Child development can be defined as the psychological and biological changes that happen in children between birth and the end of adolescence (Minett 2001). Every child goes through a developmental process. Every child is unique and develops differently from all others. With the exception of identical twins, we all inherit our own particular genetic structure from our parents (Empson et al 2004); this forms the basis that there are biological roots for behaviour and development.  There are three main factors that affect the way a child grows and develops; their inherited genes, their environment, and their health (Minett 2001). The nature nurture debate concerns the influences of the environment a person is brought up in and those of genetics (Hard, Heyes 1987), most writers now agree that a combination of both factors make a person who they are. A child’s environment at home can effect their development. For example; where the child lives, who the child lives with, if the child is loved and wanted, the friends a child has, and whether a child is encouraged to learn (Minett 2001). How a child is raised by their family can influence how a child develops. Family’s beliefs and morals will create certain opportunities for a child but may remove or restrict others. However, which of these factors can shape the development of children in their first ten years, and how severe or long lasting may they be. With this in mind, two factors that can be considered are bereavement and sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse has no universal definition. However, a fundamental characteristic of child sexual abuse is the central position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity. If a child is below the age of consent, they may be deemed to have been sexually abused when a sexually mature person has become sexually gratified after engaging the child in any activity. Child abuse is not only limited to physical contact; another kind of sexual abuse is non-contact abuse. Non-contact abuse includes indecent exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography (Glaser, Frosh 1993).

It has been suggested by some writers that children and young people show sexually harmful behaviour as a direct response to their own sexual abuse (Finkelhor et al, 1986). This idea would clearly show that the development of a child is effected by sexual abuse, turning the abused into the abuser. It has been indicated by research that 50% of children and young people that have committed sexual abuse have themselves been the victims of abuse. This does not mean that all children who are sexually abused become abusers, children who have not been the victims of abuse can also develop this behaviour (Lovell, 2002).

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It has been suggested by clinical literature that sexual abuse during childhood can effect development to such a degree that serious problems in later life may occur, ranging from eating disorders to prostitution. Clinical observations that show children suffering negative emotional effects from childhood sexual abuse have been supported by several studies (Finkelhor et al,1986). This would indicate that although the abuse suffered is physical, it may have psychological effects on emotional development.

There may be physical and emotional changes in a child if they are being sexually abused. Physical signs of sexual abuse can be; sexually transmitted infections, genital ...

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