Child Abuse Detection, Reporting and Treatment > Chapter 10 -Treatment Issues with Abusive Parents

Chapter 10: Treatment Issues with Abusive Parents

In general, child abuse and neglect are treatable behaviors. Parents who have no medical or mental health issues that render them incapable of determining right from wrong usually don’t intentionally harm their children. Most child maltreatment occurs for the following reasons:

A) Lack of parenting skills; mostly associated with child neglect and inappropriate discipline.

B) Insufficient anger and stress management skills.

C) Poor impulse control.

D) Drug and alcohol abuse.

E) Cultural beliefs about appropriate parenting.

F) Denial that a parent’s actions were wrong; mostly associated with Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.

G) Parent(s) with personality traits or disorders that pose potential and actual harm of their children, i.e. the Anti-Social Personality Disorder, the Paranoid Personality Disorder, the Borderline Personality Disorder, and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Domestic violence counselors must first have a “teachable moment,” meaning that abusive and/or neglectful parents must acknowledge that their treatment of the “target” child is legally wrong and contradicts the morals and values of our society. Only then can the change process begin.

Case Vignette

“I’ve tried everything. I’ve taken away Gareth’s toys, no TV or games, he has to come home right after school, and he’s grounded most of the time. He still just does whatever he wants and laughs at me. Getting hit by his father is the only thing he understands, the only thing that will stop him. Either that or we don’t let him have supper. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve got other kids to look after, and he bugs them and hits him all the time, so I hit him, too, so he’ll know how it feels. Now my husband and I got reported to CPS and that’s making everything worse. Every time we try to discipline Gareth, he tells CPS that we’re abusing him and they believe him. He’s become a bully in our home.”


Designing and implementing a treatment plan with parents like Gareth’s is difficult, complex, and often lengthy. In essence, such children must be “re-parented” once parents learn the effective skills to do so. All children can be unruly, all children are needy, all children have discipline problems and problems with authority at times, and all children can try the patience of parents and caretakers. Thus, it is essential for parents to learn effective stress and anger management skills.

A comprehensive treatment plan for a family involved in child maltreatment not only addresses the ineffective and illegal behavior by the parent(s), but also addresses the special needs of the child, such as learning disabilities, ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, and the lingering effects of birth trauma and defects. Parents abuse and neglect their children for a reason; that reason involves both the parents and the child. Both must be involved in treatment. Whether a parent seeks help on his/her own or is court-ordered into treatment, child maltreatment is a family issue.

Medical personnel often are required to report to CPS and/or the courts about an abusive family’s progress, or lack of progress, and cooperation levels, and the prognosis about whether the abused child will ever, at some point, be able to re-integrate into the family safely. To avoid conflicting issues of confidentiality, physicians, nurses, therapists and any other profession who is working with the family should obtain written releases to disclose this information. Although all records as subject to subpoena, it is best to obtain a voluntary release of information to foster trust between all involved, and to convey the message that child maltreatment is a very serious problem that demands the full attention and compliance of the perpetrator(s).

 
Child Abuse Detection, Reporting and Treatment > Chapter 10 -Treatment Issues with Abusive Parents
Page Last Modified On: September 6, 2014, 10:04 PM