Essay: History and Effects of Child Abuse

history of childhood is not the brightest and purest page in the history of mankind. The more person immerses into this case, the more horrible picture he finds. During centuries children have been killed, beaten, sexually abused, rejected and terrorized by adults. Modern psychological theories insist on the fact that child abuse holds together families, as it’s a kind of solving emotional problems. A number of theories continue these ones and say that child abuse stimulates solving collective emotional problems of the whole society.

The first data that we can relate to child abuse are connected with ancient child sacrifice. At Carthage there was found a cemetery where were buried more then 20,000 children, this event dates back to 400-200 BC. Parents used to vow to kill their next child if gods would be gracious to them. Sometimes the parents had to kill their first child if the promised child wasn’t born alive. Such kind of sacrifice was a happy ritual with singing and dancing sometimes accompanied by the ritual rape of virgin girls. A similar ritual exists even nowadays in the Andean Mountains. Such kinds of rituals resemble satanic rituals where sexual abuse, rape and genital mutilation of children take place.

Child bodies were used to treat different illnesses. For instance, when someone wanted to be cured of leprosy, he had to kill the child and washed his body in child’s blood. The most effective remedy for impotence and depression used to be raping of virgin girls. If someone wanted to understand if previous owners of the house had died of plague, they made children live there for several days.

The cases of child abuse are officially documented in ancient Greece and Rome. Most girls were made marry to older man before puberty and it was accompanied by a special mystical ritual to determine if the girl was virgin. Boys very regularly were raped by their neighbors at the desire of their parents to speed up puberty of their sons.

Child abuse didn’t stop its existence in Christian times. Children were cruelly beaten to get rid of devils, which could be inside them. For this purpose was even invented panoply of beating instruments, which included iron rods, goads, whips and others. “The beatings described in the sources were almost always severe, involved bruising and bloodying of the body, began in infancy, were usually erotically tinged by being inflicted on bare parts of the body near the genitals and were a regular part of the child’s daily life.” (Lloyd deMause, 1982)

The first tracts that rose against child abuse appeared in the thirteenth century in the West. Giving children to monasteries for different uses was at last ended. These childhood reforms had their positive consequences. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries these changes didn’t stop and continued their development. It’s time where vast improvement in childrearing took place. In the seventeenth century children were not beaten to prevent them from sins and get rid of the devil. Now child abuse was used for different kinds of punishments. Children could spend hours in dark closets or stay without food for a day or even more. The situation began to improve a bit later but even at the beginning of the nineteenth century the cases of incest were very common. Different official kinds of punishment included violent beating and terrorizing.

What effects could have such physical and psychological punishments and tortures on children? A lot of children had had nightmares practically every night. The frequency of these nightmares reflected on the psychological state of children and as a result some children had nervous breakdown, convulsive fits, hallucinations, loss of speech, memory or hearing. Parents didn’t stop their tortures and even intensified them as they thought it was necessary for their children.

It goes without saying that child abuse leads to problems. Consequences can be not just physical injuries, child abuse easily effects the further psychical state.

Horrible suffering in childhood may lead to further emotional problems, problems with friends, relatives and communication as a whole. Negative effects of child abuse depends on many factors: the kind of abuse, the conditions under which the abuse occurred, the person who committed abuse, the frequency of abuse, whether violence was involved and others. Every case of child abuse is unique and so it’s practically impossible to determine common effects of child abuse. Every person suffered from abuse in his childhood has different combinations of risk and protective factors and so the influence of them is also different.

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Bibliography Lloyd deMause (1982). The Evolution of Childhood in his Foundations of Psychohistory. New York: Creative Roots.
 Lloyd deMause, The History of Child Assault. The Journal of Psychohistory 18(1990): 1-29.
 Foa, E.B., & Kozak, M.J. (1986). Emotional processing of fear: Exposure to corrective information. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 20–35.
 Mather C., Debye Kr., Wood J., Gill El., (1994). How long does it hurt? A guide to recovering from incest and sexual abuse for teenagers, their friends, and their families, Jossey-Bass.