April was first declared Child Abuse Prevention Month by presidential proclamation in 1983. National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to share child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and activities and promote prevention across the country.
The majority of child abuse cases stemmed from situations and conditions that can be preventable when community programs and systems are engaged and supportive. A community that cares about early childhood development, parental support, and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to foster nurturing families and healthy children. A body of research has identified factors known to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect. These factors—including parental resilience, nurturing and attachment, social connections, knowledge about parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children, and concrete supports for parents>
Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. Physical injury is not the only negative impact of abuse and neglect—it can also affect broader health outcomes, mental health, social development, and risk-taking behavior into adolescence and adulthood. Child abuse and neglect causes stress that can disrupt early brain development, and serious chronic stress can harm the development of the nervous and immune systems. As a result, children who are abused or neglected are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These problems include alcoholism, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, smoking, suicide, and certain chronic diseases.
Children are the some of the most vulnerable members of our society, mainly because of their dependence on others to get their needs met. And sadly, in the majority of cases, the adults that children depend on are the ones responsible for abusing them. Every child has a right to a safe childhood and a life free from violence. The experience of child abuse and neglect infringe upon that right. The effects of abuse affect each child differently. While the effects of abuse can be severe and long-lasting, children who have been abused or exposed to violence can and do go on to have healthy and productive childhoods and adult lives.
The overall impact of abuse also depends on the child’s natural reactions to stress and ways of coping with stressful situations. Other factors can include age at which the trauma occurred, previous exposure to unrelated traumatic incidents and extent of therapy or timing of intervention.
Children are more physically susceptible to injury than adults as their bodies are still in development. When a child is being physically abused or neglected some of these injuries are apparent. However, there are times when a perpetrator is careful not to leave marks or injuries that are visible so that the abuse is not discovered. Being able to recognize the physical effects of abuse can be crucial in identifying an abusive situation and taking steps to protect a child from further abuse or neglect.