How would it feel for parents and children to deal with severe life circumstances? The dual nature of child abuse

How would it feel for parents and children to deal with severe life circumstances? The dual nature of child abuse

In recent years, on a worldwide scale, child abuse has come to be considered a social issue.

*One out of four children in the world is the victim of physical abuse.

Global status report on violence prevention 2014

Source: Global status report on violence prevention 2014

*In North-America, there is a decreasing trend in child abuse, but it is still very common.

Child Trends Data Bank Child Maltreatment

Source: Child Trends Data Bank Child Maltreatment

* In North-America, 4 to 5 people die daily due to abuse or neglect.

Child Abuse Statistics & Facts

Source: Child Abuse Statistics & Facts

Japan is called a highly developed country which faces mostly modern issues, but child abuse is common in Japan as well. (The data described here is limited to reported cases. This means that cases of death as the result of undiscovered abuse, unreported abuse, cases where there was only suspicion toward abuse or cases of death that were covered up as an accident, are not included.)

*On a yearly basis, there are more than 50 cases of death due to abuse. This means that every week, one child loses its life to abuse.

オレンジリボン運動 子ども虐待について

*The main aggressor in child death cases: in about half of the cases the real mother

オレンジリボン運動 子ども虐待について

Source: オレンジリボン運動 子ども虐待について

This data is shown however in a way that it prioritizes children. Because children are always at the receiving end of the violence because they are powerless, their position is always emphasized. But if you would turn the lens for just a moment towards the parents, who find themselves under the weight of such situations that they even end up causing the death of their own child, what would you find out?

In order to banish child abuse out of existence, it’s not only necessary to support the children, but also the parents. Because parents are not aware, or insufficiently aware that they are the ones causing the problems, they end up realizing it only when it’s already too late. That’s why we would like to introduce the dual nature of child abuse.

1. The influence of abusive parents on their children

2. The influence of the abused children on the parents

The influence of abusive parents on their children

Child Abuse

First off, there are in total five types of child abuse. Of course, these types are often overlapping in reality.

– Physical abuse

– Sexual abuse

– Neglect

– Psychological abuse

– Exploitation

I have made a simple summary of the types of consequences these kinds of abuse have on children. There are three gross categories. Of course, the degree of the consequences differ, depending on the degree of abuse.

1. Big injuries. In the worst case, leading to death.

2. Decreased or delayed intellectual development.

3. Various psychological consequences.

For example: unstable personal relations, low self-esteem, aggressive or impulsive behavior, inability to feel at ease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adult behavior, memory loss, decreased awareness, etc.

Source: 厚生労働省 「子ども虐待対応の手引き 虐待の子どもへの影響(5ページ)」参考

* Abused children’s brain shrinks more than the brains of non-abused children.

書籍 児童虐待と傷ついていく脳 いやされない傷

Source: 書籍 児童虐待と傷ついていく脳 いやされない傷

* IQ decreases in children who are hit by their parents.

Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQs, New Research Finds

Source: Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQs, New Research Finds

* People who have been sexually abused as children, are more likely to get addicted to alcohol or drugs, or to develop psychological disorders.

Childhood Sex Abuse Increases Risk for Drug Dependence in Adult Women

Source: Childhood Sex Abuse Increases Risk for Drug Dependence in Adult Women

I believe you are now aware of the bad influences that abuse has on children. Now, if parents would be aware of these things, would they stop abusing their children? The problem is not so simple as that. Let us take a look at the parents’ side of things.

The influence of the abused children on the parents

Hard Child Care

Bringing up children is a very difficult job. There are parents who cannot bear the difficulties and end up resorting to abuse, while there are also parents who are somehow able to face the difficulties until the child has grown into an adult. In other words, abuse is not such a farfetched reality. Well then, which kinds of parents or environments tend to lead towards abuse?

*Note: We don’t mean to imply that if you don’t meet all these requirements, you should not have any children. This doesn’t describe all possible causes that could lead to abuse, and not all people that fall under these categories resort to abuse.

1. Risk factors regarding parents

1) Due to pregnancy, childbirth, childcare

2) Due to the parents themselves not being physically or psychologically healthy because of behavioral or psychological disorders

There are cases such as unwanted pregnancies or teen pregnancies where the pregnancy itself is difficult to accept.

And even if the pregnancy may have been intended, if problems occur during the pregnancy such as premature birth, these things might influence the acceptance towards the unborn child. If the mother has to spend long periods at the hospital during pregnancy or after childbirth, there are cases in which there is insufficient love attachment to the child.

There are also cases where the parent faces psychological unstable circumstances because of the pregnancy or childbirth such as maternity blues or depression after childbirth, or a parent with an impulsive or aggressive nature, or a parent with a psychological or intellectual disorder, a chronic illness, or addiction to alcohol or drugs. Especially if the parents are immature, anxiety and stress towards childcare can easily accumulate.

* In Japan, up to March 2013, the number of infants who died because of abuse across the whole country rose to 546 over a 10-year period. About 20% of this number (111 infants) died within 1 month of birth. About 70% of these cases were unwanted pregnancies.

産経ニュース、多い「望まない妊娠で実母が」虐待死、10年間に546人 厚労省

Source: 産経ニュース、多い「望まない妊娠で実母が」虐待死、10年間に546人 厚労省

* In North-America, about half of pregnancies are unwanted.

Unintended Pregnancy in the United States

Source: Unintended Pregnancy in the United States

* Rate of teen pregnancies in various countries

Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the US

Source: Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the US

2. Risk Factors regarding children

Infants, premature babies, handicapped babies, or children that have some kind of condition that makes childcare more difficult.

* The number one difficulty in childcare is “Inability to take time for yourself or time to sleep (42.3%).”


Source: 育児において、妻との関係で気を付けるべき5つのこと

3. Risk Factors regarding home (upbringing) environment

Unstable family situations such as single parent families including unmarried couples, de facto partners or a home with housemates, second marriage with children from the first marriage, married couples with interpersonal issues, families that repeatedly move to a new home, families that are isolated from relatives or local society, families with economical difficulties caused by repeated unemployment or job changes of the breadwinner, families with friction between husband and wife or families with violence between man and wife, etc.

* Situation of nuclear families of regions across Japan. Tokyo is number one.

Rate of Nuclear Families in Japan

Source: Rate of Nuclear Families in Japan

* In Japan, about half of families where abuse is discovered are welfare recipients


Source: 児童相談所が対応する虐待家族の特性分析~被虐待児及び家族背景に関する考察

* This chart shows to which there is protection for women in various countries. Women have most protected in the light green areas.

Wiki: Epidemiology of domestic violence

Source: Wiki: Epidemiology of domestic violence

Important points for the future

1. Blaming parents who abuse their children doesn’t solve the situation.

However tragic or cruel a situation of abuse, blaming the parents is never going to help the children to forget about the abuse, and it isn’t going to bring back the children who lost their lives. What’s important is to offer support to the mothers and fathers around us to make it easier for them to raise their children. We are all human beings, and no criminal is “ultimately evil”.

2. Children who suffered abuse can also become happy.

Having a lower self-esteem or lower intellectual capacity doesn’t mean that a person has be unhappy for his whole life. You cannot change an abusive past, but it can be highly influenced what kind of person someone will become in the future. First of all, it’s a matter of whether the person himself wants to be happy.

※参考資料: 厚生労働省 子ども虐待対応手引き 第2章 発生予防(日本語)

※参考資料: Child Welfare Factors That Contribute to Child Abuse and Neglect(English)

* If anyone has any other opinions or points concerning this issue, please let us know!