Child abuse cases in larger families: Why parents may pick on one child and who’s more at risk - Promises Healthcare

In recent times, the alarming rise in child abuse cases within larger families has raised important questions about why certain parents may single out one child for mistreatment. Experts interviewed by TODAY shed light on this troubling issue, suggesting that first-born children or stepchildren may be at a higher risk of abuse. The reasons behind parents picking on one particular child vary, with some experts pointing to a lack of affinity with the child or unrealistic expectations coupled with parental stressors.

While the number of investigations into child abuse cases has significantly increased, it is essential to recognize that the occurrence of child abuse is not solely determined by the size of the family. Instead, it results from an interplay of various factors, such as social support and the mental health of parents. In this regard, June Fong, a senior forensic psychologist at Promises Healthcare, emphasized that abusive behaviour can arise when parents find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting or stepparenting, leading them to resort to violent measures.

The article also addresses the so-called “Cinderella effect,” where stepchildren may face a higher risk of mistreatment compared to biological children, attributed to a lack of shared genetics and attachment from birth. However, experts caution that no single factor can entirely explain abuse, and it is crucial to consider the broader context in each case.

To combat child abuse and provide support to families, social service agencies offer various intervention strategies. These include more frequent check-ins with families facing risk factors, nationwide studies to reduce stressors, increased mental health awareness, and parenting education. Members of the community are also encouraged to be vigilant and report signs of abuse to protect vulnerable children.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) plays a pivotal role in preventing child abuse, offering family and parenting-related services and programs. Among them is the Positive Parenting Programme, equipping parents with techniques to promote psychological, social, and emotional competence in their children. Despite the best efforts of these initiatives, the reality remains that preventing all instances of abuse may be a complex challenge. Nonetheless, the focus remains on supporting families, addressing safety concerns, and ensuring a safe environment for children in need.

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