It seems that with recognition of this as a form of abuse it has become a more prominent issue in our contemporary society, and as a consequence the increase in studies surrounding the effects of this abuse on the child in both current and future ventures has ensued. Hence, as our desire for a greater understanding of child abuse and its relationship with youth has increased and become prominent, it has now developed into one of the many prominent social problems of today.
One of the issues surrounding these youth are the “deviant culture” perceived by the media giving way to a stigmatized vision of the young and reckless (Deviant youth in the news: a critical discourse analysis of media and participant social constructions of a contemporary moral panic, 2011). Through out this essay the effects of this abuse will be researched in relation to these delinquent behaviors, as it seems that the older generations appear to have forgotten that it is them who educated the adolescence of today to hold the morals and social standards that are apparent in the youth culture of our society.
Child abuse can be seen as a social problem as it has adverse effects on communities and members of the community. At a personal level it increases the risk of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and can be associated with mental issues, social withdrawal, substance abuse and educational and employment deficiencies amongst youth and into later life (Parliment of Australia, Research Publications, 2010, Nov 22). This in turn creates a discontent in the community as members struggle to adhere to social norms and services are under pressure to meet the complex needs of these youth.
Almeida & Durkin describe domestic violence as “the patterned and repeated use of coercive and controlling behavior to limit, direct, and shape a partner’s thoughts, feelings and actions. An array of power and control tactics is used along a continuum in concert with one another. ” (Children, young people and domestic violence, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Issues, 2000). Research has found that sustained violent acts witnessed by a child constitutes as a form of child abuse as it constitutes both emotional and psychological abuse.
The estimates for children being a witness to theses acts of violence vary, however studies done by the Australian Bureau of Statistics established that 27% of children who had a caregiver that was the receiver of domestic violence acts by a current partner had witnessed some or most of the episodes, and the International Violence Against Women Survey has found that over one third reported that children in their care had witnessed domestic violence incident (Parliment of Australia, Research Publications, 2010, Nov 22).
More alarmingly research done on the Gold Coast states that the rates of children witnessing domestic violence is more probable to occur between the 85-90% range with the rate of the children themselves becoming victims around 50% (Domestic Violence and it’s impact on Children’s Development, 2002, Sep 24). To explain the lasting effects of this violence on a child’s development into a socially and culturally literate person, I will be applying the theory of symbolic interactionism with a special focus on the labeling theory put forward by Howard Becker.
Symbolic interactionism is based on the idea that symbols, such as gestures, speech and body language our way of influencing people, and it then looks at the way in which these interactions impact our society. Children living in an environment of constant fear develop certain characteristics that impact largely on their quality of life. As mentioned earlier, it has been found that children living in these environments have an increased chance of school difficulties, impaired cognitive function and re more susceptible to peer conflicts (Parliment of Australia, Research Publications, 2010, Nov 22). These difficulties in belonging within a set “moral norm” see the youth stigmatized and branded as the deviant. It must be acknowledged that the label of deviance can only arise in an interaction between two people, the one whom commits the act that the other views as deviant. In a study conducted with 110 high school freshmen in California, America, the link between social class and child maltreatment and maltreatment in relation to delinquency was studied.
Using subscales for physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect the research found a strong correlation between social class and maltreatment of the youth, particularly when the lower class identified themselves as so, and a positive correlation between neglect and emotional abuse to all forms of delinquency examined. This research enables us to ascertain that there are enough grounds to assume a correlation between child abuse and neglect and delinquent activities (Social Class, Child Maltreatment, and Delinquent Behavior, 1984).
This study developed the idea that many “delinquent” youth were struggling with abuse in their childhood and formative years. Although it is not a complete explanation of why they commit these socially deplorable acts, it does help to form our understanding of the backgrounds to which the acts are considered acceptable. Within the school community, teachers are given the charge of developing our young into acceptable members of the community in their formative years.
However, through this role and indeed their methods we can see a peculiar event in which it is the act of social control, through labeling that is employed by the teacher, actually creating the deviant. It is not to say that simply being called a deviant will turn you in to one, but under the correct conditions, it may result in the youth identifying as so. For this to work someone whom status has been rejected such as the pupil who does not value what a teacher thinks, must apply the label frequently and this label must have support by others and be used in a public nature (The process of schooling; a sociological reader.
Reactions to Labeling, 1976). It is this act of stigmatization, when a pupil feels as though they are being wrongly given a differential treatment such as being labeled merely because he has the reputation of coming from a “bad home”, that causes what is known as a conceptualization of deviance, where the pupil no longer sees himself as ordinary, but transforms his image of himself to that of the deviant and will most likely struggle to view himself as ordinary again.
It is through these methods of social control, and the impacts upon cognitive function, school difficulties and susceptibility to peer conflict that arouses from abuse and maltreatment that inhibits the receiver from functioning fully in a society, causing them to experience social withdrawal. The correlation between child abuse and deviance cannot be ignored.
This is not to say that all delinquent activities are preformed by those who have been weakened by the constant abuse, but rather that those activities which the maltreated youth take part in may be a way for them to express their discontent with what hand society has dealt them (Developmental Issues in the Impact of Child Maltreatment on later Delinquency and Drug use, 2002) It seems that it can not be simple enough to discipline the youth, or merely provide them with a respectable role model, but the charge must be taken to educate and prosecute if need be the adults who are committing these acts.
It is only then, when the focus is shifted from the over-representation of the delinquent youth to the harsh reality of the “messy” domestic violence situation that we will start to witness a change in both attitudes of the elder population towards the youth, and a drop in the reported “youth crimes”.