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Child Abuse

Violence against children has been manifested in every conceivable manner: physically, emotionally, through neglect, by sexual exploitation and by child labor.  Of these forms of maltreatment, the four most common types of abuse include: physical , emotional, neglect and sexual abuse.

Child Abuse


Four Types of Abuse

  1. Physical abuse is defined as the mistreatment of a child that causes physical injury, impairment, or endangerment.
  2. Emotional abuse is divided into: close confinement (which is a restriction of movement such as binding or tying); verbal assault, which includes habitual patterns of belittling, denigrating or other forms of rejecting treatment; and other abuse which is overtly punitive, exploitative or abusive.
  3. Neglect is divided into seven groups including: refusal of health care; delay in healthcare; abandonment or desertion; expulsion or blatant refusal to care for a child; custody-related issues, such as repeatedly leaving a child with others; inadequate supervision; and other physical neglect such as inadequate nutrition.
  4. Sexual abuse is divided into three groups.  These include: intrusion, which means evidence of actual penile penetration; molestation, which includes genital contact without intrusion; and other sexual abuse, which includes acts such as fondling or inappropriate supervision of a child’s sexual activities.

Perhaps what is most startling is that child abuse in the United States, the most developed country in the world, is skyrocketing.  In 1996, an estimated 3,126,000 children were reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies as alleged victims of child maltreatment.  This number represents an increase of approximately 45 percent since 1987.  Although neglect represents a majority of the cases reported (62 percent), other forms of child abuse are prevalent: physical abuse (25 percent), sexual abuse (7 percent) and emotional maltreatment/other (7 percent).


Recounting what was perhaps one of the most horrific incidents of child abuse, David Pelzer, in his book A Child Called “It” describes three of the most common forms of child abuse: physical, emotional and neglect, with great detail.  In describing the physical torture inflicted upon him by his mother Pelzer writes: “Gripping my arm, Mother held it in the orange-blue flame. My skin seemed to explode from the heat. I could smell the scorched hairs from my burnt arm”.  Further describing the emotional torture, which his mother enacted upon him, Pelzer describes how he was systematically ostracized from his family.

Preventing child abuse and child protection has become an important goal of child-protection services. And according to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act  there are nearly one million children in America who under go child abuse.

Organizations that help to prevent or deal with child abuse are growing yearly.  The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a federally funded program that assists children and  their families. An agency that makes it easy to report incidents of abuse if the Child and Family Services Agency.

Social Services and Child Abuse Research

Social Services Child AbuseChild abuse is also a social services problem, in as much as social services must intervene on behalf of the abused child and provide a safe solution. Ideas for tying your research paper on child abuse into social service requirements are as follows:

  • Present an historical overview of social services and its role in protecting vulnerable children (i.e., where it began through the evolution of where it is today).
  • Briefly describe the major child welfare policies and laws that have impacted and currently impact child abuse.
  • Describe the role of social services in child abuse or place in the continuum of child welfare services, how this system is interconnected with other child welfare services, its major funding streams, and what evidence-based strategies exist.
  • Identify the current issues, trends, and dilemmas which exist in the delivery of services to children and their families based on their historical development and the evolution of evidenced-based, trauma-informed and human rights perspective practice.
  • Discuss some of your own ideas as to how this system of care can become “more” evidenced-based and effective from a human rights perspective.



Social Work
Children and Youth Services Review
Social Work Research
Administration in Social Work
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Child Welfare
Health and Social Work
Journal of Gerontological Social Work
Clinical Social Work Journal
Journal of Marital & Family Therapy
Social Service Review
Families in Society
Social Work with Groups
Family Process
Health and Social Work
Research on Social Work Practice
Child Development
Developmental Psychology
Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Journal of Research on Adolescence
Future of Children


There is a wealth of information on the Internet about child abuse, policy, and research related to children, adolescents, and families; service delivery systems, such as child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, health, and education; and other issues relevant to this course.  In your research paper, you are encouraged to seek out this information and to be selective in what you use.  For scholarly papers, use peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters from scholarly books.  Limit Internet resources to government documents, materials from governmental departments (e.g., the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, SAMHSA, and the Administration for Children, Youth and Families); organizations such as the Child Welfare League of America and the Children’s Defense Fund; research and policy institutes such as Child Trends; and professional associations such as NASW and CSWE.

Top Textbooks on Child Abuse

Abused Boys: The neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse

The APSAC handbook on child maltreatment