Why Do Parents Abuse Their Children?

Some may find it hard to believe why some parents abuse their children. Research has uncovered many reasons for this sad dilemma. Much to the surprise of many, mental illness only accounts for ten percent of child abuse cases. Lack of maturity and patience is the number one risk factor. Although these parents typically truly love their children, they cannot handle the stress of raising them and lash out instead.

Mother Scolding Child

Why Do Parents Abuse Their Children?

1. Victimized by Parents

Parents who abuse their children were often abused themselves when growing up by their own family members. Because of this, they do not necessarily see their actions as wrong. This is the way they were taught to raise kids. Study showed that if a parent was abused, there is a higher than 50 percent chance they will abuse their own. Tragically, the cycle is often hard to break and it goes on through several generations until someone realizes it is time to stop it.

2.  Having Unrealistic Expectations

Often when parents are expecting their first child, they dream about the perfect son or daughter who behaves all the time. They imagine a problem-free parent and child relationship, with no bumps in the road. As any parent can tell you, this is an illusion. By setting themselves up for failure with these unrealistic expectations, they increase their chances of abusing their children. When they experience disappointment, they can become very angry and lash out violently.

3.  Abusing Alcohol and Drugs

Why do parents abuse their children? Alcohol and drug addiction is often the culprit. These mind-altering substances can change an individual’s personality and perception to the point that they lose control and act out violently. Unfortunately, a child can be on the receiving end of this anger. It can be in the form of physical, emotional, mental or all three types of abuse. The parent may be perfectly normal when not high or drunk, but become violent when under the influence.

4.  Dealing with Mental Illness

When a person suffers from a mental illness, it can intensify the normal pressures of parenthood. A parent who must deal with depression, anxiety and bipolar symptoms have a hard time managing their own needs, let alone a child who needs their constant attention and guidance. However, there is help. Prescribed medication can often assist with the situation, allowing the parent to function as a good parent. The main step for this individual is to recognize and admit there is a problem. If they don’t, the risk for child abuse increases significantly.

5.  Raising Mentally or Physically-Challenged Children

Parents who have mentally or physically-challenged children are more likely to abuse their child due to burnout and stress. These children require a lot of attention, much more than a child without disabilities. Their condition may put a financial burden on the family as well. Sometimes a child, if the illness is severe, will have to remain with his parents for the rest of his life. The overwhelming stress of the situation can cause a parent to snap and become abusive.

6.  Caving into Social Stress

Families often fall into the trap of trying to keep up with others. This can result in bankruptcy and other financial hardships. Some families are born into poverty and fight to get out of it all the time. However, economic stress is not the only factor. Moving into a new house, the death of spouse, a new baby and other life-changing factors can cause social stress situations. No matter the cause, when things become unbearable a parent may lash out at their child.

7.  Isolated Socially and Culturally

Why do parents abuse their children? Studies have found that chances of neglect and abuse are higher in socially and culturally isolated individuals. Abusers often are not involved in their communities. This results in lack of support from others. They do not have friends or family to rely on, especially when they need help with their children. These parents also tend to lack the social skills it takes to be a fair and kind parent as their value system is different. Because of this, they may turn to child abuse as a form of discipline.

8.  Lacking Family Structure

When a family does not have a solid structure, chances of child abuse increases. Single-parents or divorcees are more likely to abuse their children than a traditional family setting. This has been partly attributed to the lack of support from a spouse. In the single head of household situation, all the burden is placed on one parent. Often, this can include both emotional and financial obstacles. Unfortunately, the stress level may become so high, a parent will take it out on their children through emotional or physical abuse.

Types of Child Abuse

When trying to understand "Why do parents abuse their children?" you need to recognize there are different forms of abuse. In fact, there are six primary types of child abuse, which includes:

  • Physical Abuse is when a child is assaulted physically. Types of actions may include hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing or any other actions that causes harm. It is a violent form of abuse that is found throughout the world and is a serious criminal offense in many countries. If a person is found guilty of physical abuse, he/she may face many years of imprisonment and/or counseling.
  • Emotional Abuse: The most common form of abuse against a child is emotional abuse. A child may be belittled, constantly put down, yelled at, mentally manipulated, and may also suffer other forms of psychological neglect. Symptoms in a child experiencing this type of abuse may be chronic unhappiness, inability to make friends, ghost pains, trouble in school and withdrawal from social situations.
  • Neglect: When a child does not receive the necessities to live – food, shelter and clothing – it is considered neglect. This also includes lack of mental and social support, which contributes greatly to the development of a child.
  • Sexual Abuse: When an adult forces a minor child to participate in acts of a sexual nature, it is considered sexual abuse. A child may exhibit signs of abuse, such as aggressive behavior, mood swings, suicidal thoughts or behavior and low self-esteem.
  • Organized Sexual Abuse: Tragically, organized sexual abuse affects many children. This type of abuse occurs when more than one adult is present during the horrid act. This can include child pornography, ritualistic ceremonies and sadistic acts of sex against a child.
  • Family Violence occurs when more than one family member participates in the abuse of a child. It usually involves parents, but it can also be made up of grandparents, uncles, aunts and other family members. The abusers often blame the child's actions for the abuse.
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