Child maltreatment is comprised of all abusive or neglectful actions committed by adults against minors. Maltreatment can be classified into the five following types:
- Physical abuse represents any deliberate use of physical force against a child that constitutes a threat to the child’s health, development, and self-respect. The range varies from milder forms of violence (e.g., pushing and shoving) to more severe forms (e.g., strangling and hitting).
- Child sexual abuse (CSA) encompasses any completed or attempted sexual act, including both contact and non-contact interactions, committed against a child by a caregiver.
- Neglect involves failure to meet a child’s basic needs, including physical, emotional, medical/dental, or educational needs; failure to provide adequate nutrition, hygiene, shelter; or failure to ensure a child’s safety.
- Emotional maltreatment includes caregiver actions that result in, or has the potential to result in adverse effects on the child’s emotional health and development. Caregiver behaviour can take various forms on the part of the caregiver including rejection, isolation, ignoring, terrorizing, corruption or exploitation.
- Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) has also been considered a form of maltreatment because children who are exposed to IPV (also referred to as domestic violence) display similar problems as children who are the direct target of emotional abuse.
Prevention is the key to ending child maltreatment. Some programs are promoted as preventing maltreatment, but they have not been evaluated.
Given the huge impact of abuse on a child’s development, it is vital that we find ways to prevent maltreatment from occurring in the first place.