11 September 2011

Manifestations of Child Abuse

Manifestations of Child Abuse
Injuries inflicted by a caregiver on a child can take many forms. Serious damage or death in abused children is most often the consequence of a head injury or injury to the internal organs.

Head trauma as a result of abuse is the most common cause of death in young children, with children in the first 2 years of life being the most vulnerable. Because force applied to the body passes through the skin, patterns of injury to the skin can provide clear signs of abuse. The skeletal manifestations of abuse include multiple fractures at different stages of healing, fractures of bones that are very rarely broken under normal circumstances, and characteristic fractures of the ribs and long bones.

The Shaken Infant

Shaking is a prevalent form of abuse seen in very young children. The majority of shaken children are less than 9 months old. Most perpetrators of such abuse are male, though this may be more a reflection of the fact that men, being on average stronger than women, tend to apply greater force, rather than that they are more prone than women to shake children. Intracranial haemorrhages, retinal haemorrhages and small "chip" fractures at the major joints of the child's extremities can result from very rapid shaking of an infant. They can also follow from a combination of shaking and the head hitting a surface. There is evidence that about one-third of severely shaken infants die and that the majority of the survivors suffer long-term consequences such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy or blindness.

The Battered Child

One of the syndromes of child abuse is the "battered child’". This term is generally applied to children showing repeated and devastating injury to the skin, skeletal system or nervous system. It includes children with multiple fractures of different ages, head trauma and severe visceral trauma, with evidence of repeated infliction. Fortunately, though the cases are tragic, this pattern is rare.

Sexual Abuse

Children may be brought to professional attention because of physical or behavioral concerns that, on further investigation, turn out to result from sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for children who have been sexually abused to exhibit symptoms of infection, genital injury, abdominal pain, constipation, chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections or behavioral problems. To be able to detect child sexual abuse requires a high index of suspicion and familiarity with the verbal, behavioral and physical indicators of abuse. Many children will disclose abuse to caregivers or others spontaneously, though there may also be indirect physical or behavioral signs.

Neglect

There exist many manifestations of child neglect, including non-compliance with health care recommendations, failure to seek appropriate health care, deprivation of food resulting in hunger, and the failure of a child physically to thrive. Other causes for concern include the exposure of children to drugs and inadequate protection from environmental dangers. In addition, abandonment, inadequate supervision, poor hygiene and being deprived of an education have all been considered as evidence of neglect.