Child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment has many negative consequences and effects on society. This is why it is now classified as a public health and social problem. It is also an issue on the rights of children in the United States and elsewhere across the globe.
Often, this form of abuse can cause a wide variety of adverse effects and consequences both to children and to those who suffered it during their formative years. The different forms of maltreatment have also been associated with certain consequences both in childhood and in adulthood.
Child abuse refers to any behavior on the part of adults, older children, caregivers, and parents that is beyond the norms of social conduct. In many cases, it causes substantial risk by harming the victims - emotionally or physically.
In some instances, these behaviors and actions tend to be unintentional. However, in most cases they are intentional. They can also include various acts of omission - in which case the child abuse would be a form of neglect - as well as commission.
The primary types of abuse include sexual abuse, witnessing family and domestic violence, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and physical abuse. All these types cause different consequences.
Not every child who suffers neglect and abuse will be affected in much the same way. Although the effects of neglect and abuse might prove to be debilitating and chronic for some children, others might not be quite as adversely affected.
A wide range of family circumstances and life experiences - both negative and positive - can have an impact on the vulnerability or resilience of a child in the face of abuse and maltreatment.
When children are resilient, they may be able to cope - and sometimes even thrive - in spite of the fact that they were exposed to abuse and other related experiences that might otherwise have been detrimental to their health and wellness.
If these children have few positive factors - including positive and trusting relationships with friends and other members of the family - the risk that they will suffer adversely will tend to increase.
Some of the risk factors that might contribute to these children suffering negative and poor outcomes after being exposed to neglect and child abuse include but are not limited to:
On the other hand, there are some factors that might empower a child even when they are being abused. Also known as protective factors, these circumstances can improve the resilience of the child. These protective factors include but are not limited to:
There are also other critical factors that can influence the ways in which children who have been abused and neglect process these experiences. These factors include the duration, extent, and frequency of abuse, and the co-occurrence of other forms of maltreatment and neglect.
If the child abuse is chronic, it would involve recurrent episodes of neglect and maltreatment that takes place over an extended period of time. This form of abuse has been associated with worse consequences and outcomes. This is particularly in comparison to isolated or transitory incidents of abuse.
Research studies have suggested that the different forms of abuse and maltreatment tend to be interlinked. Most of the young people and children who experienced abuse and neglect might also be exposed to more than one kind of abuse. This is also known as multi-type abuse.
Additionally, other forms of victimization - such as assault and bullying by peers - might also occur at the same time as child abuse. This condition is commonly referred to as poly-victimization.
Other studies have indicated that people who suffer multi-type abuse and poly-victimization often tend to experience higher levels of trauma. They may also suffer worse outcomes in comparison to those who were not exposed to abuse and neglect as well as those who only suffered from only one kind of abuse.
Complex trauma might also be linked to the consequences of child abuse to society. Reflecting interacting and multiple symptoms, adverse experiences, disorders, and various behavioral, affective, and cognitive outcomes, complex trauma can occur early in life and lead to other problems - such as substance abuse and addiction.
Complex trauma will also affect the developing brain much more. As such, it can interfere with the victim's capacity to understand and integrate cognitive, emotional, and sensory information. In turn, this could lead to over reactive responses to subsequent stress. It might also cause long-term adverse effects, including but not limited to mental health, physical, cognitive, and behavioral problems.
Other factors that might affect the effects and consequences of child neglect and abuse include but are not limited:
Child neglect, abuse, and maltreatment tends to affect almost every domain of development - social, behavioral, emotional, psychological, and physical. These domains, on the other hand, are interlinked. This is why most of the effects and consequences of child abuse end up having an impact on society. These consequences might include but are not limited to:
When children suffer abuse and neglect at a young age, they have a higher likelihood of experiencing disorganized and insecure attachment issues with the perpetrator of the crime.
The patterns of attachment between the child and the caregiver are important for the early social and emotional development of the child. When children struggle with insecure attachment from an early age, they should be able to receive comfort, protection, and safety from their caregivers.
However, if the caregivers abuse the child, they will cause them harm and be a source of danger. As a result, these children might later have issues trusting others when they find themselves in distressful or troubling situations. In turn, this could lead them to suffer persistent experiences of anger and anxiety - which they might take out on the people around them.
Insecure attachment could also change the normal development process for these victims of child abuse. It can also severely affect their ability to interact and communicate with others or even form healthy relationships over the course of their lives.
Child neglect and maltreatment has also been linked with problematic relationships later on in life. These problems and issues might also trickle down to the romantic relationships that the children end up developing.
Research studies have shown that child neglect and abuse could lead to learning difficulties and poor academic and scholastic achievement. Neglect and abuse during the formative years could also affect the developmental capabilities and capacities of the affected victims. This is particularly true with the areas of the brain that are critical for language and speech.
Maltreated children, to this end, tend to suffer from lower academic achievements that their otherwise healthy peers. These children could also have to struggle with delays in their language development.
In a recent study, for instance, it was shown that when child abuse was chronic, it had a negative effect on mathematics scores. The type of maltreatment experienced could also affect reading scores in negative ways.
Even so, these children tended to develop other protective factors in response to the abuse that they suffered. These included by were not limited to ability to perform various household tasks and dress themselves.
Various research studies have shown that there is a strong link between child abuse and mental illnesses. In many cases, people who suffer from such abuse often tend to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Studies on children who were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, however, did not capture all the developmental effects of child neglect and abuse. This is why many researchers tend to use the term complex trauma to refer to the conditions that the victims of childhood abuse struggle with.
However, trauma is not the only condition that affects people who were abused during their childhood. Many of them might also have other mental health disorders like adjustment disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and addiction disorders, conduct disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, and attention hyperactivity disorder. Child neglect and abuse has also been linked to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
All these mental health issues might end up affecting society - both in terms of the public bill that has to be spent on the treatment of these disorders as well as in the different risks to society and the community that arise when some members struggle with poor mental health.
Some of the people who were abused as children tend to commit suicide later on in life. In particular, young people might be given to attempted suicide and suicidal ideation as a result of the abuse and neglect that they suffered during their childhood.
One research study, for instance, showed that there was a strong relationship between sexual and physical childhood abuse and suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide among teenagers.
However, all types of abuse tend to increase the risk that the victims might think about and even commit suicide especially during their teenage years. However, emotional abuse and child sexual abuse tend to be the most common forms of neglect and maltreatment that leads to these issues.
In the same way, child abuse often leads to substance abuse and addiction later on in life. This is particularly true due to the psychological consequences that arise due to such abuse early in life.
All kinds of child neglect and maltreatment tend to be related to a higher risk of substance abuse - involving drugs like alcohol, illicit drugs, and tobacco. However, it is not yet clear if there are certain kinds of abuse that tend to have a higher relationship with addiction.
A research study on public school students who were in grades 12, 9, and 6 in the United States - for instance - showed that experiences of sexual and physical abuse tended to increase the risk that these students would turn to marijuana, alcohol, and other substances of abuse.
Another study reported that 28 percent of all teens who were physically abused turned to these substances while only about 14 percent of teens who did not experience physical abuse. Additionally, 36 percent of teens who were physically abused reported higher levels of alcohol consumption in comparison to 22 percent of those who were not physically abused.
Some of the other consequences of child abuse on the individual, the family, the community, and the society include but are not limited to:
Overall, cases of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment often cause many different consequences and effects that primarily affect the victim of such abuse before they start sipping down to the rest of the communities in which they live as well as to society.