Prevention of Child Abuse

Causes of Child abuse

There are four primary causes as to why people harm their children: intergenerational transmission of violence, social stress, social isolation and low community involvement, and weak family structure.

Mental illness

Many child abusers were themselves victims of abuse. Mental illness and personality disorder or other severe forms of mental illness also make one an abuser.

Psychosocial factors

Parental choices and other unforeseen circumstances that place families under extraordinary stress ? for instance, poverty, divorce, sickness, disability, lack of parental skills and drugs are often associated to child maltreatment. Children in families that have a parent deployed in combat are also more likely to be victims of child maltreatment. Many of these factors may contribute to family stress that can result in child abuse or neglect.

Understanding the root causes of abuse can help better determine the best methods of prevention and treatment.

Effects of child abuse

Child abuse in its various forms has numerous effects and consequences, both tangible and intangible, upon society, those mistreated, and those entrusted with the responsibility of its detection, prevention and treatment. Child abuse can have dire consequences, during both childhood and adulthood. The effects of being abused as a child vary according to the severity of the abuse and the surrounding environment of the child. If the family or school environment is nurturing and supportive, the child will probably have a healthier outcome. Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect and physical abuse are at risk of developing psychiatric problems. Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.


Given these possible causes, most professionals agree that there are three levels of prevention services; primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention.

Primary prevention

Primary prevention consists of activities that are to begin at the community level. These activities are meant to impact families prior to any allegations of abuse and neglect. Primary prevention services include public education activities, parent education classes that are open to anyone in the community, and family support programs. Primary prevention can be difficult to measure because you are attempting to impact something before it happens, an unknown variable. Besides it requires energetic and experienced volunteers.

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention consists of activities targeted to families that have one or more risk factors including families with substance abuse, teen parents, parents of special need children, single parents, and low-income families. Secondary prevention services include parent education classes targeted for high-risk parents, respite care for parents of a child with a disability, or home visiting programs for new parents.

Tertiary prevention

These families have already demonstrated the need for intervention, with or without court supervision. Prevention supporters consider ‘tertiary prevention’ synonymous with treatment and entirely different from prevention through family support.


Treatment for those experiencing complex post-traumatic stress disorder, should address each dimension. Often treatment must be multi-modal. Children who have experienced complex trauma caused by chronic maltreatment can be treated effectively with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions. Children with attachment difficulties or disorders there are a number of recognized interventions.