Blending Perspectives and Building Common Ground. Chapter 3. The Nature of Child Maltreatment


Child abuse and neglect is a widespread problem in American society.  A child of any age, sex, race, religion and socioeconomic background can fall victim to maltreatment, which may include both acts of commission and those of omission.  Media stories tend to highlight the sensational aspects of child abuse and neglect:  babies abandoned or killed by their mothers; toddlers beaten by their parents; school-aged children who are subjected to sexual abuse.  While such stories attract tremendous interest and empathy for the victims, these accounts fail to reveal the complex interplay of factors that influence the origin and consequences of child maltreatment.  In fact, we know that no single risk factor provides the overriding catalyst for child abuse and neglect.  Multiple stresses and conditions are implicated in contributing to abusive or neglectful behavior (National Research Council, 1993).  It is entirely appropriate to examine the relationship between child abuse and neglect and substance abuse, as we know that these problems are interrelated and affect many American families.  We must understand the relationship between substance abuse and child maltreatment in order to maximize opportunities for successful intervention with troubled children and families.