Child Abuse and Neglect - What Happens
United States during 2008, approximately 1,700 children died as a result of
Survivors are vulnerable to long-term emotional damage. Typically, children are
abused at an age when they are not equipped with life experience and reasoning
abilities to understand that it is not their fault. They suffer developmental
setbacks, physical pain, and emotional anguish. Abuse and neglect in children
younger than 7 years of age may lead to permanent behavior and personality
Children who are abused or neglected are at increased
risk for abusing other children and siblings and, later in life, their own
children or elderly parents. They are also at increased risk for becoming
involved in criminal acts as they get older. As adults, they will likely suffer
from physical and emotional problems.
Prolonged and repeated physical
abuse can permanently damage the body.
- Certain types of abuse, such as
shaken baby syndrome (also called intentional head
injury), can result in life-threatening brain injury. Children who survive may
developmental disabilities or
- A sexually
abused child can become infected with a
sexually transmitted disease, such as
HIV, which can be
- Long-term (chronic) health problems, such as
sexual dysfunction may occur. Other problems, such as not growing or developing
normally, may happen as a result of being neglected as a child.
All children who have been
abused or neglected or who witness domestic violence are at risk for developing
mental health disorders, emotional problems, and poor social skills. These
problems may occur alone or in combination. The effects of abuse or neglect are
determined by how severe the abuse or neglect is, how frequently or for how long it occurs, and the
relationship of the child to the abuser.
Mental health disorders
that may result from abuse and neglect include:
Other emotional effects include:
self-esteem, which is a person's core belief about
himself or herself. Children cannot process or understand what has happened to
them. They often unconsciously blame themselves and grow up with a poor
self-image, which affects their relationships with others.
hostility, defiance, antisocial tendencies, or criminal
- Negativity. A person with a history of abuse or neglect
may have trouble adjusting to normal struggles.
- Substance abuse, such as using illegal drugs or
drinking alcohol excessively.
- Emotional detachment. A person may
have problems bonding, socializing, and developing friendships. This can result
in isolation and a failure to learn and develop sympathy, empathy, and other
important emotion-based concepts.
- Impulsiveness. The person fails
to think and consider consequences before acting. Often this results in
reckless, risky, or antisocial activities, such as driving
- Issues with sexuality. Abused or neglected children,
especially those who are sexually abused, often have problems developing a
healthy sexuality as they reach adolescence and adulthood. Some may be sexually
promiscuous, and others may be fearful and unwilling to risk any