (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d). Mental illness indicates a medical condition, which results in disruption of an individual’s mood, feeling, thinking, and ability to function, as well as associate with others effectively (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d). As such, an individual lacks the potential and ability to cope with life’s ordinary demands. Child Welfare Information Gateway (n.d) asserts that a long-term study had findings that approximately 80 percent of adults had a psychiatric disorder while at the age of 21 due to maltreatment of children. Such disorders make these individuals to engage in activities, which include suicide attempts, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Mental health is a serious issue in United States where approximately 81 percent of the adult population within psychiatric hospitals is diagnosed with mental illness, which develops because of maltreatment of children (WCHAC-STATS, 2001).

            Children are in the developmental stage, and their behavioral actions depend on their immediate surrounding environment. This environment is characterized of adults and social activities. The environment has negative effects on children including child abuse, which results into devastating negative effects on the activities of a child in the future. Child abuse may be regarded as the child’s domination of a perpetrator through coercion, force, deception, or denial of rights (Wang, & Holton, 2007). Child abuse is preventable; however, in United States, confirmation is made annually of approximately one million children falling as victims of child abuse. Research conducted reveals best and promising practices, which aid in improving well-being and child safety, as well as instances of child abuse. These efforts are crucial since child abuse has long-lasting and pervasive effects on society, their families, and on children. Negative effects of children’s development, which include multiple domains like cognitive, social, emotional and physical, become evident immediately. Such effects may extend beyond the young age to youth and consequently to adulthood. This results in the compromising of an individual’s lifetime productivity.  

According to Wang and Holton (2007), annual cost of United States child abuse was estimated at $103.8 billion with reference to 2007 value. This cost indicates that child abuse is a serious and widespread social problem, which demands effective approach in order to eliminate its negative impacts. The high cost of child abuse is integrated into the mental health cost. This is because individuals who are diagnosed of mental illness have at least one of the major forms of child abuse in their daily life. Therefore, in order to minimize the cost of mental health, child abuse should be addressed effectively. This illustrates that failure to undertake the cost of eliminating child abuse in society results in the development of additional costs during the treatment process of mental health cases. As figure one indicates, the trend of child abuse has been increasing since 1998 to 2010 in United States. This source of this overwhelming trend of child abuse is physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and psychological maltreatment. Such sources of child abuse results in psychological disorders, which act as sources of mental health problems among children. According to Child Help (2012), approximately 80% of individuals abused as children develop psychological disorder; however, such psychological disorders may not be the same.

            Child abuse is related to mental health problems. This is because individuals subjected to this vice of child abuse experience psychological problems. Human brain is at the developmental stage at the early childhood; the individuals surrounding environment and genetics influence this development (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2009).  A newborn brain has a neuron as the raw material of the nerve cell. These neurons then develop after birth of a baby to adolescent stage and finally to the adult stage. Therefore, the brain of a baby develops and grows as the baby interacts and learns from the environment on how to function within the environment. As such, whatever happens to an individual during this stage results in the development of several psychological, as well as behavior functions. This illustrates that children and the young people tend to adapt behavioral activities and functions as the environment provides the same. Child abuse is one activity, which may result in attainment of negative impacts in individuals, in society. This is because the perpetrators of this vice may limit the freedom of an individual to interact effectively with the environment or lead the young towards adaptation of negative behavioral practices from the environment. Further, child abuse is one of the known social vices, which results in negative behavioral practices and mental health problems. This limits the ability of individuals to survive effectively within their social settings. Such complications results in individuals seeking for medical attention, as well as finding themselves in isolation facilities. One of these facilities is the prison where child abuse triggers individuals to commit crime and consequently, they are imprisoned.

The issue of child abuse and mental health is very important in the current society. This is because childhood abuse survivors tend to suffer significantly more even after the end of the abuse. This results in an increment in the number of abuse survivors who focus on visiting hospitals in order to attain medical attention. These survivors are liable to other conditions, which include hepatitis, heart diseases, diabetes, and stroke among other conditions.  

