The Early Abuse’ Impacts on Teenagers Emotional Development


The topic of the effects of early abuse on emotional development of teenagers has attracted heated debate from those who support and oppose this act. Reflectively, early abuse involves applying physical or psychological pain on a child as a disciplinary action to correct or deter a minor from engaging in unwanted acts.

In order to understand the topic, it is necessary to review the physical and psychological effects of using violence to discipline children, irrespective of the intensity of the physical pain. Specifically, understanding the psychological and physical effects of early abuse on teenagers is necessary to create alternative disciplinary measures that are effective and does not negatively affect the minors in their teenage.

This is because series of past research paper have indicated that early abuse have impacts on emotional development of teenagers (Shaffer, Yates, & Egeland, 2009). Thus, this reflectively paper will dwell on discussing the physical and psychological effects of using violence to discipline children.

Review of the Literature

Early abuse and physical/psychological pain

The abolitionists argue that using violence to discipline children inflicts physical and psychological pain that might affect their wellbeing and socialization skills in teenage. Reflectively, a violent disciplinarian parent or guardian is likely to put children at a glaring risk of total behavioral, emotional, mental, and social development of child physical and psychological aspects of growth.

Children exposed to violent disciplinary actions by parents, guardians, or teachers are vulnerable to depression, eating disorders, and even unending anxiety in teenage (Silver & Sarasota, 2009). Some of the characteristics of a teenager exposed to continuous violent disciplinary acts include poor physical and psychological health, traumatized, fearful, irresponsible, and rudeness behavior among peers.

Also, a teenager exposed to violent disciplinary actions may exhibit indifference and anxiety in the social aspect of interaction, and has a lot of hatred and isolation in intellectual discourse due to fear of having a divergent opinion from peers (Shaffer, 2008). Since using violence to discipline a child lowers his or her confident, the victim is likely to be very secretive and have constant low moods due to fear of rejection in self-expression as a teenager.

Early abuse and self-esteem/interactive skills

Mitigating violence to discipline children as way to prevent future offensive acts in teenage is likely to be an obvious one-dimension justification that might not be right. This should not be the case.

Every instance of using violence to discipline a child eventually affects the whole family. In order to offer a comprehensive understanding of why some parents use violence in disciplining their children, it is important to establish the state and the history of the family, so as to validate the possible effects of the violent act such as social stigma, parental neglect, and general misunderstandings, which push the victim to become less social (Gunnlaugsson, Kristjánsson, Einarsdóttir, & Sigfúsdóttir, 2011).

In most cases, mothers or guardians who use violence as punishment tool on their children are likely to create an environment of anxiety and low self-esteem among their children and expose them to long term psychological pain in teenage. Besides, a long history of excess in alcoholism, crime, and aggressiveness in parents is likely to motivate low tolerance and frustrations among teenagers (Shaffer, 2008).

Early abuse and psychological development

Excessive use of violence in disciplining children affects their psychological development, especially on their early childhood learning and coping with the social environment. According to Gunnlaugsson et al. (2011), early childhood development derives direction from several factors. Genetic factors such as nature, gender, and health conditions, which arise from within the children, play an essential role in children growth, development, and relationship with others.

Therefore, a child exposed to continuous violent disciplinary acts is likely to experience slow or negatively skewed development when he or she becomes a teenager. When a child is exposed to excessive violent discipline, he or she may be stigmatized. At pre-school learning experiences at home, children get encouragement to express themselves without fear of inflicting physical and psychological pain in case mistakes are made.

Such experiences create a sense of creativity and innovation among kids. Developing creativity and innovation provides a basis for creativity and innovativeness in decision-making, thus positively influencing the future of the kids.

Early engagement of children in such activities presents a major condition for future success. However, it is almost impossible to create such an environment where violence is used to discipline children since it interferes with their self-esteem when transitioning from children to teenage (Shaffer, 2008).

