There have been countless studies focused around how the mind of a child is warped when transitioning into their adulthood after experiencing neglect and abuse. It’s evidently very difficult for a victim of this certain issue to forget their traumatic experiences, ultimately impacting their physiological and physical health. Child abuse and neglect refer to any harmful behavior by caregivers, parents, legal guardians, and other adults that is outside the norms of conduct and entails substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young adult(Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014)..
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Child abuse can include physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment, and it’s deeply painful to hear that at least one in four children have experienced this(Violence Prevention, 2018). An estimated number of 676,000 children were confirmed by child protective services as being victims of abuse and neglect in 2016(Violence Prevention 2018), and this number seems to be growing exponentially year by year. Within these children, 74.8% were neglected, 18.2% were physically abused, 8.5% were sexually abused, and 6.9% were psychologically maltreated(Child Abuse Statistics).
The effects child abuse has on children and young adults seem to vary by each individual, some experience less trauma while others go through deep pain and a long time of recovery. The factors that may come into how an individual may react to child abuse or neglect include, the frequency of such maltreatment or how long this treatment lasted for a certain individual, the type of maltreatment(physical, sexual, or emotional), and the relationship between the child and perpetuator(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Researchers also have started to investigate on how the resilience of each victim varies. Resilience is not an inherent trait in children but results from a mixture of both risk and protective factors that cause a child’s positive or negative reaction to adverse experiences(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Positive factors, such as high self esteem and intelligence contribute to a victim’s resilience.
Research suggests that the types of maltreatment are interrelated, in which a large portion of those who experience child abuse or neglect are exposed to multiple types of abuse: multi-type maltreatment(Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014). There have been studies to show that certain acts like bullying, may occur to those experiencing multi-type maltreatment more frequently than those who are not. Additionally, those who experience multi-type maltreatment are likely to be exposed to high levels of trauma and worse outcomes, than those exposed to no maltreatment or one type of maltreatment(Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014).
In addition to high levels of trauma caused by multi-type maltreatment, other psychological consequences of general child abuse include difficulties during infancy, poor mental and emotional health, cognitive, and social difficulties. Experiencing such trauma at a very young age could definitely contribute to depression, anxiety, personality or other psychiatric disorders later on in the young adulthood. To be more specific, a study showed that roughly 54% of cases of depression and 58% of suicide attempts in women were connected to adverse childhood experiences(Felitti, V.J., & Anda, R., 2009).
Child abuse and maltreatment can also affect the victims’ mental and emotional health, since it negatively influences their development of emotion regulation, which is a process that continues throughout their adulthood. Regarding social and cognitive difficulties, children are more likely to grow antisocial traits as they mature, and neglect also influences personality disorders and inappropriate behavior(Perry, 2012).
Along with psychological consequences of child abuse come physical consequences. Some of these include abusive head trauma, impaired brain development, and poor physical health(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Firstly, abusive head trauma is caused by injuries such as damage to the neck and spinal cord; they also usually are not immediately noticeable. Injuries such as these that lead to abusive head trauma can affect the development of the brain. Secondly, impaired brain development refers to the failure of the brain to grow properly. This can ultimately lead to consequences such as academic disabilities and mental health disorders(Tarullo, 2012). Lastly regarding poor physical health, studies have shown that victims of child maltreatment are very likely to suffer from heart conditions later on in their lives(Felitti & Anda, 2009).
It seems that the physical health type correlates to the maltreatment type of the victim. For instance, a study showed that children who experienced neglect were at risk for diabetes and malnutrition(Widom, Czaja, Bentley, & Johnson, 2012).
Although the physical and psychological sides carry heavy and negative consequences, there are also behavioral consequences that contribute to the outcome of child abuse and neglect. Some of these include alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, difficulties during adolescence, and abusive behavior. It is common knowledge at this point that there is always new research reflecting on the significant increase of child abuse or neglect victims abusing drugs or alcohol in their lives.
Specifically, child abuse and neglect victims are more than 4,000% likely to use drugs later in their lives(Felitti & Anda, 2009). Additionally, there is a correlation between child abuse or neglect and criminality, according to many studies. One study showed that children who have experienced child abuse or neglect are nine times more likely to be involved in criminal activities(Gold, Wolan Sullivan, & Lewis, 2011). Regarding difficulties during adolescence, many studies have shown that victims of child abuse or neglect are more likely to engage in sexual risk-taking as they become adults, ultimately increasing their likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted disease(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013).
According to another study, these victims are also are at a higher risk for rape in their adulthood, and the rate of risk increases depending on the severity of the sexual experiences(Felitti & Anda, 2009). Finally, abusive behavior is one of the most impactful behavioral consequences. For instance, a study showed that girls who have experienced childhood physical abuse were one to seven percent more likely to become perpetrators of youth violence(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013).
To prevent child abuse and neglect there are potential solutions to help make this come to an end, along with past actions that were taken to solve this issue. In the past, the Federal Government made an investment in research on child abuse and neglect and its consequences. Some of these include the ACE Study, LONGSCAN, and NSCAW(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Firstly, the ACE study, short for Adverse Childhood Experiences, is the largest ongoing examination of the correlation between childhood maltreatment and adult health. Their data is collected through participants that volunteer for health screenings, ultimately providing information about childhood experiences, regarding abuse and neglect(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Next, the LONGSCAN, short for Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect, consists of researchers who examine the impact of maltreatment of victims and also evaluates the effectiveness of child protection(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013).
Finally, NSCAW, short for National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, is a project in which survey data are collected from reports of children and parents, and continues to gather other data about measures of child well-being. Then, this data ultimately provides an understanding of outcomes for children and their families involved with child welfare(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013). Along with these research investments, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-422-4453) has been available, staffed with professional counselors who can offer resource and service for those in need(Child Abuse Prevention, 2018). In the past, in attempt to see the end of child abuse, every state and the District of Columbia enacted laws regarding the referral of suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to a public agency.
In addition to this, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974 authorized Federal funds to improve State responses to child abuse(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2017). In 1966, The Children’s bureau within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, explored the causes of child maltreatment and attempted to find prevention for it. They had home visitation programs, to educate parents and help them bond with their children(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2017). There were several programs to seek to end child abuse and neglect, but evidently enough, none of them seem to have worked.
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