Literature Review

            Child abuse is a serious social problem, which results in violent behavior, adult criminality, childhood delinquency, and mental illness. Three previous studies have shared this theme. The study conducted by Widom and Maxfield (2001) focused on analyzing the cycle of violence. The study involved 908 child abuse cases since 1967 to 1971 and the results were compared with cases of 667 children who were regarded as free from any form of abuse. This study collected secondary data from Midwest metropolitan area. The findings of the study indicated that abused children would engage in violent behavior later in life, have mental health problems, have poor performance in education, and their achievement levels are low. The theme in this study illustrates that child abuse has tremendous effects in mental health of an individual. The behavioral patterns, which survivors of child abuse develop, are linked closely to the type of maltreatment, which such individuals develop because of child abuse activities.

            A second study indicated the same conclusions. Maltreatment of children results in development of crimes and mental illness cases. Currie and Tekin (2006) study was based on a sample of 80 schools, which were a representative of U.S education system. These schools produced adolescents who were subjected to filling of the questionnaire while others were engaged in home-based interviews. The study’s conclusion was similar to Widom and Maxfield (2001) conclusion that child abuse had devastating impacts on the behavior and mental health of an individual. The theme in this study depicts that the vulnerable population of child abuse is aware of the negative impacts of the vice such as attainment of mental health problems.

            A third study by Kathleen (2002) to determine the health effects of childhood abuse had a conclusion that childhood abuse has a closer relationship to health through cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral factors. This study involved the organization of literature in a psychology framework, which describes emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral pathways.

            The strength of the literature review is based on the methodological part of previous studies on child abuse. This research indicates that child abuse has a negative impact on the life of an individual even after the discontinuation of such acts in the future. The adoption of both primary and secondary means of data collection enables such researches to attain strength in the conclusions made. This is because information is sought from different sources, which enables effective comprehension of factors. Moreover, the study population used in these researches was appropriate for the investigation been conducted. The use of adults after child abuse and children subjected to child abuse in these studies creates room for digging further into the reality of child abuse and mental health, as well as behavior of an individual.

 Unfortunately, the research conducted had room for gathering of unreliable data. This is because a case study of an individual involved in child abuse was not used, rather, data was collected via interviews and questionnaires and records, which indicates that it was possible to collect in adequate and insufficient information, which is related to the research topic.

The studies, which were conducted previously, may be improved through expansion of research. As such, this study will contribute to the former studies through identification of the ways in which child abuse leads to mental health problems. The study focus will be on the age group of 14 to 18 years.

The purpose of the research is to determine whether child abuse leads to mental health problems. The research will identify various ways in which child abuse occurs, and the possible mental illness associated with such childhood abuse effects. Further, research will find out what needs to be done in order to eliminate child abuse, which has the negative impacts of causing mental illness. This research will also focus on providing suggestions on what should be done in order to ensure that child abuse activities are minimized. Such measures will contribute towards the attainment of a higher reduction of the number of individuals in society who have mental health problems.

Null Hypothesis:child abuse does not lead to mental health problems

Alternative Hypothesis:child abuse leads to mental health problems

Data and Methods

            This study will comprise a sample of 300 students, from three high schools in Kentucky. Kentucky is selected as the study city, in United States, since this city has been depicted in reports to have a higher rate of child abuse, in United States. The three schools will be randomly selected and they will each give 100 eleventh graders of students. The anticipated age group is fourteen to eighteen years. Ethnic groups for this study include Koreans, Hispanic, Asians, Black, Japanese, and White. The following questions will aid in measuring these groups:

  1. What is your gender? (Tick appropriately)

1. Male            2. Female

  1. How old are you? (Tick appropriately)

1.   14        2. 15   3. 16    4. 17   5. 18

  1. What is your ethnicity?

1.      Korea    2. Hispanic          3. Japanese   4. Asian   5. White         6. Black   7. Other

The sample will be used in this research through the parents and high school consent. Rewards will be disseminated to the schools and students for participation in the research.

            The study will also involve a child abuse survey questionnaire, which will be disseminated and collected. The proposed study is a cross sectional study. Participating students, in the study, will take the survey during the normal school hours. Questions for the survey will seek information on child abuse history and awareness of the consequences of child abuse in society. Each survey questionnaire will comprise of 40 questions.

