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Children are Deprived of
their Basic Needs
By Margaret Varma, Ph.D.
The following are some comments from our Lead Nurse Planner, Nancy Pavelek, regarding Domestic Violence:
- When it comes to gender, domestic violence is not always male to female – it could be male to male, female to female, or female to male. People seeking help at domestic violence shelters or hospitals may be seeking service for same sex domestic violence. Do not assume that it is always a heterosexual couple or that it is always the male perpetrating the violence.
- Secondly, Ms. Pavelek posed the question… "Does your domestic violence shelter staff include a nurse?" Nurses are very beneficial to have on staff at domestic violence shelters. They can help with case management, psychiatric medications, untended health issues, addiction issues, and empowerment of the victim. Nurses can help connect people to the health department, get their mammogram, annual doctor visits, etc. This information is a way to start a movement toward empowering victims of domestic violence. These services can help victims to learn to take care of themselves and maybe realize that they don’t have to live this way. Being provided with this information from a nurse sends the message to the domestic violence victim that there are ways to take care of yourself.
Child abuse and wife abuse are serious social problems which have plagued
man in one form or another since time immemorial. They prevail at all levels of
society, running through all segments of the human race. Cases of severe abuse,
as demonstrated by the study in the preceding article of this book, are found
to be most rampant in families where there are serious marital problems resulting
in quarrels, physical fights, and the battering of women and children. Fortunately,
however, today there is a new and growing concern about child abuse and its correlation
to wifebeating, and a greater interest in restoring to every child his rights
as a child, and to every woman her rights as an adult.
is not an isolated phenomenon; it feeds on itself. A climate of violence and physical
abuse in a home permeates the relationships of all individuals involved. It is
not possible to talk of child abuse without discovering a history of abuse in
the families from which the abusing parents have come. A man who beats his child
has been beaten as a child; a woman who beats her child has never learned to be
a mother, and has, at the least, been neglected by her parents to the point that
she takes out her frustration and anger on her defenseless progeny. And, of course,
a man who beats or abuses his wife will do the same to his children. A wife who
is abused will often turn to her child to express the rage that has been heaped
upon her by a brutal spouse.
The Vicious Cycle
That it is a
vicious circle, that violence begets violence, is supported by data. It has been
found to be statistically true that most adults who abuse their children today
had not only themselves been battered by their fathers, but had also witnessed
their siblings and mothers being battered. From research material available, it
seems clear that children who witness violence in their own familieschildren
who are helpless spectators to physical and verbal violence between their parentsend
up being abusive adults. Hence, statements made by researchers of child abuse
and wife abuse, indicating that violence is a self-perpetuating phenomenon, seem
to be true.
A Learned Behavior
The disposition to use violence
is considered to be a learned behavior, and therefore, the greater a childs
exposure to violent experiences (such as witnessing the mother being beaten by
the father) the greater will be his tendency to use violence as a means of social
control later on in life. Research on imitative and modeling behavior points out
that children generally imitate the behavior of aggressive models, and especially
of the significant others in their lives. This is another reason why observation
of violence in the home during childhood is detrimental to healthy child growth
and personality development. The structural theory of violence gives a fuller
explanation of the above with particular reference to social learning and role
modeling behaviors. Hence, we have to accept the sad but realistic possibility
that many of todays children will be tomorrows abusing adults.
situations of neglect and abuse seem to have been rampant in the early childhood
experiences of almost all criminals. Practically every researcher of child abuse
has a list of names of criminals who were victims of child abuse and intrafamilial
violence in their early childhoods (Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Arthur Bremmer,
Sirhan Sirhan, and James Earl Ray, to name just a few). Thus we also have to accept
the disturbing possibility that many of todays abused children brought up
in violent homes will grow up to be the nations hard core criminals.
on Child Abuse
The figures available of cases of child abuse, though not
complete, are staggering. The Childrens Division of the American Humane
Association estimates that 10,000 children are severely battered every year, at
least 50,000 to 75,000 are sexually abused, 100,000 are emotionally neglected,
and another 100,000 are physically, morally, and educationally neglected. The
Childrens Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare
informs us that 4,000 children are killed each year by their parents, 90,000 are
beaten, injured, starved, or locked in rooms, and hundreds of thousands more are
simply neglected, physically and mentally. A report by the National Institute
of Child Abuse and Neglect states that one million children risk bodily harm from
their parents. Though some hope arises when one reads what is being done to eradicate
child abuse and wife abuse, this is just a drop in the ocean when contrasted with
what remains to be done. Today it is estimated that nearly 3 million Americans
grew up in violent home situations.
