The devastating impact of child maltreatment on individuals, families, and society at large is well documented in empirical and clinical studies (Gilbert, 1994). Many serious long-term effects have been linked to child maltreatment, including mental retardation, intellectual and intelligence handicaps, impaired aggressive impulse control, diminished ego competency, reduced reality testing, and poor interpersonal relationships.
Child maltreatment results in increased antisocial activities. Maltreated aboriginal aboriginal children have more serious personal problems and engage in more antisocial activities and violence toward themselves and others (Hutchinson, Dattalo and Rodwell, 1994). When older, they end up in juvenile and adult correctional facilities at higher rates than aboriginal children from the general population. It is evident that child abuse and neglect is a problem that affects not only the individuals and families directly involved, but all sectors of society. Therefore, in order to deal with this problem, it is necessary for all professionals from all aspects of human ecology (individual, family, community, society, world) to become involved.
Aboriginal children throughout the world suffer an array of threats to their development, well-being, and survival (Lindsey, 1994). They suffer from poverty, famine, disease, and war. They suffer as they navigate the child-rearing practices and rites of their diverse cultures. And, they suffer from acts of omission or commission by their individual parents and caretakers. Parental behavior that compromises the development and survival of their offspring seems to contradict the biological and cultural dictates of rearing the next generation (Pecora et al, 1995). This enigma of human behavior demands consideration from a wider range of human cultural adaptation than that afforded by Western societies alone. This chapter will consider definitional issues that have been an impediment to cross-cultural research on child maltreatment. It will then turn to a review of current knowledge concerning categories of aboriginal children vulnerable to abuse, the relationship of kinship and social networks to child maltreatment, and the impact of urbanization and social change.
Child abuse is defined as any action (or lack of) which endangers or impairs a child's physical, psychological or emotional health and development. There are many factors that constitute child abuse (Pelton, 1989):
Physical Abuse - is any physical injury to a child which is not accidental. This involves severe beating, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation.
Emotional Abuse - is when a child is not nurtured and is not provided with love and security. This involves constant criticism, belittling and persistent teasing.
Sexual Abuse - is when the child is involved in any sexual activity with an adult. This involves fondling, exhibitionism, sexual intercourse, incest, pornography.
Neglect - is depriving a child of their essential needs. These include nutrition, clothing, warmth and shelter, emotional security and protection, medical and dental care, hygiene, education and supervision.
According to Campbell in 1999, a clinical doctor, every case of child abuse leads to permanent damage and great long-term suffering. It may also lead to psychological trauma. Caplan in 1994 defined psychological trauma as the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which: