Resilience of Abused Children

Working with Abused Children

As the children sector focal, I get to be more acquainted with a lot of researches that dealt with children. One particular book that pique my interest was the Working with Abused Children from the Lenses of Resilience and Contextualization by Violeta Bautista, Aurorita Roldan, and Myra Garces-Bacsal. I listed down the salient points they pointed out in their book.

One of the biases of people is that abused children end up empty, dissociative, and difficult. It is to be expected, after all they had been subjected to physical and psychological injury, cruelty, neglect, sexual abuse, or exploitation. Making the betrayal even more deeper is the fact that, most often than not, the people closest to this children are the perpetrators of abuse. But there are those that, despite their harrowing experiences, surfaced as strong and resilient, shattering the conventional notion that children are fragile and helpless. From the narratives come resilience themes that speak of the children’s courage and capacity for regeneration.

Categories of Abuse

The book listed down several categories of abused children, and the Filipino context that brings about the proliferation of such abuses.

physicalPhysical abuse -Punitive child-rearing practices are fairly common among traditional Filipino families. Children are trained not to answer back or disobey their parents’ wishes or commands. Under these auspices, determining when parental behaviors are excessive, unwarranted, dangerous, and ultimately abusive became complex and difficult.

sexual child abuseSexual Abuse – Early orientation on sex is considered taboo. Parent underestimate children’s understanding of sexual matters. Male victimization is even more difficult to tell because of a greater stigma against boys who would speak up. The prevailing homophobia in society also help conceals the abuse of boys or the instances of incest between father and son, brother and son, etc. The prevailing culture of silence helps cloak the perpetrators of sexual abuse. Little support and understanding has also been available for children victims of sexual abuses.

street childStreet Child – In earlier days, children commonly spent their time playing in the street with their peers. But with the increase of poverty, people started making the streets their home and children started to eke out their living here. Street children need to be tough in order to function in this world and to survive. In dealing with street children, one should realize that it may be the child’s decision to live in the streets because they get to earn and they are not burdened with non-remunerative chores such as scrubbing houses, cleaning, taking care of the baby, etc.

child laborerChild Worker – Parents who were subjected to hard labor when they were young think that it is acceptable and even good for their kids to work like they did. Filipino parents tend to perceive their children as extensions of themselves and their personal property rather than individuala with rights. A working paper in Child Labor asserts that the attitude toward children as primary beneficial to family rather than beneficiaries begins at a very early age as producers and direct contributors to family income, especially among the poor.

However, following the same notion, some of the child workers willingly take jobs to show their gratitude to their parents and to contribute to the household’s income. They feel proud of the money they earn and it gives them importance in the family.

Effects of Abuse on Children

Abuse has a more pronounced effect on children because they have yet to mature physically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Abused children may exhibit developmental and intellectual deficits. They are detached, unemotional, and find it difficult to relate with others. They suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, persistent intrusive thoughts and images of the traumatic event and constant anxiety constantly haunts their lives.

Children who have been physically maltreated are more aggressive. They also turn their aggression inward by self-mutilation and bingeing on alcohol or substance abuse to purge their feelings of emptiness.

Children who survive sexual abuse are less trusting of those in their immediate environment. They also show increased sexual behavior. Their relationships become sexualized making them unable to relate to their peers realistically.

Given the profound impact of abuse for children, it is dumbfounding to find an abused child who remained optimistic, sane, and hopeful about life. What makes them more resilient than other children?

Find out in Part II of this post.


Working with Abused Children from the Lenses of Resilience and Contextualization is a book published by Save the Children Sweden, UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, and UP CIDS Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights Program in 2001.

All images taken from Google Images.


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