Child abuse is an appalling phenomenon that affects thousands of children worldwide. According to the U.S. federal legislation, the term child abuse refers to any parents’ or caregivers’ acts or failures to act that result in serious physical or emotional harm, death, exploitation, or sexual abuse of a child (Hirschy & Wilkinson, 2009). As seen from this definition, there are many different ways of child abuse, which include emotional, physical, and sexual harm.
Research indicates that irrespectively of the type of child abuse, the effects of this traumatic experience on children are extremely harmful. In this essay, I argue that the consequences of child abuse include aggression, mental problems, suicidal attempts, communication barriers, etc. Given this information, it is critically important to offer maltreated children an adequate degree of emotional support and care to make sure that abuse does not affect their future health, behavior, and well-being.
Evidence shows that abuse has serious behavioral consequences for the victims. Thus, Moylan et al. (2010) explored the effects of domestic violence and child abuse on internalizing and externalizing behaviors in adolescence. It has been found that children subject to abuse experience negativity focused inward, that is, feelings of guilt or loneliness, sadness, fearfulness, nervousness, low self-esteem, etc. They also demonstrate some harmful externalizing behaviors such as drinking and drug abuse, running away from home, aggression and violence, and so on (Moylan et al., 2010). These effects can persist for a long time and undermine the victim’s ability to succeed personally and professionally.
In another study, Al Odhayani, Watson, and Watson (2013) argued that child abuse has both psychological and behavioral effects. For example, a victim may develop the so-called attachment disorder, which is manifested in the following symptoms: anger problems; the lack of self-consciousness and self-control; intolerance of physical affection; inability to show genuine love and care, etc. Although the authors noted that the effects of child abuse depend on age, there are some common symptoms that develop when a child faces aggression and maltreatment on the part of parents or caregivers. These include the fear and reluctance to go home; uncontrolled aggression; poor academic performance; suicidal thoughts, risk-taking behavior, etc. (Al Odhayani et al., 2013).
Along similar lines, Norman et al. (2012) argued that non-sexual maltreatment can adversely affect behavior and psychological well-being of young victims. Children subject to maltreatment and abuse have higher risks of developing various mental disorders and demonstrate risky sexual behavior and suicidal attempts. These consequences may persist across the life course, so effective interventions are required to make sure that affected children overcome their negative experience and can build healthy relationships with people. As far as I am concerned, programs directed at child abuse prevention should necessarily be complemented with programs aimed at rehabilitation and support. Children facing abuse should have access to professional mental services and have an opportunity to leave the trauma behind.
This essay has argued that child abuse has detrimental effects on the victims’ emotional, mental, and physical behavior and can lead to serious behavioral problems. Children subject to abuse and maltreatment demonstrate internalizing and externalizing behaviors that create a barrier between themselves and the world and prevent them from building trusting relationships with people and achieving success. Therefore, it is critically important to make sure that children suffering from abuse are not only protected on the legal level but also provided with adequate mental health support and care. The main aim of any therapy should be to teach children accept and overcome their past traumas and move on despite their distressing experience.
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Al Odhayani, A., Watson, W. J., & Watson, L. (2013). Behavioral consequences of child abuse. Can Fam Physician, 59(8), 831-836.
Hirschy, S., & Wilkinson, E. (2009). Protecting our children: Understanding and preventing abuse and neglect in early childhood. London: Cengage Learning.
Moylan, C. A., Herrenkohl, T. I., Sousa, C., Tajima, E. A., Herrenkohl, R. C., & Russo, M. J. (2010). The effects of child abuse and exposure to domestic violence on adolescent internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. J Fam Violence, 25(1), 53–63. doi:10.1007/s10896-009-9269-9
Norman, R. E., Byambaa, M., De, R., Butchart, A., Scott, J., & Vos, T. (2012). The long-term health consequences of child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med, 9(11), e1001349. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001349