Abuse is not the same as neglect. When adults face a situation that requires the use of skills they have not developed, such as caring for a child, child neglect often occurs. Most states define perpetrators of neglect as parents and other caregivers (such as relatives, babysitters, and adoptive parents) who have harmed a child in their care, but through carelessness or neglect, not intentionally causing harm. It is important to note that each state defines the term "caregiver" differently. The harm caused by people outside the "caregiver" figure (who may be known or strangers to the child) may not be considered child abuse or neglect but as a criminal matter.
Child Abuse and Neglect Perpetrators Statistics
In a report called "Child Maltreatment" prepared by the Children’s Bureau (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2019 it is stated that:
For FFY 2019, fifty-two states reported 525,319 perpetrators.
The analyses of data show:
- More than four-fifths (83%) of perpetrators are between the ages of 18 and 44 years old.
- More than one-half (53%) of perpetrators are female and 46.1% of perpetrators are male.
- The three largest percentages of perpetrators include White (48.9%), African-American (21.1%), and Hispanic (19.7%) people.
- The majority (77.5%) of perpetrators are a parent to their victim.
Children learn from their parents. A children who has been raised in a home where violence is an acceptable response to frustration will tender, as an adult, to react violently. The skills necessary to control anger or frustration are never learned in an environment where violence prevails.
Similarly, a father who lacks self-esteem or maturity cannot instill these characteristics in his son. Without positive external influences, the infant is likely to become an adult who perceives himself and life in the same way as his parents. This is the cycle of child abuse and neglect: adults ask to repeat the actions and activities they learned in their childhood.
However, we must remember that child abuse and neglect is a multi-causal problem created through a combination of many ingredients, each unique and as complex as the people involved. An indicator of child abuse and/or neglect is only one clue to a child's possible need. As with any track, it is a small piece that should fit into a much larger picture.
Adults who abuse or neglect children usually will share several of the following general characteristics:
- Isolation: In general, perpetrators are physically and emotionally isolated from family, friends, neighbors, and social groups. They are also likely to discourage social contact and rarely participate in school or community activities.
- Low self-esteem: Many of these adults perceive themselves as bad, worthless, or unlovable. Children of parents with low self-esteem are often viewed as deserving of abuse or neglect because these parents view their children as a reflection of themselves and abuse and neglect as expected behavior.
- Lack of knowledge about parenting: Many times, abuse or neglect is due to the fact that the adult does not understand the developmental needs of the infant or has the necessary tools to properly care for the growth of their child.
- Immaturity: Impulsive behavior, using the infant to satisfy one's own emotional or physical needs, the constant desire for change are just some of the characteristic features of immaturity, which hinder the correct upbringing of a child.