Child Abuse Effects and Neglect on Adult Survivors

Abstract

Child abuse refers to actions that lead to a child being neglected, physically hurt or emotionally disturbed. Failure to recognize abusive behaviour towards children exposes them to danger. Some of the factors that make adult survivors be violent include mental illnesses, serious financial problems and ignorance, among others. Child abuse and neglect have detrimental effects on an individual’s ability to live a comfortable life. Adult survivors of child abuse experience emotional instability characterized by notions of anxiety, sorrow, sadness, alienation, shame, self-blame, guilt, and hopelessness. Psychologists argue that abused children should find help as soon as a violation occurs. This allows them to heal, move on and deal with the effects of their ordeals in an efficient way.

Introduction

Cases of child abuse are very prevalent in most societies. They involve parents, guardians and care providers who maltreat children under their care (Jenny, 2010). Examples of child abuse include parental neglect, physical injuries and emotional distress. Physical injuries are the most common type of child maltreatment because of visible scars. Neglect is also a type of abuse because ignoring a child’s needs causes emotional torture. Children rely a lot on their parents, guardians and care providers for love and security (Peterson, 2003). Emotional abuse happens when children are made to feel unaccepted, worthless or stupid.

Bullying, humiliation, denigration, and lack of physical affection also cause emotional distress to a minor. Failure to prevent abusive behaviour towards children and to neglect an abused child influences on an individual’s ability to lead a comfortable life. The reason for this is that they lose faith in people (Oliver, 1993). Studies have shown that people who are abused and neglected in their childhood have a higher probability of becoming violent in their adulthood. Parents and guardians have a duty to protect their kids from the effects of abuse by ensuring that they provide them with help as soon as possible.

Review of literature

Children are at a higher risk of being maltreated and neglected if one or both of their parents experienced the same during their childhood. Cases of child abuse and neglect are very prevalent in most societies. This review of the literature focuses on establishing existing trends regarding child abuse and neglect. In their article, Dixon, Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis (2005) focused on examining the effects that child abuse and neglect has on adult survivors. The methodologies used to collect data for the study engaged various families who were visited by health workers within the first thirteen months of having a newborn baby.

They collected data from 4351 families. One hundred thirty-five of these families had a parent with a history of child abuse, while the rest did not have anyone with a history of child maltreatment. Dixon et al. (2005) found out that child abuse and neglect affects the emotional, social, mental, as well as the physical development of an individual. A child that experiences abuse and neglect is likely to be violent in their adulthood because the scars from their ordeals were never deleted. Dixon et al. (2005) established that within the first year following the birth of a child, 6.7% of families with a history of child maltreatment reported cases of child abuse. This was much higher than the 4% of families that did not have a history of child maltreatment who reported to have abused a child

Further research on this topic tried to establish factors that influence the intergenerational transmission of child abuse. In his article, Oliver, J.E. (1993) identified some of the factors that predispose adult survivors of child abuse to violent behaviour. They included conditions such as depression, past experiences and serious financial problems. Oliver, J.E. (1993) also tried to establish whether there were certain myths that contributed to the continued transmission of child maltreatment through various generations. The study established a number of myths regarding child maltreatment and neglect. The first myth says that child abuse involves only the activities that harm a child physically. Oliver, J.E. (1993) found out that child abuse involves activities that lead to a child being neglected, physically hurt or emotionally disturbed.

The second myth states that children are only vulnerable to abuse from bad people around them. According to Oliver, J.E. (1993), not everyone abuses a child intentionally. Nevertheless, the most trusted and respectable people involved in a child’s life are often the main abusers. According to the third myth, child abuse and neglect only happen in unstable families. Oliver, J.E. (1993) discovered that children in both stable and unstable families are equally vulnerable to abuse.

According to the fourth myth, strangers are the main abusers of children. Oliver, J.E. (1993) established that children are most vulnerable to abuse from their parents, guardians and close family members. The fifth myth states that child abuse survivors often develop an abusive cycle that makes them violent towards others. In his article, Oliver, J.E. (1993) argues that adult survivors of child abuse have a higher probability of duplicating the actions they felt in their childhood on others.

Effects of child maltreatment on adult survivors

Child maltreatment and neglect have detrimental effects on an individual’s ability to live comfortably and grow into responsible people in society. Child abuse affects the mental, physical and emotional evolution of an individual (Foster, 2008). Victims of child abuse experience difficulties forming reliable relationships with people because they do not trust them. Adult survivors of child abuse suffer emotional instability characterized by notions of anxiety, sorrow, sadness, alienation, shame, self-blame, guilt, and hopelessness (Esaki, 2008). They suffer these feelings throughout their lives and even resort to various habitual behaviours as a strategy to modulate their emotions. Examples of such irrational behaviours that the survivors engaged in included gambling, irresponsible sex and drug abuse, among others (Thornberry, Knight, & Lovegrove, 2012). Adult survivors who engage in these actions tend to be violent towards others, especially towards their children and partner (Melton & Barry, 2001).

