Child abuse is unfortunately a very common problem. More than 3 million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in the US each year.
The effects of child abuse and neglect are far reaching, including emotional, physical, and interpersonal problems that can last a lifetime. The ACE study (Adverse Childhood Events) is an ongoing prospective study of Southern California Kaiser patients, with tens of thousands of records now on file. Multiple adult medical problems have been shown to be directly related to the number of adverse childhood events.
In a report from 1997 from the CDC, the United States had the highest child homicide, suicide and firearms-related deaths of 26 developed countries.
Children who grow up with violence learn that violence is an acceptable way to relieve stress, get what they want, and interact with the world and the people they love. They then incorporate these attitudes and values into their relationships as they grow up.
Besides becoming victims of abuse themselves, children are also adversely affected by witnessing domestic violence. This includes not only the actual episodes of verbal or physical abuse, but the accompanying atmosphere of isolation, fear and intimidation.
Bringing the discussion of this problem out into the open during pediatric visits can help families understand the impact of abuse and violence in the home. This discussion can help break the cycle of abuse from one generation to the next.