Child Abuse

Child abuse is a widespread, pan-human fact; in any society where there are children, there will be child abuse. But, there is no real set definition of what child abuse is, and some behaviours which are acceptable in certain cultures are regarded as abusive in others. In this short essay, I will discuss some of the forms that child abuse can take, some ambiguous areas, and also some of the societal repercussions of abuse. What I want to suggest is that there are certain things that are, by any standards, abusive.

Child abuse can come in many forms, and also comes on a spectrum, depending on where and when the abuse occurs. For example, not so long ago, it was perfectly acceptable to use corporal punishment to discipline children, both at home and at school. It used to be ok, in other words, to hit a child, of any age. Now it is almost universally condemned, and if a teacher or parent hit a child, then they can be charged with abuse. Some things, such as continued physical and mental abuse, have always been considered as unacceptable.

The above paragraph refers, for the most part, to the developed world and to Western Europe in particular. It is still acceptable in many cultures to use corporal punishment, and just because we have passed through that phase, it is not acceptable to judge other nations going through the same stage of social development. Some countries, though do use practices which the world is starting to deem universally unacceptable. An example is female genital mutilation, which comes under the name of female circumcision. This practice is regarded, by most, as abusive and as a form of assault.

There do seem, then, to be generally accepted standards for what constitutes child abuse. This leads to the conclusion that there is the possibility of global international standards that can be put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of the world’s children, regardless of where they live.

There is, clearly, a problem called ‘child abuse’ that affects every country. However, there are many varying definitions and standards for what constitutes abuse. That said, it is obvious that certain behaviours, both physical and mental, clearly constitute abuse. It would make the world a better place to enshrine these standards in a universal bill, akin to the universal bill of human rights.


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