But the result of child abuse, including difficulty in adjusting to society and difficulty in education tend to result in a higher rate of unemployment. In short, child abuse tends to produce the same conditions where child abuse is more likely to occur.
The research shows two vital things, the first being that the number of cases of child abuse are exceedingly high, and two, that the number of cases are increasing. With the amount of money being spent on child abuse prevention, the question must be asked as to why rates continue to increase. While some believe that the increase is only due to increased awareness, this does not hold true when you consider both the extreme rise in numbers and the rise in the numbers of severely injured children. If sexual abuse cases had been increasing, this could be attributed not necessarily to more incidents, but to more incidents being reported. However, it is not feasible to assume that serious injuries would have gone unreported.
One study also reports that "41 per cent of children who died between 1994 and 1996 had prior or current contact with the child welfare system." (CWLA, 1997) This figure suggests that knowing that a child is at risk of child abuse does not prevent the occurrence of it, at least not in all cases. It is also suggested that greater research into the risk factors would allow child welfare agencies to be better equipped to detect risk factors earlier and provide intervention services more effectively. (Carter, 2000)
Various factors can be seen as contributors to child abuse, but it is difficult to say which is the actual cause. For example, is poverty the cause, or is the frustration of unemployment the cause. Regardless of which is the real contributor the fact is that children living in poverty are more likely to be victims of abuse. This is the reason why it is important to ensure child abuse prevention strategies reach this target group.
The second criteria is that prevention activities that reach the target group are effective. Especially with less funding available for prevention, the prevention activities need to get results. Research into the area is one way that strategies can be effectively targeted both to most effected groups and to the factors within those groups that are the real cause of problems. For example if unemployment is really the cause, then increasing welfare payments would not be an effective strategy, increasing employment rates would be. The more research provides real information the more prevention strategies can be effectively developed.
With child abuse often having a spiral effect in promoting the same sorts of conditions that contributed to the abuse in the first place, prevention becomes much more important than correction. It would seem that the current system is suitable for recognizing child abuse situations but not effective in preventing them.
In all of the data there was little focus on why poverty or other factors caused an increased occurrence in child abuse. The research has determined which groups are more likely to be victims of child abuse. The next step is for the research to determine how to prevent child abuse.
For example, it was noted earlier that "41 per cent of children who died between 1994 and 1996 had prior or current contact with the child welfare system." (CWLA, 1997) We know that 59 per cent of these children did not die, so it would be beneficial to investigate what happened to this 59 per cent.
It would seem that the research has been effective in determining which groups are more likely to suffer from abuse, but it has not been effective in transferring this information into useable prevention strategies.
While poverty is seen as the major contributing factor towards child abuse there is some argument over how this causes abuse. Other factors related to poverty such as single parenting, large families and unemployment also contribute to child abuse. The difficulty lies in gauging which of these factors is most responsible for the occurrence of child abuse. With this knowledge strategies could be better tailored to effectively prevent child abuse.
The cost to society has been acknowledged, with greater violent crime, increased antisocial behaviour and increased likelihood of the abused child living in poverty and being an abuser themselves noted.
With child abuse as a major problem and poverty being a major contributing factor, it is important that the relationship between the two be understood. It is currently understood in that the poor are known to be at higher risk. But the increase in child abuse would suggest that current preventative strategies are ineffective. There is a need to more fully investigate the reasons why, with a focus on developing effective prevention strategies.
Without these strategies the incidence of child abuse will only continue. The negative effects on the children concerned is obvious. The negative effects on society as a whole has also been discussed. With poverty and child abuse on the increase further research into the issue is a necessity. Limited resources must meet the needs of a larger group of people. It is vital not only that the preventative strategies reach the target group, but that they are effective once they reach this group. Further analysis into the 'why' of child abuse may be the only way this can be achieved.
Carter, Janet. (2000). Domestic violence, child abuse, and youth violence: strategies for prevention and early intervention. San Francisco: Family Violence Prevention Fund.
CUPA: Canadian Union of Public Employees. (1997). What we owe to families: a brief on child welfare in Manitoba. Winnipeg: Canadian Union of Public Employees.
CWLA: Child Welfare League of America. (1997). Child abuse and neglect: a look at the States. Washington, D.C: Child Welfare League of America.
Drucker, Philip. M. (October, 1997). "The consequences of Poverty and Child Maltreatment on IQ Scores." The Vincentian Chair of…