What Are the Common Causes of Child Abuse?

There are many factors that may lead to child abuse, and it is difficult to pinpoint just a few causes. There are, however, some issues that stand out as common causes of child abuse. Among them are stress, mental illness, past history of abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, and anger management problems. It is important to note, however, that a cause of abuse is not the same as an excuse for it. Determining the reasons behind this type of behavior does not render the abuser blameless.

One of the most common causes of child abuse is stress. People who are under a good deal of stress are often more likely to behave in unacceptable ways. While some people use coping skills or a support system to avoid harming others, it is common for a stressed-out individual to lash out at others; too often, the victim of such behavior is a child. For example, a parent who is overly stressed may hit a child when his frustration level builds beyond his control. This also may happen when a stressed-out parent is confronted with a small child who won’t stop crying and violently shakes him.


Mental illness is one of the possible causes of child abuse. An individual who is mentally ill often lacks some or all of his ability to think realistically and react appropriately to everyday situations. An individual with a mental illness may abuse a child when he is not thinking clearly because of depression or due to an episode of psychosis, which involves the loss of contact with reality. One type of mental illness, referred to as postpartum depression, sometimes leads to the abuse of a child by his mother.

While many victims of child abuse would never go on to repeat the behaviors that hurt them, this doesn’t apply to all former victims. Unfortunately, some adults who were victimized as children go on to abuse children as adults. Often, they repeat the cycle of abuse without meaning to. In fact, some of them feel helpless to stop. In other cases, however, a former victim of child abuse may become an abuser because of anger and other emotions that he finds difficult to control.

Often, drug or alcohol abuse is one of the causes of child abuse. People who abuse drugs and alcohol often behave in completely different manners than they do when they are sober. Some become violent while others become verbally abusive. Sometimes a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not abuse a child physically. Instead, he may abuse a child by neglecting his needs.



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