Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Factors Influencing School Counselors' Suspecting and Reporting of Childhood Physical Abuse: Investigating Child, Parent, School, and Abuse Characteristics

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Factors Influencing School Counselors' Suspecting and Reporting of Childhood Physical Abuse: Investigating Child, Parent, School, and Abuse Characteristics

Article excerpt

Child maltreatment is defined as any act, or series of acts, by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2010). Childhood physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other acts of physical aggression against a child that is intentional and perpetuated with malice (American Humane Association [AHA], 2010).

The number of reported child abuse cases in the United States is overwhelming. For example, 124,544 cases of childhood physical abuse were reported in 2012 in the United States. Childhood physical abuse accounted for 18% of total reported child maltreatment, with children between 4 and 11 years of age accounting for 43.5% of all reported child abuse cases (US Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2013).

Consequences for Abused Children

Child maltreatment is a problem that affects children of all races, sexes, and socioeconomic statuses and has many negative consequences for those who have been affected. Childhood physical abuse often results in psychological problems for children, including both internalizing and externalizing disorders (Ericsson et al., 2010; Kaplow & Spatz-Widom, 2007). These children frequently experience low self-esteem and are at an increased risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems (Vandenberg & Marsh, 2009; Rodriguez, 2004). They experience these problems at school and are frequently disciplined for inappropriate behavior, leading to increased aggression and mental illness (Gershoff, 2002). Socially, abused children tend to perceive the neutral actions of others as hostile and threatening (Miller, 2014). They also tend to have difficulty understanding the perspectives of others and are less likely to identify other people's emotions as accurately as non-abused children (Pollak & Sinha, 2002; Jovanic et al., 2009; Berenson & Andersen, 2006). Furthermore, abused children demonstrate avoidant coping (Bal, Van Oost, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Crombez, 2003) and a number of poorer outcomes later in adulthood (Roberts, 2004). In terms of academic performance,

children who have been abused are affected in multiple ways (Slade & Wissow, 2007; Foster & Brooks-Gunn, 2009; Kaplow & Spatz-Widom, 2007). They display poorer academic performance (Slade & Wissow, 2007; Foster & Brooks-Gunn, 2009) and are less likely to graduate high school than non-abused children (Kaplow & Spatz-Widom, 2007). Children who have experienced childhood physical abuse are also at an increased risk for developing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as adults (Kaplow & Spatz-Widom, 2007; Twaite & Rodriguez-Srednicki, 2004).

Contributing Factors to Reporting Child Physical Abuse

Several studies have investigated individual, family, relational, and abuse characteristics of commonly reported child abuse cases (Annerback, Svedin, & Gustafsson, 2010; Flaherty et al., 2008; Jones et al., 2008; DHHS, 2012). In terms of individual characteristics, ethnicity plays a role in the reporting of childhood physical abuse. In the United States, African American children (21%), Hispanic children (21.8%), and Caucasian children (44%) experience the highest rates of reported childhood physical abuse (2012). Numerous studies have found that children from lower socioeconomic statuses experience higher levels of stress than peers from a higher socioeconomic background, corresponding to maternal mental health (Lupien, King, Meaney, & McEwen, 2000) and related to negative health implications for the child (Lupien et al., 2000; Chen, Fisher, Bacharier, & Strunk, 2003). Adults of a lower socioeconomic status also demonstrate higher levels of stress as measured through various physiological instruments, poorer health behaviors, and limited social connectedness (Cohen, Doyle, & Baum, 2006); this adds to the everyday stress that these families experience. …

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