Child Abuse As a Result of Drug and Alcohol Use

Child abuse as in occurs during the stages of pregnancy

Child abuse in any form is unacceptable. The damage that has been inflicted on innocent children over the years has become a personal concern of mine, which has influenced me to research this topic. There are many aspects of child abuse. However my main focus is on the damage brought about by the use of alcohol and drugs, more specifically cocaine, by the parents and/or guardian. Other factors involved in child abuse are drug and alcohol intake and how it is affecting the drinker, how it relates to the parents background and why this abuse is happening.

The Massachusetts law states that any child under the age of 18 who is being mistreated by parents or guardians causing the child to be harmed or threatened mentally, physically or sexually as well as being neglect and maltreated is considered to be abused. In the Boston Herald 11/17/1993 an article on child abuse spoke of another law being passed, the house lawmakers have just presented a bill making child abuse a crime, the bill stated “that whoever causes bodily injury to a child under 14 can be punished by up to five years in state prison, and up to fifteen years for causing substantial bodily injury. (Eric Fehrnstorm)”

The effects of child maltreatment can be a number of physical injuries, such as fractures, or internal injuries; a damaged central nervous system resulting in mental retardation, seizures, cerebral palsy, hearing and visual damage, as well as learning difficulties. The victim’s physical healthy becomes more susceptible to emotional distress. These children may become anemic, have learning disabilities, and exhaust very easily.

Their weight gain becomes very poor; they have an insufficient protein intake, hearing problems, and are below average height for their age. Many of these children also suffer from psychological damage such as learning problems, impairment of ego functioning, traumatic reactions with acute anxiety behavior, and lack of trust.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008-- Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill to reform the state’s child welfare system. Among the highlights of the bill are increased penalties for mandated reporters who fail to report abuse.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The clinical term used to categorize the learning disabilities and physical malformations of these children is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is brought about by the heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy. The consumption of alcohol is excessive amounts is a potent cause of malformation to the fetus, which can suffer irreversible damage to the body and into the brain development. This type of damage produced by drinking occurs in the fetus stage of development.

The main malformations caused from drinking during pregnancy are characteristic facial features such as small heads, flat faces, small eyes with drooping eyelids, crossed eyes, narrow upper lip, and small chin. Other malformations are heart murmurs, and posterior rotation of the ears. However not all the children with fetal alcohol syndrome have distorted facial features. Some of the children suffer from growth deficiencies such as mental retardation and psychological aspects; hyperactivity, short attention span, sleep disturbances, and irritability. Irritability and the tremors in infants may be symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol. “In 1978 streissguth and co-workers reported that many children with F.A.S. were described as fidgety with short attention spans.” “In 1980 Shaywity and associates found that 15 children with F.A.S. whose mothers were moderate drinkers were found at four years of age to be less attentive, less compliant with parental commands, and more fidgety at meals with other children than the occasional non-drinkers.” Sleep disturbances in infants are also associated with alcohol exposure… Children diagnosed with F.A.S. but who have mother’s who were heavy drinkers have been reported to sleep less, to wake more often, and to be more restless.

Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome

As devastating as the effects of alcohol are the use of drugs more specifically cocaine is just as damaging. I was told by my sister that her using cocaine was not going to do any harm to her unborn child, because she used it during her first pregnancy and nothing’s the matter with her daughter. My research will prove what I’ve told her all along; it may not show up that first moment of the child’s life but it will somewhere down the road. Exposure to cocaine is referred to as neo-natal abstinence syndrome. Cocaine is a mental addiction unlike alcohol.

The effects that can happen from exposure to cocaine include retarded growth, neurological abnormalities, and strokes, but cocaine exposed babies are more likely to die before birth or be born prematurely with a greater risk of crib death, dying in their sleep.

Chemicals in the mother’s blood stream do not cause malformation once the second month of the fetal stage, has begun. Therefore if one is a user the damage tends to be done before they are aware of their condition. According to Brody the worst affects that happen to the fetus occur during the first three months. Cocaine tends to reduce the placenta’s ability to get oxygen, it causes a reduced placental blood flow, but the cocaine can also cause an increase in fetal blood pressure causing the child to have a stroke. It take on hit of “coke” to cause the baby to have a stroke, where the baby’s heart rate rises dramatically and remains elevated for hours.

The central Nervous system abnormalities have included the jitters and tremors in infancy, weak sucking, slow mental and motor development, hyperactivity, and mental retardation. The neurological problems that exist interfere with a wholesome attachment between mother and child. In cases like this the mothers have abused their children, “the baby tends to shut the mother out and becomes very irritable when she tries to attend to his needs, the mother then becomes withdrawn from the infant and resents him for not returning her attention. (Brody)”

Due to the affects of the drug when entering the placenta infants tend to be abnormally small at birth with a smaller head and brain. They also face a chance of growth deformities of the genitals and urinary organs as well as having a kidney malformation.