            This study will be based on non-experimental research design. Child abuse is the independent variable for this research, which results in the development of the mental health problems. The proposed research design will determine the rate of child abuse among students, and how child abuse leads to mental health problems. Some of the questions to measure the independent variables include:

  1. Are you a victim of child abuse?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Do you know of somebody who has been a victim of child abuse?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Do you think that child abuse results into mental health problems?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Do you know of an individual who has been hospitalized because of mental illness?

                                                              i.      Yes  

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Do you support the activity of child abuse in society?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

Mental health is the dependent variable for this research. This variable will be measured using the same survey questionnaire, which will be used in the process of independent variable measurement. Nevertheless, the dependent and independent variable will have their own independent sections of asking questions. These questions will focus on mental health problems. Some of the questions for the dependent variables include:

  1. Are you aware of mental health problems in society?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Do you know a person who has mental health problems?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. Is any of your family members having mental health problems?

                                                              i.      Yes 

                                                            ii.      No

  1. What type of mental health problems have you heard?

                                                              i.      Psychological

                                                            ii.      Social

                                                          iii.      Physical

  1. What are the consequences of mental health problems that you know?

                                                              i.      Crime

                                                            ii.      Stigmatization and discrimination

                                                          iii.      Violence

                                                          iv.      Negative behavioral patterns

This study has several strengths. One of these strengths is the use of primary method for data collection, which will grant the study an opportunity to collect first hand data, which has not been used previously. Further, since the study is cross sectional, there will be no need of using follow up survey for the respondents. Moreover, the location of this study is within a city where child abuse is rampant. This will grant the study an opportunity to collect adequate information on child abuse link to mental health problems.

Unfortunately, this study has a limitation in that the participants may provide inadequate or unreliable information on the survey questionnaires. This may lead to rejection of some of the surveys. Further, some participants may fail to return the questionnaires, which indicate that data may be limited from the anticipated number. Finally, the focus of this study is on students who are essentially not victims of child abuse, which indicates that there is possibility of not getting reliable data and information on the research been conducted.

Analysis and Implications

            The process of hypothesis testing will involve grouping of the sample population results into two groups: information, which indicate child abuse causes mental health problems and information, which indicate child abuse does not cause mental health problems. Chi-square test will enable in making a comparison on the rate of child abuse to cause mental health problems. If the rate of child abuse leads to mental health problems is high, the research hypothesis will be supported otherwise the null hypothesis will not be rejected when the rate of child abuse leads to mental health problems is low.

            Previous research has indicated that child abuse leads to behavioral problems, but it has not been prevented effectively. This study will illustrate that higher rate of child abuse in society leads to mental health problems. This indicates that there is a need for preventing child abuse by ensuring that the young generation (children included) is not maltreated. Further, measures have to be taken in order to ensure that the level of mental health problems in society, as a result of child abuse is reduced significantly.

            On the other hand, if the null hypothesis is accepted, child abuse will need to be reduced in society in order to ensure that the behavioral patterns of individuals remains within the acceptable level in society. More research will need to be undertaken to determine whether mental health problems develop because of other risk factors. Research should also be undertaken as a case study of preselected families of individuals with child abuse history in order to identify the problems of child abuse and its impacts as an individual grows. This will create room for developing effective strategies, which will enhance in attainment of success.



























Child Help. (2012). National Child Abuse Statistics. Retrieved from:

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d). Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and

Neglect. Retrieved from:

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2009). Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on

Brain Development. Retrieved from:

Currie, J, & Tekin, E. (2006). Does Child Abuse Cause Crime. Retrieved from:

Kathleen, K. (2002). “The Health Effects of Childhood Abuse: Four Pathways by Which

Abuse Can Influence Health”, Child Abuse and Neglect. 6 (7).

Wang, C, & Holton, J. (2007). “Total Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the

United States”, Economic Impact Study (September 2007).

WCHAC-STATS. (2001). What Can Happen to Abused Children When They Grow Up – If

No One Notices, Listens or Helps? Retrieved from:

Widom, C, & Maxfield, M. (2001). “An Update on the Cycle of Violence”, National Institute

of Justice.

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