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.
- When physical abuse happens repeatedly or for a long time, it can cause permanent damage.
- Certain types of abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome, can be deadly. Some children may have permanent developmental problems or learning problems.
- A sexually abused child can get a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV.
- A neglected child can have long-term health problems, such as not growing or developing normally.
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:
- AnxietyAnxiety .
- DepressionDepression .
- Borderline personality disorderBorderline personality disorder . A person with this mental health condition may have trouble controlling his or her anger and impulses. He or she may have a low sense of self-worth and may have extreme worries about being abandoned.
- Post-traumatic stress disorderPost-traumatic stress disorder .
- SuicideSuicide or suicidal thoughts.
- DissociationDissociation . With this condition, the mind separates itself from an event or the environment so it can maintain some degree of order and sense.
- Eating disordersEating disorders .
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.