Child Abuse1

Parenting is not instinctive. If it were, everyone who had a child would be a good parent. Consequently, child abuse is a rising phenomenon in our society. Though no single factor has been identified as the cause of child maltreatment, it appears to be influenced by parents\' histories, psychological resources, and economic status. Parenting must be learned. While this is often done through experience, education courses for individuals prior to their becoming parents, and close evaluation of questionable homes could enhance parents\' knowledge and the childrens\' well being.
A large number of abusive parents have histories of physical and emotional abuse inflicted upon them during their childhood. Thus, they were deprived of parents who taught them how to be good parents. In describing how she felt when she realized her children were being abused, Jean states: "All of a sudden I could feel all the old} anger back and I was} wishing that someone would have protected me when I was little"(Janko 18). Child abuse scenarios that seem tragic to others are ordinary to parents from abusive backgrounds, and often overlooked. The absence of "good" parents is detrimental to a child\'s learning how to fulfill parental roles. The children think their environment is normal, correct, and acceptable, and grow to emulate that lifestyle.
Sometimes abuse does not stem from a lack of knowledge, but rather from a psychological disorder. The majority of abusive parents "represent a range of personality and emotional disorders"(Justice 77). An authoritarian personality is characteristic of abusive parents, as well as "drug or alcohol dependency, neurosis, mental deficiency, and/or emotional immaturity"(Justice 77). Mothers make up the larger percentage of child abusers, representing 47.6%, while fathers only represent 39.2% of cases. The remaining cases are represented by friends or relatives(Justice 73). Most abusers range from 20 to 40 years of age, but the majority of fatalities are inflicted by parents in the 16 to 20 year old age bracket(Justice 74). Four factors often used to identify abusers are "loneliness; rigidity; problems with self-image, family and friends; and lack of social skills and self-control. Rigidity and problems with self-image were the strongest indicators of potential abuse among these factors"(Justice 77).
Economic status seems to play a large role in contributing to child abuse. According to the Child Protection Service, all of the families in their program are considered financially unstable, less than half hold jobs, 38% receive public assistance, and 13% live with an unemployed partner(Janko 56). According to a study done by the Children\'s Defense Fund in 1990, "The United States had the highest percentage of children living in poverty of 8 industrialized nations. The poverty rate among children in our country was 2 to 3 times that of most other countries studied"(Janko 59). Though poverty and child abuse are undoubtably connected, income is no excuse for abuse.
Occasionally, as in the case of David Peltzer, a parent will mistreat only one child, while exercising adequate care for its siblings. A closer evaluation of this questionable home life would have eliminated many of the disastrous results. Once the cycle of abuse is begun, it often keeps spinning,
out of control. Therefore the key is not found so much in stopping the cycle, but in the prevention of its occurrence. Teens should be educated about parenting skills in school, before pregnancy. When it is determined that a child is pregnant, she should undergo more extensive counciling to prepare her. The expecting parents should be trained to receive substantial jobs to support their families.
In the event that a parent escapes the application of this knowledge, children should be closely evaluated by other adults who keep them. Children are taught by their parents to hide evidence of abuse. Though it is possible that a child\'s story could be discredible, teachers and other childcare workers should be trained to recognize symptoms of abuse immediately, and be required to report them. I think that we need to take our role as citizens so seriously that we value the lives of other citizens. Our Judicial system should be such that endangered children are promptly removed from their environment, as they are presently left in the situation until abuse can be proven.
As a nation, children are our most valuable resource. Therefore, in attempts to better our