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Child Abuse and Neglect - What Happens

Children who are abused or neglected may have long-term emotional and physical problems. Abuse and neglect in children younger than 7 years of age may lead to permanent behavior and personality changes.

Physical effects

Emotional effects

The mental and emotional effects depend on how bad the abuse or neglect is, how often it happens, how long it's been going on, and who the abuser is.

Mental health disorders that can be caused by abuse and neglect include:

Other emotional effects include:

  • Low self-esteemself-esteem. Children often unconsciously blame themselves and grow up with a poor self-image. This affects their relationships with others.
  • Anger, hostility, or criminal behavior.
  • Negative feelings. A person with a history of abuse or neglect may have trouble dealing with normal struggles.
  • Drug or alcohol abuseDrug or alcohol abuse.
  • Emotional detachment. A person may have problems making friends. This can lead to feeling isolated and alone. Children may not learn how to feel sympathy for others.
  • Impulsiveness. The person acts without thinking about the consequences. They may take risks, such as driving dangerously.
  • Sexual problems. Abused or neglected children, especially those who are sexually abused, often have problems developing healthy feelings about sex as they reach adolescence and adulthood. Some may be overly active sexually. Others may be too afraid to be intimate with anyone.

Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to abuse other children and siblings and, later in life, their own children or elderly parents. They are also more likely to become involved in crime.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: December 07, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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