Early abuse and learning disabilities

Since using violence to discipline children does not allow the young minds to engage the free spirit that promotes creativity, “the learning process at home or in school may be compromised since applying force as a corrective measure may be counterproductive” (Shaffer et al., 2009, p. 42). When nothing is done to help such a victim, the child may grow into a violent adult with very poor socialization skills.

Apparently, using violence to discipline children never gives a victim the possibility to be regretful of his or her actions since it instills trauma in the minds of the young children. This means that children exposed to violence are not given time to learn other alternatives of solving problems. In the end, a child exposed to violent disciplinary actions might turn equally violent in the future when interacting with peers or solving different conflicts (Odhayani & Watson, 2013).


Apparently, the impacts of early abuse on emotional development of teenagers are negative as established in the literature review. This means that there is need to avoid early abuse as a strategy for ensuring that teenagers do not suffer from low self-esteem, poor socialization skills, poor physical and psychological growth, and poor communication skills.

There are alternatives to using violence to discipline children with same or better results. A responsible parent should make sure these aspects are internalized in their thought patterns when planning or executing disciplinary acts on children.

Therefore, children should be subjected to reasonable disciplinary actions that are aimed at correcting the wrong doings without using unjustifiable punishment. It is necessary for parents to be careful not to apply violent disciplinary acts on children since it may be counterproductive and may subject the victim to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the classroom and other social places (Silver & Sarasota, 2009).

The best strategies that a parent can use to avoid being in a situation of applying physical harm to a child is proactive child engagement during the disciplinary process. For instance, when a parent anticipates potential violence on a minor, he or she should take a break from the disciplinary process before losing control. This anticipatory strategy in disciplining a child ensures that violent punishment is not practiced since it is always counterproductive.

In order to provide an alternative to using violence to discipline a child, parents should be authoritative, but use dialogue when interacting with his or her children. An effective parent should be successful in promoting psychological adjustment variables such as control of depression, self-esteem, and life satisfaction among the children.

The parent should also be willing to dialogue with the children on disciplinary issues while having a strong stand on the scope of the interaction (Trickett, Kim, & Prindle, 2011). This is achievable through highlighting family dynamics that are critical in understanding the origin and persistence of child abuse and the necessary protection strategies that are comprehensive, relevant, and community oriented. Thus, highlighting these dynamics will facilitate creation of a proper prescription of the right child welfare protection strategy.


From the findings, it is apparent the using violence to discipline children has series of negative effects on their physical and psychological wellbeing. Apparently, using violence to discipline children exposes the minors to physical injuries that might sometimes turn fatal, especially when the person giving discipline is emotional.

Besides the physical scars that are characterized by violent disciplinary actions, there are psychological scars in the form of lowered self esteem, and poor socialization skills. Since using physical force to discipline a child exposes him or her to violence, the minor might turn out to violence as the only conflict resolution strategies among the peers.

Therefore, using violence to discipline children is not ideal since there are better alternatives such as dialogue. However, there is need for further research to establish effects of early abuse beyond the teenage.


Gunnlaugsson, G., Kristjánsson, A., Einarsdóttir, J., & Sigfúsdóttir, I. (2011). Intra-familial conflict and emotional well-being: A population based study among Icelandic adolescents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(5), 372-381.

Odhayani, A., & Watson, W. (2013). Behavioural consequences of child abuse. Canadian Family Physician, 59(8), 831-836.

Shaffer, A., Yates, T., & Egeland, B. (2009). The relation of emotional maltreatment to early adolescent competence: Developmental processes in a prospective study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(1), 36-44.

Shaffer, D. (2008). Social and personality development. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Silver, R., & Sarasota, F. (2009). Identifying children and adolescents with depression: Review of the stimulus drawing task and draw a story research. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(4), 174-180.

Trickett, P., Kim, K., & Prindle, J. (2011). Variations in emotional abuse experiences among multiply maltreated young adolescents and relations with developmental outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(10), 876-886.