Although drugs can hurt a baby, exposure to crack prenatal does not always cause permanent damage. With good patenting and a good pre-school they are likely to be normal infants. The bad news is that the label pinned on crack babies does not give them a good social environment.

The abusing parent’s profile

Many abusing parents are suffering from various degrees of physical and social retardation. In some individuals there are severe personality disorders. Abusive men who repeatedly and cruelly injure their children are best described as sociopaths. The mistreatment of the child is not always in a general pattern and is often fro no apparent reason except that the child is there for him to release his aggression. These abusers may pinch, slap, or punch a baby each time they see it or go by its crib. Often these men are abusive to their wife or mistresses, they pas bad checks, and have frequent run ins with the law. They may also be clever liars and manipulative. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is often the leading cause of this action.

Fathers rarely kill their children but when they do it’s usually their teenage son. These men who kill are generally frustrated by life and feel inferior to others. It’s not often that a child is killed by this type of abuser, but when it happens the abuser shows no remorse, denies the possibility that his actions were the cause of the death. He will actually accuse his wife or other people, or assume that the child had an illness.

Women who kill tier infants or young children are generally suffering from depression. Before a woman kills she generalizes abut the crime and how the dead will appear.

Effects on the children

The alcoholic or drug abuser believes that his or her actions do not affect anyone but himself. There is a genetic inheritance of alcoholism and cocaine addiction. The vulnerability not only to the alcoholism and cocaine addiction appears to be greater among people who come from families with alcohol or drug problems. People whose parents or siblings had a serious problem with alcohol have reason to be extra careful of their own drinking habits. “when dealing with a group of hospitalized alcoholic, it was estimated tat 50% of their male relatives; fathers, brothers, and sons, may develop alcoholism (Heinemann, 23)” Although they say alcoholism is inherited I believe if you have the facts about the disease and if you see how it’s affecting that person you won’t go to far with the drinking, because you’re afraid of what will happen down the road. “of 32 half siblings who were alcoholism as adults 62% had an alcoholic biological parent, where as only 20% of the 132 half siblings were not alcoholics as adults had an alcoholic biological parent… in this case study you are shown that being raised by alcoholic parents was not influential in the prediction of alcoholism in the half siblings (Heinemann, 26).”

Some of the main factors present in child abusive homes are financial difficulties, parental background and psychological maladjustments; usually the escalation of drinking practices occurs during periods of increased stress. From my own personal knowledge as well as from the reading of books I’ve found that when drinking to alleviate stress you take enough alcohol to make you feel numb, able to forget your problems and also to sleep easily. When theses stressful periods subside you will continue to drink at this level. Your problem is now just beginning because once you become stressed out again you have to increase your amount of alcohol in order for it to have some effect on you. This cycle often continues and once you realize you have a problem you don’t know how to stop.

Alcohol and drugs affects the person in different way. With alcohol the person has a problem with physical healthy, safety, and comfort. Secondly they suffer from psychological damage, and finally there is a loss and destruction of the things they love the most in life; relationship, potential careers and achievement. My relatives drink more than they need to so to me they are alcoholics including my father. Through out my young adult life when a problem would arise I never would talk about how things were affecting me, but when they got so serious that I needed medical attention it was time to tell my father that his attitude and his drinking was the cause of my problem. Of course when I told him this he looked at me like I was crazy, said it was my mother’s doing or it was just all in my mind.

The use of cocaine is the instill feeling of self confidence and self control while simultaneously eliminating feelings of boredom and emptiness. The personality dysfunction in relations to drug and alcohol are a direct cause of both physical events and the experience of being alcoholic partially obscure the original personality, which will reemerge when the alcoholism is treated. The common personality dysfunctions are impulsive, self-centered, regression, irritability, and the defensive system based on primitive denial, rationalization, and protection.

If you find you are having a problem with substance abuse don’t take it out on your children look to them from strength and call to get help, there are places out there for you.

In conclusion I feel that if your going to have a child be good to it from the start. There is so much joy in being pregnant and having a child. If you feel the need to destroy your life with drugs and alcohol do not bring a child into it, the child did not ask to be brought into this worked so why should they suffer from the way you choose to life your life?

Drugs and alcohol can be addictive but if you have people who are willing to help you can over come anything. The thought of having a child can also change a person's out look on life and give him the will power to do more. But you also have to look at those people who say they are going to help but n reality they want you to stay at the bottom with them.

In closing I’m directing my research to my sister and cousin. I feel she has already done damage to this child she is carrying but someone just might give her the chance to be a good mother to this child and if damage does occur she’ll finally realize drugs can hurt even if you don’t think so. And don’t let any one influence you other wise.

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Charm Stevenson
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Posted on May 10, 2010