The Theories of Child Abuse


It is worth noting that violence against a child often leads to the destruction of their personality, growth of child neglect, homelessness, and involvement of minors in criminal activity. It also results in growth in the number of mentally ill and dependent children as well as in an increase in child-teenage suicidal behavior (Jung et al., 2015). According to unofficial statistics (the official statistics on child abuse were tracked since the 1990s), more than 100,000 children run away from home each year, fleeing harassment and parental abuse. Every tenth child dies from beating; many abused minors commit suicide. Child abuse can occur in families of different socio-demographic levels (Jung et al., 2015). The complexity of the situation lies in the fact that physical violence always implies a psychological one that is difficult to identify, but which leads to long-term psychological problems. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the issue of child abuse based on two personality theories.

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Discussion of Theories

According to Jung’s theory, the psychological or physical violence of parents against children is based on their own psychological problems, which they try to solve at the expense of their children. According to his concept, a psychologically healthy and stable person will not abuse or harass another person (Burger, 2015). As a rule, an individual who has been tormented becomes a tormentor themselves (Syed, Cranshaw, & Nemeroff, 2020). The difficulty lies in the fact that an individual transfers their psychological problems to a child in various ways. For example, the methods by which an adult can achieve obedience may be diverse, ranging from psychological traps and manipulations to tactics of intimidation, humiliation, and torture. Raising a child in conditions when parents systematically humiliate and insult them, express disbelief in their strength and abilities, blame the child for failures, which leads to personality deformation. Often enough, the child grows up with the knowledge that they are bad and will fail at everything. In the future, a grown person reproduces the already learned patterns of behavior in their own life, which includes their communication with children.

Erickson’s theory partially supports Jung’s approach, but it also develops it to include a wider context. He argues that among the factors contributing to the abuse of children in the family is the incorrect upbringing of the child. The absence of the conscious influence of the parents on the child is particularly detrimental, although the educational function is one of the most important features of the family. Also, according to Erickson’s theory, the practice of family education is determined by the cultural and historical context in which the family exists (Burger, 2015). Consequently, parents apply such educational measures in relation to the child that reflects the cultural and social realities of the environment. If the culture provides for some conscious or unconscious forms of violence as an educational measure, then parents will use it in relation to their child.

Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that each family has a unique psychological structure of relations and a specific system of influences (Mathews, Pacella, Dunne, Simunovic, & Marston, 2020). The value of those is determined by an understanding of the laws and mechanisms of the social and psychological development of children (Briere, Runtz, Eadie, Bigras, & Godbout, 2017). Parents need to purposefully select methods and techniques of upbringing and then fill the interaction with their child with humanistic content.


Thus, it can be concluded that child abuse is a social issue, which remains unresolved but requires immediate attention from the side of society. According to Jung’s theory, child abuse roots in the parents’ childhood experiences in which they were abused as well and then employed a similar pattern of raising their children. According to Erickson’s approach, child abuse is a phenomenon, which reflects the practice and realities of the social, historical, and cultural environment in which the family is functioning. Nevertheless, it may be assumed that every family has its unique psychological structure, and child abuse may be the consequence of a multitude of factors.


Briere, J., Runtz, M., Eadie, E., Bigras, N., & Godbout, N. (2017). Disengaged parenting: Structural equation modeling with child abuse, insecure attachment, and adult symptomatology. Child Abuse & Neglect, 67, 260-270.

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Burger, J. M. (2015). Personality (9th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Jung, H., Herrenkohl, T. I., Lee, J. O., Hemphill, S. A., Heerde, J. A., & Skinner, M. L. (2015). Gendered pathways from child abuse to adult crime through internalizing and externalizing behaviors in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(18), 2724-2750.

Mathews, B., Pacella, R., Dunne, M. P., Simunovic, M., & Marston, C. (2020). Improving measurement of child abuse and neglect: A systematic review and analysis of national prevalence studies. PLOS ONE, 15(1), 1-22.

Syed, S. A., Cranshaw, M., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2019). Child abuse and neglect: Stress responsivity and resilience. In A. Chen (Ed.), Stress resilience: Molecular and behavioral aspects (pp. 181-196). New York, NY: Elsevier.

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