Understanding the Connection Between Child Abuse and Anti-Social Behavior Term Paper

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Abused children develop antisocial behavior that persists through three continuous generations. Such behavior grows out of angry, aggressive parenting and an overall negative home environment, perpetuated by sibling collusion, economic and biological factors. These children exhibit this in preschool by committing at least one antisocial behavior each day in class. As dysfunctional adolescents, their romantic lives and eventual marriages also fail. African-American children suffer from the affliction than Caucasian children. The current level of knowledge and efforts requires effective and efficient mechanisms at home, in school and the community in the crucial formative childhood years.

Understanding the Connection between Child Abuse and the Development of Antisocial Behavior

Abused children eventually become problem adults who are a burden to society.

Recent studies reveal the significance of parenting in the cross-generational transmission of aggressive or problem behavior up to three continuous generations. Stable evidence has long recognized and documented the negative effects of aggressive or harsh and inconsistent parenting and identified the need for interventions that would foster better parenting skills (Dubow 2003). These new findings provide the direct link between the incidence of child abuse and the emergence of problem behavior later in life.

Child abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual or through neglect. Child Protective agencies received and investigated three million reports of maltreatment of close to four million children in 1999 (Black 2004), 54% of which were due to neglect. But because most of the victims were too young and too afraid to speak out, these agencies believed that the actual incidence was greater than reported. While it occurred in all social, ethnic and income groups, child abuse was most common among poor, under-educated and dysfunctional families and committed mostly by parents themselves who were young, unmarried or separated, lonely and coping with life's stresses but not criminal or psychotic (Black). Un-addressed incidence of child abuse increases the risk of criminality, academic failure and failed social relationships in later life (Conger 2003).

This paper will endeavor to inquire into, and understand, the details that link child abuse with the development of problem behavior and what approaches can be made in addressing this reality.

Present literature presents conclusive findings that parent-toddler relationship directly affects the toddler's problem behavior, with deviant or aggressive maternal behavioral attitudes crossing and spanning three continuous generations from grandmother to the child (Dubow 2003). A study offers significant evidence that angry, aggressive parenting strongly influences the development of aggressive behavior in adolescence through social learning and often results in unsatisfactory romantic and marital relationships and conditions (Conger). Findings also show that financial distress and improper parenting produce problem behavior in children (Thornberry 2003) and that poor or injurious maternal attitudes lead to it (Brook 2002). Antisocial and violent behavior in children and adults is also seen as the consequence of birth complications and certain biological factors when combined with a negative home atmosphere (Raine 2002). Family relationships strongly affect a child's self-esteem and the impact often remains through life. Collusion among siblings also contributed to the development of faulty behavior in children who were abused at home. Boys were more affected by peer rejection and girls, by low academic performance (Lewin 1999). Abused preschoolers often came from low-income families and exhibited at least one antisocial behavior each day in class (Qi et al. 2001 and Willoughby 2002). Most of these children were African-American who suffered from guilt and self-blame (Brown 1999), but most mothers of both problem and non-problem children viewed their children in similar ways (Kendziora 1998). Popular myths conduce to wrong beliefs and must be guided by scientific knowledge (Fiorello 2001). And despite much knowledge and effort, there remains the need for consistent and thorough mechanisms that will confront the issue and arrest the causes or conditions in preschool age right at the family and in the community (Fox 2002).

Subjects and participants in the studies included parents of children with problem behavior, adolescent parents, grandmothers of problem children, other family members with a target child at high risk for sibling collusion, mothers of non-problem children, respondents to 39 studies of biosocial interactions, demographic sub-groups (such as African-Americans) and normative samples of preschoolers exhibiting antisocial behavior.


Child mistreatment or abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or in the form of neglect. Neglect was the most common type and the perpetrators were mostly parents who themselves were abused as children (Black). Irritable and aggressive parenting led children to grow up into unstable, under-controlled adolescents (Ary 1999) and adults with troubled relationships, families and parenting in later life. This type of parenting passed from the first to the third generations through the behaviors of the children who learned and engendered them (Conger 2003) mainly from their mothers' own behaviors (Brook 2002). This antisocial behavior that began from home increased the risk of criminality, academic failure and social relationship problems. Financial stress had a strong impact on parenting quality that transmitted antisocial behavior from generation to generation (Thornberry 2003). Four studies directly showed and reinforced earlier findings of this intergeneration transmission (Dubow 2003), demonstrated by preschoolers at least once daily in class (Qi 2003). These preschoolers came mostly from low-income families (Willoughby 2001), most boys influenced by peer rejection and most girls, by low academic performance (Lewis et al. 1999). Sibling collusion (Bullock 2002) and biosocial factors aggravated and reinforced the formation of antisocial behavior from children who were abused (Raine 2002). Mistreated African-American children experienced more guilt and self-blame than Caucasian children (Brown 1999). Common beliefs about children's misbehavior also clashed with scientific knowledge. All conditions pointed to the need for adequate mechanisms of early intervention that would consistently and thoroughly address the problem or question at the crucial preschool age of children (Fox 2002).


I. Child Abuse

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child (Black 2004). About half of all cases of child abuse involve neglect, committed most often by the child's own parents, other family members and caretakers, such as teachers, babysitters, other children or even strangers. Once viewed as a minor social problem, child abuse caught closer notice from the media, law enforcers and professionals and, since then, figures began to go up. But authorities claimed that actual figures could only be higher than these, because abuses on children were more often hidden and the victims were too young and too afraid to report the crime (Black).

Child protective agencies investigated three million reports on the mistreatment of nearly four million children in 1999 (Black 2004) and found that 54% of these were cases of neglect. They also discovered that a child was often a victim of more than one form of abuse, that it occurred more in low-income than high-income families with little education, among young mothers, single-parent families and in families where the parents were alcohol or drug-dependent (Black). Investigations revealed that 90% of these parents, however, were neither criminal nor mentally unstable, but were lonely, young, single parents with unwanted pregnancies. Some or many of them were themselves abused as children, but statistics show that most abused children did not grow up to become abusive parents (Black).

Behavioral experts pointed to the lack of parenting skills, unrealistic expectations of children's behavior and capabilities, social isolation and family conflicts as additional factors that contribute to child abuse (Black 2004), which they perceived as the parents' coping response to their situation. The agencies' 1999 investigations showed that 75% of perpetrators were the parents themselves and those involved in the care of these children.

Physical abuse is the deliberate bodily injury on a child, most often a male (Black

2004). Earlier studies showed that 24% of all confirmed cases of child abuse were physical. The abuse is sexual if the child has not yet attained the age of legal consent and the abuse is performed for the sexual gratification of the abuser. The act may include sexual touching, intercourse, exposure of sexual organs or viewing pornography. In many sexual child abuse cases, the abuser was not a stranger or related to the child and one in five was under the age of legal consent himself or herself (Black). Reports also said that 20-25% of the cases were female and 10-15% were male who were sexually violated by age 18 (Black). Emotional abuse, on the other hand, consists of acts of rejection, ignoring, criticizing, isolation, or terrorizing of a child, which results in his or her loss of self-esteem. These are verbal assaults, which reject, belittle or use a child as a "scapegoat." Emotional abuse is the least reported because it often accompanies the other types and the hardest to prove (Black). And neglect is the failure to provide for the child's basic needs, whether physical, emotional or the lack of sustenance. Neglect accounted for 52% of all investigated reports of child abuse in 1996 (Black).

Abusive parents physically afflict their child when they lose control even for normal actions like crying or a change in diapers (Black). Non-abusive parents may at times get angry or…[continue]

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