Child Abuse Reporting Laws
abuse reporting laws, which are by definition and intent case-finding devices,
are perhaps a first step in insuring the childs protection. The legal area
of child abuse has been radically changed, with several states revising or introducing
new laws on how best to deal with the problem of child abuse. Today, all of our
50 states have laws requiring professional workers and others to report all suspected
cases, often within 24 hours. But we still do not have laws that make child abuse
or wife abuse a criminal offense, except in the case of death. It seems essential
that similar systems for reporting wife abuse need to be designed and implemented
Desperately needed are more workers and more money so we can attack
this dual problem from every direction and stop perpetuation of this senseless
cruelty and harm by giving both adults and children our continued specialized
treatment, care, and help. The root cause has been identified as a deterioration
of family life in the United States, the breaking up of close family ties, and
a prevailing pattern of violence amongst family members. Several professionals
of various disciplines, using a multi-disciplinary approach to analyze the situation,
have suggested that more intense work needs to be done to unify our efforts, to
strengthen our child-parent ties, and to discover ways and means of getting our
families back into harmonious, loving relationships based on respect and not on
Common Characteristics Among Abusing Spouses
common among abusing spouses and parents include a lack of nurturing in their
own childhoods. Authors describe abusive spouses and parents as inadequate, self-centered,
hypersensitive, incompetent, anxious, impulsive, diffident, lonely, and isolated.
The child-rearing of these adults seems to have been identical with what they
offer their own children. The result is a life pattern of aggression and violence
repeating itself from generation to generation. Abused children lacking the experience
and opportunities which help develop inner controls for adult life, get into intense,
senseless fits of temper, often unaware of their own brute actions. Their inadequate
early childhoods and growing years make them selfish, immature adults. In fact,
often these adults look to their children, or their spouse to satisfy all their
own needsand they lash out with uncontrolled, savage strength when these
expectations fall short. In these types of relationships neither the childrens
needs nor those of the spouses are met. The children, like the abused wives, do
not lash out at the fathers/husbands, both because of physical limitations and
because of feelings of guilt. For the children the anger is directed inward, but
the frustrations linger and are likely to cause problems when these children are
older and are in contact with other people.
We see almost daily in certain
children with whom we work the devastating effects of parental strife and violence
between mothers and fathers. We see a child who continually speaks in a loud,
shrill voice, often merely babbling about fantasy persons in distorted activities
or alternately making plaintive comments about mommy and daddy with
tears in her eyes. Or a child whose needs for medical care for an orthopedic problem
are ignored by a mother completely absorbed with fear of the man she lives with;
the man refuses to leave her apartment and threatens to murder her and her child
if she calls the police. Understandably preoccupied with this situation, the mother
knows there is no way the police can really protect them from him, and she has
little energy to devote to her childs medical needs.
Stressors Leading to Child and Wife Abuse
Some other psychologically stressful
characteristics mentioned leading to child and wife abuse are unemployment of
the husband; an unwanted pregnancy; a child conceived out of wed1ock; and marriage
partners of different religious faiths. It is therefore necessary that determined
efforts be made to tackle the multiple social factors that influence child and
The National Symposium on Child Abuse enumerated eight conditions
of poor child care:
· physical neglect
· emotional neglect
· educational neglect
· physical abuse
· community neglect
· moral neglect
All of these conditions, or various combinations of these, exist in
households where child and wife abuse exist.
When Children are Deprived
of their Basic Needs
When children are deprived of their basic needs of
proper food, clothing, and shelter, these deprivations automatically make them
susceptible to all health hazards and stunt their normal healthy growth and development.
In families where there are cases of child abuse and wife abuse, medical neglect
also prevails. It is prevalent in homes which are characteristic of lack of control
and defiance of authority, cruel punitive practices, excessive use of drugs and
alcohol, and parental discord and violence, often resulting in the mothers being
battered. Medical neglect occurs when a parent ignores the treatment needs of
a child, resulting in a child who whines, is irritable, and is overly dependent.
The parent responds by using physical abuse to discipline the childs aggravating
needs. Physical child abuse ranges from mild to severe injuries, and the objects
used by the parent may be a hand, brush, cord, belt, or some electrical appliance.
When young children continually live in an environment reeking of family
disruption, their fathers constantly physically attacking their mothers, their
mothers perpetually screaming and weeping, they do not know where to go, or to
whom to turn. They are denied parental love and nurturing, important needs of
young children. Parental interest, concern, and empathy give the young child his
first feelings of his own familiar surroundings and the confidence in the world
at large. If these are not available to children when very young, they are denied
satisfaction of their basic emotional needs; they do not acquire the sense of
trust in their surroundings that leads up gradually to the different senses of
autonomy, initiative, accomplishment, identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity
laid down by Erikson as fundamental steps to healthy personality development.
These children, therefore, suffer from emotional neglect as well.
is considered to be emotionally neglected when the parent does not provide the
nurturing qualities so necessary for sound growth of personality. What this really
means is that the chances that a child coming from a generally neglectful and
violent home situation will receive parental support and acceptance are negligible
or not, because the parents themselves come from homes where they were not valued
or gratified. For no fault of his own, a child whose basic emotional needs are
inadequately met, or not met at all, grows up with feelings of fear, anxiety,
hostility, and suspicion that follow him to adulthood.
- Roy, M., PhD. (2003). Battered Women. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company: New York.
According to the Childrens Division of the American Humane Association
approximately how many children are severely battered annually? To select and enter your answer go to .