Who Are the Perpetrators of Child Abuse?
While a common misconception might be that child abuse victims come from "bad" or low-income families, the truth is that child abuse occurs across the spectrum of socioeconomic conditions and within all types of families.
One fact that is clear across the board: perpetrators of child abuse and neglect are most often the child's own parents. According to NCANDS, a 2005 study showed that 79.4% of child abusers were the parents, and the next largest pool of abusers consisted of unmarried partners of the parents of child victims. A whopping 40% of child victims were abused by their mothers acting alone, and a disturbing 17.3% were abused by both parents.1
What causes parents to abuse their children?
As with all forms of abuse, one of the primary reasons an abuser becomes abusive is because he or she was once abused. Adding to that, the stress and helplessness that can overcome a parent can contribute to abusive tendencies. A parent who is not getting enough time for adequate self-care, or has not been taught how to appropriately and consistently discipline a child, is at added risk for developing abusive tendencies. Substance abuse and addictions can be the root cause or simply exacerbate the problem.
Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse published a report in which substance abuse was cited as a factor in at least 70% of all reported cases of child maltreatment (in 2005). This report also concluded that adults with substance abuse problems are 2.7 times more likely to report abusive behavior toward their own children.2 (Assuming that there are probably an even higher incidence of those who abuse their children without reporting it.)
If you're currently in a situation where you feel you may be abusing your own children, do something about it and call any abuse prevention hotline such as The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD.
First published on Psychology Today.