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Replace Child Abuse With Signs Of Love
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Victims of child abuse may not show physical evidence of their experiences, but other signs often are visible when positive parenting skills are lacking.
"Providing children with a warm, loving environment is one of the best ways to avoid certain inappropriate behaviors," said Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "While children need structure and boundaries, overreacting to their misbehavior or being overcritical can result in low self esteem, insecurity and other problems."
The Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers are preparing to launch their fourth annual blue ribbon campaign during National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April to draw attention to the problem of child abuse. Coordinated by the Extension Service, MHV members will distribute blue ribbons to wear on clothing lapels and to tie around car antennas as a symbol of a commitment to stop child abuse in Mississippi.
"Child abuse is more common than many people realize. Mississippi had about 18,389 unsubstantiated cases reported in 1999," Davis said. "About 3 million to 4 million American homes have reports of family violence. If each home has 2.5 children, that would be at least 7.5 million kids witnessing violent actions in their home environment."
Davis said children often act out behaviors they witness from adults.
"In the early years, children may be more aggressive with others by pushing or hitting, but as they get older, the violent tendency may lead to more serious criminal activity. Others may withdraw, become depressed and have problems paying attention in school," Davis said.
Child abuse may be physical violence, physical neglect, sexual abuse or emotional abuse. Physical abuse is intentional injury to a child by a parent or caregiver. Victims may be overly afraid of the adult's reaction to misbehavior. Physical neglect includes the failure to give the child adequate food, clothing or supervision. Sexual abuse ranges from nontouching offenses such as exhibitionism or pornography to fondling or intercourse.
Davis warned of a growing problem with emotionally neglected children. One study reported that the number of emotionally neglected children nearly tripled from 203,000 in 1986 to 585,000 in 1993.
"Children desperately need their parents to interact with them. Parents should talk with their child, and encourage new activities and opportunities to learn," Davis said. "In addition to making people aware of the problem of child abuse, we hope the Blue Ribbon Campaign will promote positive parenting skills through communication and self esteem building activities."
Other agencies supporting the Blue Ribbon Campaign include the Mississippi Girl Scouts, Mississippi's Department of Human Services and Heart and Hand, Inc., a Jackson-based nonprofit organization.