Psychologists argue that an abused child should find help as soon as they go through an ordeal. This helps a lot in healing and dealing with the impacts of their ordeals in an efficient manner (Oliver, 1993). An adult survivor of child abuse has a higher probability of abusing their kids. This occurs because of the pain and anger they feel. Male survivors are likely to abuse others compared to their female counterparts. Chances of adult survivors being abusive are higher in cases where the violator was of the opposite sex (Melton & Barry, 2001). The victims grow with the notion of being inferior and develop a desire to victimize others because they think it will make them feel better. This feeling often develops when levels of self-esteem are very low in a family. Adult survivors of child abuse tend to feel unworthy and guilty of whatever they experienced (Crosson-Tower, 2013). This makes it hard for them to admit when abused and even have the courage to seek help in managing the effects of an ordeal. It is very hard to prevent the development of violent behaviour in cases where a parent, guardian or any other adult a child trusted very becomes the abuser (Thornberry et al., 2012).

Risk factors associated with intergenerational transmission of maltreatment

A number of factors encourage the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment. These factors predispose adult survivors to a higher risk of reciprocating their experiences of childhood in their lives with those around them (Esaki, 2008). People who experience maltreatment and neglect in their childhood have a higher probability of violating their partner and close family members. Certain factors increase the intensity of intergenerational transmission of child abuse and neglect. One of the risk factors is the past experiences of maltreatment. Children in households where at least one parent has been mistreated as a child have a higher probability of suffering from physical abuse, emotional distress or neglect (Dixon et al., 2005). Other risk factors include young parenting, depression and violent tendencies by one or both parents.

Parents aged 21 years and below have a higher risk of abusing their children. Households where one or both parents had a past of treatment for mental illness often have children suffering from abuse. The situation is similar in families where one or both parents suffered a story of violent behaviour (Dixon et al., 2005).

Factors such as serious financial problems, single parenthood, and ignorance also contribute to the intergenerational transmission of child abuse (Dixon et al., 2005). Financial problems in homes increase the risk of adult survivors being violent towards their spouses and children because they experience the pressure of not being able to provide for family needs. According to psychologists, single parents are at a higher risk of abusing their own children because of too many responsibilities, especially if they also grew up in such a family (Dixon et al., 2005). Numerous strategies apply to reduce the frequency of child maltreatment.

One of the strategies used in promoting interaction between children and their parents. This strategy has been very effective because it provides therapeutic benefits to both parties. Parents often get an opportunity to speak to their kids about their safety and expectations in terms of staying away from abusers. On the other hand, children get a chance to share with their parents about what they feel regarding their experiences (Thomas & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2012). Another intervention strategy that has been very effective is seeking professional help from psychologists and therapists.

Conclusion

Child abuse involves activities that lead to a child being neglected, physically injured, and emotionally disturbed. Recognizing, reporting and preventing child abuse can be an efficient strategy for reducing its prevalence and transmission through generations. Providing timely care and effective handling of an abused child plays a crucial part in their maturity, especially in their mental, social, physical and emotional aspects. Timely provision of help to an abused child plays a crucial role in the healing process. They are able to move on and reduce the possibility of developing an abusive cycle. Research shows that people who experience abuse and neglect in their childhood have a higher risk of being abusive in their adulthood. Risk factors such as underage parenting, depression, history of violence, serious financial problems and ignorance contribute a great deal to the intergenerational transmission of child abuse.

References

Crosson-Tower, C. (2013). Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. New York: Pearson Education. Web.

Dixon, L., Browne, K., & Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. (2005). Risk factors of parents abused as children: A mediational analysis of the intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment (Part 1). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(1), 47-57. Web.

Esaki, N. (2008). The Effect of Maternal Childhood Abuse on Parenting Attitude and Behavior. San Francisco: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Foster, R.E. (2008). A Typology for Families at Risk for Child Maltreatment. New York: Pro Quest. Web.

Jenny, C. (2010). Child abuse and Neglect: Diagnosis, Treatment and Evidence. New Jersey: Elsevier Health Sciences. Web.

Melton, G.B., & Barry, F.D. (2001). Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect: Foundations for a New National Strategy. California: Guilford Press. Web.

Oliver, J.E. (1993). Intergenerational transmission of child abuse: Rates, research, and clinical implications. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(9), 1315-1324. Web.

Peterson, M.S. (2003). The Role of Mental Health Professionals in the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. New Jersey: DIANE Publishing. Web.

Thomas, R. & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2012). Parent–Child Interaction Therapy: An evidence-based treatment for child maltreatment. Child Maltreatment, 17(3), 253-266. Web.

Thornberry. P., Knight, K. E., & Lovegrove, P. J. (2012). Does maltreatment beget maltreatment? A systematic review of the intergenerational literature. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 13(3), 135-152. Web.