Child Abuse and Neglect: Why Prevention Is Important

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse and neglect are collectively described as maltreatment. According to research, studies of maltreatment typically examine the effects of childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse (Teicher & Samson, 2016). Furthermore, Teicher and Samson (2016) describe that maltreatment also includes parental neglect, which can be physical neglect (failure to provide for the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, physical safety, adequate supervision, medical and dental health) or emotional neglect (failure to provide for the child’s basic emotional needs). Prevention is important because (1) maltreatment can be avoided and (2) abuse and neglect can lead to negative consequences such as depression, developmental delays (e.g., speech difficulties), and risk of developing substance abuse during adulthood (APA, 2017; Teicher & Samson, 2016).

Factors to Prevent Risk

According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2017), the following factors may help decrease the risk of abuse or neglect:

  • Children’s optimism, high self-esteem, intelligence, creativity, humor and independence, which enhance their coping skills in the face of adversity.
  • The acceptance of peers and positive influences such as teachers, mentors and role models
  • The family’s access to social supports, neighborhood stability and access to safe schools and adequate health care
  • The child’s experience of love, acceptance, positive guidance and protection from a caring adult, which encourages trust that their parents or caregivers will provide what they need to thrive
  • Parent’s or caregiver’s respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence
  • Parents or caregivers who can cope with the stresses of everyday life and have the inner strength to bounce back when things are not going well.
  • Parents or caregivers with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors
  • Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing and transportation and know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care and mental health services


National Child Abuse Prevention Month Website

APA webpages by topic:

  • Abuse and Neglect
  • Sexual Abuse

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Copyright 2017 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.