Understanding child abuse starts with having a better understanding of the core principles guiding child welfare: What children need, the overall environment they inhabit, how a child’s age affects their vulnerability, how belief, perception, and other psychological factors play a role, how they can be vicariously injured, and how these different variable come together to determine how children are impacted by different types of maltreatment.

Child abuse isn’t solely about what people do. It’s about the broader environment kids inhabit. Even our definitions of abuse and what we consider to be harmful or wrong, which many people assume to be written in stone, is to a large part determined by the culture we inhabit and the ideas being promoted. For example, it’s not considered abusive, only a bit extreme, to force a child to play the piano for hours on end until her fingers bleed (since this aligns with our culture’s emphasis on achievement), whereas other far more mild and benign situations are viewed as abusive.

Understanding Child Abuse

The information in this area will lay down some important background information that will help you better see the bigger picture when it comes to child abuse and maltreatment: