Negative Effects of Child Abuse

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1710
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: School


Parents, in ideal circumstances, protect young kids and adolescents from distress and act as co-regulators of morphology and physiology. Children brought up by such caregivers progressively develop these regulating skills over time. As a result, they often start school with well-regulated behavioral, psychological, and physiological states, which prepares them for the demands of reading, writing, and peer interaction. Unfortunately, for certain kids, parents are unable to fill the roles of cushion and co-regulators efficiently. When adolescents have guardians who are incapable of mitigating anxiety or acting as co-regulators, they become subject to the vagaries of a challenging environment. While children may manage adequately with moderate to severe stress when aided by a caregiver, situations that surpass their productive capacities can have negative short- or long-term implications. The potentially catastrophic and widespread repercussions of child maltreatment highlight the critical need for investigation to illuminate the innumerable mechanisms by which these adverse outcomes emerge to guide new diagnostic and therapeutic efforts. This paper aims at discussing the short and long-term adverse effects associated with child abuse.

Children who have been abused are consequently more likely to face various negative cognitive, physical, and psychological health consequences, including learning difficulties such as inattention and intellectual functioning deficiencies. Additionally, they experience peer-rejection issues, understanding indicators such as severe despondency and dejection, and exacerbating behaviors such as antisocial personality disorder, behavioral problems, and violence, as well as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These children are likely to be at an elevated risk of developing mental problems, substance abuse, primary physical conditions, and decreased economic output as grownups.

Impacts of Child Abuse

Child abuse affects neurobiological development, intellectual, psychosocial, and behavioral functioning, and children’s health throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, those effects that are long-term and manifest themselves at adulthood and adolescent periods of the kids are also highlighted within the essay. They include aggression and incarceration in early adolescent age and induction in sexual behaviors. In enumerating the impacts of child abuse on children, the essay discusses them under the following subheadings as explained herein.

Neurobiological effects

A sufficient parent is required to support children’s developing brain structure and their developing capacity to control their conduct, feelings, and physiology. When kids are abused, their advancement can be jeopardized. Child maltreatment has a pronounced impact on brain zones that require environmental insight for proper functioning and on elements of performance that are particularly vulnerable to external input. Infants are wholly reliant on their caretakers for assistance in controlling stimulation, neuroendocrine mechanism, temperature, and other critical functions during the early stages of development. Abuse denotes the existence of potentially harmful input that can endanger growth.

The following review presents an overview of the evidence regarding the critical neurobiological frameworks that are significantly affected due to early childhood abuse. The hippocampus is critical for knowledge acquisition and memory consolidation and, like the amygdala, quickly develops during the first years of living. Early in life, the hippocampus seems to be highly susceptible to anxiety. It is involved in attenuating the HPA axis reactions to stressful situations, as cortisol attachment to hippocampal neurotransmitters acts to switch off the HPA axis sensitivity. Abuse-related harm to the hippocampus can have a detrimental effect on regulating stress hormones and memory formation.

Effects on Intellectual, Psychosocial, and Behavioral Functioning

There is a lengthy background of a study examining the consequences of child maltreatment on cognitive function. First, child abuse impacts the prefrontal cortex, a brain area primarily engaged in executive performance. Executive processing alludes to greater-order cognitive systems that help in the surveillance and regulation of emotions and conduct. Considered executive control include retaining knowledge in working memory, managing emotions, organizing, sustaining attention despite the interruption, and dynamically changing attention to attain objectives. Children who suffer abuse seem to be more at danger for deficiencies in cognitive performance, which have consequences for behavioral management. Focusing impairments are one of the most apparent deficits reported in children who have experienced severe early trauma.

Second, abuse enhances a child’s likelihood of developing scholastic difficulties. Numerous studies indicate that the distinction between abuse and neglect is significant, with abuse being a significant predictor of academic failure (Zeanah and Kathryn 635). By and large, researches indicate that child abuse is associated with academic difficulties. According to Zeanah and Kathryn, child maltreatment and neglect substantially influenced learning skills, Intelligence quotient, and academic accomplishment (640). For example, 42% of abused children finished high school, compared to two-thirds of the comparable reference category (Zeanah and Kathryn 641). In addition, Zeanah and Kathryn found out that the average IQ rating of mistreated and abandoned children was around one standard deviation lower than the average for the comparison group (641). Therefore, early child abuse has a detrimental impact on the academic achievement of such students.

Lastly, considering that child victimization is a social event that erodes children’s capacity to trust guardians due to parents’ terrifying nature, it’s natural that children who have experienced mistreatment are at threat of interpersonal issues. At the most fundamental level, children’s capacity to build trustworthy bonds with their caregivers is impaired. Understanding conditions such as anxiety and sadness are problematic, as are externalizing indicators such as developmental disorder and substance abuse. Children form stable ties to adults who respond to their suffering.

Frequently, children create insecure connections when their parents are inattentive or unpredictable, but not terrifying or weird. Safe, avoidant, and resistive relationships are considered structured bonding techniques because they are structured around the guardian’s responsiveness and provide a pattern for managing discomfort for the kid. On the other hand, disorganized interaction indicates a collapse of strategy for coping with suffering in the caregiver’s company. Disorganized bonds are the most detrimental to children’s results. Compared to organized connectedness, disorganized connections are the most indicative of long-term issues, particularly externalizing manifestations.

Health Outcomes

Child maltreatment has a range of adverse health consequences, ranging from development to sickness. Childhood maltreatment has been associated with various types of physical sickness and markers of physical health concerns (Lanier et al. 290). For example, adolescents who have experienced childhood mistreatment have a poorer opinion of their health than their low-risk classmates (Lanier et al. 290). Similarly, people who had been mistreated or abandoned as children reported experiencing higher gastrointestinal issues (Lanier et al. 290). The findings made by Lanier et al. suggest that individuals who reported repeated bad childhood encounters were at an increased risk of developing a liver illness, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease (290). Childhood maltreatment, in its most severe manifestations, is connected with stunted development.

Children who live in institutional settings or are adopted from very abusive institutional settings frequently have significantly retarded height and head size development. Baptista et al. discovered that children put in foster families between the ages of 24 and 48 months were considerably shorter in height, body weight, and head circumference than typically developing ones (720). Conversely, Johnson discovered that most students who entered foster homes had an unusual physical screening involving at least one bodily function and were, on aggregate, smaller and weighed less than comparison infants (60). Satisfactory motor growth is frequently impeded in children who have been left in the care of others or institutionalized.

Adult and Teenage Consequences

Broad evidence of research has linked child abuse with adult and teenage behaviors. Childhood maltreatment and exploitation were predictive of aggression and incarceration in early adulthood (Choi et al. 259). Individuals of maltreatment in early childhood were more likely to be jailed for violent offenses. Additionally, these researchers noted that mistreated and abandoned females were more likely to be jailed for aggression than adolescents who had not been severely abused (Choi et al. 260). As teens and adults, people who have experienced mistreatment or neglect have a more significant alcohol misuse and drunkenness rate than those who have not (Choi et al. 259). Choi et al. discovered that 19% of persons in their late twenties with a background of abuse attempted suicide at least once, contrasted to 8% of a corresponding population sample (260). Therefore, childhood maltreatment and abandonment have a significant impact on suicidal ideation in adolescent years.

Early Sexual Induction and Unsafe Sexual conduct

Youngsters who endure maltreatment may commence sexual engagement at earlier ages than normal children. Likewise, adolescents who endure maltreatment may commence sexual behavior at earlier ages than normal children. A physical and mental assault was found to lead to hazardous conduct regarding sexual abuse’s consequences. Abajobir et al. conducted one of the most comprehensive longitudinal research on female sexual assault victims (254). Their findings indicated that the majority had been subjected to severe sexual abuse, as characterized by the kind of abuse, with vaginal penetration abuse being the most extreme followed by the duration of the abuse, and lastly, the perpetrator’s connection to the subject. These females developed early sexual induction as a consequence of child mistreatment.


Child abuse appears to change the development path by affecting several biological, intellectual, psychological, and psychosocial development properties, having a substantial and frequently long-lasting effect on growth. For example, brain development is impacted, as is the capacity to make sensible choices or cognitive performance; the ability to control metabolism, conduct, and feelings is hampered; and the path toward more severe complications is altered. Effects are observed throughout categories, emphasizing the interaction between the brain and neurobiological mechanisms. Given that child exploitation is a social activity that diminishes children’s ability to trust their caregivers due to their guardians’ fearful character, it is reasonable for youngsters who have been abused to have interpersonal difficulties. At the fundamental level, kids’ ability to develop trusting relationships with their caretakers is harmed.

Additionally, child abuse has a profound effect on brain regions that necessitate environmental consciousness to operate appropriately and on performance parameters that are especially susceptible to external stimuli. Several danger and resilience factors at numerous levels of a kid’s ecosystem impact child abuse outcomes. The factors affecting resistance across diverse aspects are critical for safeguarding kids from the destructive consequences mentioned in this essay. Kisely et al. point out that knowing if an event occurred is insufficient; one also needs to know how persistent the condition is (698). Therefore, state agencies and parents need to ensure that child abuse is ended in all its forms to prevent the developmental effects on people.

Works Cited

Abajobir, Amanuel Alemu, et al. “Gender differences in the association between childhood sexual abuse and risky sexual behaviors: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 63, 2017, pp. 249-260.

Baptista, Joana, et al. “Early maltreatment and current quality of relational care predict socioemotional problems among institutionalized infants and toddlers.” Infant Mental Health Journal, vol. 39, no. 6, 2018, pp. 718-729.

Choi, Namkee G., et al. “Adverse childhood experiences and suicide attempts among those with mental and substance use disorders.” Child abuse & neglect, vol. 69, 2017, pp. 252-262.

Johnson, Marlene M. “Imaging and diagnosis of physical child abuse.” Radiologic Technology, vol. 89, no. 1, 2017, pp. 45-65.

Kisely, Steve, et al. “Child maltreatment and mental health problems in adulthood: Birth cohort study.” The British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 213, no. 6, 2018, pp. 698-703.

Lanier, Paul, et al. “Adverse childhood experiences and child health outcomes: Comparing cumulative risk and latent class approaches.” Maternal and Child Health Journal, vol. 22, no. 3. 2018, pp. 288-297.

Lippard, Elizabeth TC, and Charles B. Nemeroff. “The devastating clinical consequences of child abuse and neglect: Increased disease vulnerability and poor treatment response in mood disorders.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 177, no. 1, 2020, pp. 20-36.

Zeanah, Charles H., and Kathryn L. Humphreys. “Child abuse and neglect.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 57, no. 9, 2018, pp. 637-644.