Early Childhood and the Effects of Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment and even intimate partner violence are all considered to be factors with negative effects for children. Neglect or maltreatment leads to many forms of abuse. Some of these are domestic violence, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. These could impact a child’s overall health if not treated early. More so, if children are not treated with therapy at an early stage, serious mental health issues could develop when children become adolescents.

It has been stated that childhood maltreatment is associated with severe, long-term consequences for developmental outcomes, such as academic success. It is also a crucial causality for major mental health issues. An important step in acknowledging the effects of childhood maltreatment is to probe its influence on the neural bases of related cognitive abilities (Jankowski et al., 2017). Common results of childhood maltreatment are decreased attention and externalization of problems. In one study, approximately 40% of maltreated youths met criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder, and/or conduct disorder (Jankowski et al., 2017). Recent developmental traumatology theories asserts that childhood maltreatment damages structural and functional neural development, which increases the risk for cognitive impairments and psychopathology.

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There is also proof that childhood maltreatment negatively affects cognitive abilities

linked with prefrontal functioning. Such examples are sustained attention and response inhibition and changes in electrophysiological activity believed to reflect attention and error-monitoring abilities (Jankowski et al., 2017).

Infants, the most vulnerable members of communities, are at the greatest risk of all age groups for exposure to child maltreatment (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013). The victimization rate in 2008 for children in their first year of life was approximately 21.5 per 1,000 infants, nearly double the rate of the next greatest age grouping based on official Child Protective Services (CPS) reports that are tracked in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. One-third of all child maltreatment victims in 2008 were under 4 years of age (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013).

In the past decade, research has also begun to specifically address both the co-occurrence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and child neglect. In a sample of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipient research found that 8 % disclosed IPV while being matched against administrative CPS data as having some reported allegation of child maltreatment. Within this co-occurring group, 65 % included allegations of child neglect (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013)

Nicklas & Mackenzie (2013) mentioned how analysis of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a national representative sample, found that 10% of children subjected to IPV in the past year had also been exposed to neglect in the past year. They also stated that 14 % with lifetime IPV exposure had been subjected to neglect in their lifetimes (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013).The authors also found that devastating effects of battery on women including trauma, depression, emotional unavailability, social isolation, and increased risk of substance use; this can influence a mother’s ability to care for her child (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013). The researchers composed a major concern as coercive control, which is more prevalent in IPV and more destructive, while cautioning that in studying clinical CPS samples, one runs the risk that neglect may be dramatized because of CPS and court practices that equate maternal exposure to IPV with failure to protect (Nicklas & Mackenzie, 2013).

Child maltreatment victims excessively show a range of conflicting outcomes between childhood and adulthood. Although experiencing maltreatment is, itself, thought to adversely shape children’s subsequent development, the true consequence of abuse or neglect on children’s developmental trajectories and associations is hard to estimate (Font & Berger, 2015). There are at least four probabilities that must be viewed when probing associations between child maltreatment and child development. First, there may be a direct link from maltreatment to adverse developmental outcomes (Font & Berger, 2015). Second, children’s social-emotional and cognitive traits may immediately impact the chances that they will be maltreated. Third, maltreatment and poor developmental outcomes may together determine parallel factors or processes, such as poverty, parental functioning, and parenting quality (Font & Berger, 2015). Lastly, child maltreatment and child development may be linked through an ongoing feedback loop, where insignificant behaviors, abilities, or affect may lead children to maltreatment, and experienced abuse or neglect may further influence their harmful behaviors, abilities, or affect (Font & Berger, 2015).

Experiencing child maltreatment is associated with a range of detrimental outcomes in childhood and adulthood in areas such as academic and cognitive performance, social-emotional and behavioral adjustment and harmful behaviors and depression (Font & Berger, 2015). Multiple perspectives intend to describe these associations and how they may differ depending on the types of abuse or neglect experienced (Font & Berger, 2015). One example would be supervision neglect. Supervisory neglect frequently consists of both a caregiver action (domestic violence in the family home) and a caregiver omission (the child was not protected from exposure to the act), and broadly surrounds delihemas in which a caregiver can not care for a child due to intoxication, allowing a child to be exposed to criminal activity domestic violence, or leaving a child without an appropriate caregiver. Such inconsistent care may, induce children to develop anxious or ambivalent attachment styles (Font & Berger, 2015).

Secondly, Font & Berger (2015), studies have recognized connections between physical maltreatment and issues of aggressive, antisocial, and externalizing behavior as well as links to mental health problems such as depression, withdrawal, and anxiety. Children with behavioral disorders have a high chance for maltreatment, relative to both nondisabled children and children with other health or cognitive impairments (Font & Berger, 2015). First, children who are challenging to parent are more likely to be maltreated. It is harder and more stressful to parent children with disabilities compared to children who are not disabled (Font & Berger, 2015). Second, children with disabilities may be more vulnerable targets for potential maltreatment perpetrators than children who are not because the former may be less able or likely to disclose abuse or neglect (Font & Berger, 2015). Finally, caring for a disabled child may demand more opportunities for neglect many occur for a child’s physical, emotional, developmental, medical, educational, or supervisory needs to go unmet. This is because disabled children have greater and more complicated needs in these areas than their nondisabled counterparts (Font & Berger, 2015).

There is a client in my agency who is 13 years old but who has a history of neglect or abuse since she was 5. The client also has a history with CPS because of issues with her family. CPS was involved for several reasons one being issues with the mother and the other was the claim that she had been raped. Additionally, it was stated that the child slapped the mother and the mother responded back. The individual stated that she was raped by someone (stepfather) in the family when she was 5 and 11 years old and a case was soon investigated. CPS concluded that there was no physical abuse and the claim was unfounded. The father is not in the family because he did not like the child’s history of stealing and lying. More so, in school she gets low grades and is not consistent with homework. The client was diagnosed with ADHD when she was either 7 or 8 years old. The client also gets emotional when she gets to the topic of her father. Another thing about this client is that she also receives help from FSW and received therapy for depression and suicidal thoughts at another location. This client would get medication; however, the mother of the child felt that the depression worsened with medication, so the client is no longer taking medication according to the mother statements.This individual is doing better and is in the program because the mother believes it could benefit her daughter.

There are interventions that have proven to be important for children who are impacted by abuse and neglect when they are in the stage of early childhood. An example of this would be implementing programs in schools. Prevention programs in schools for early childhood and elementary school children have proven to be influential in strengthening knowledge and protective behaviors for children of all ages, regardless of the population they are part of (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015).

Prevention programs for sexual and physical abuse highlight teaching certain concepts about abuse. They also teach skills for avoiding and countering circumstances of both sexual and physical abuse (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015). Successful programs are more likely to use a variety of methods to introduce information and give opportunities for practice. Activities, include educational instruction, videos, puppet shows, and plays.

Reviewers found that the programs with the best outcomes, in terms of children’s increased knowledge and use of skills, were more likely to be extensive. They cover a range of concepts and safety skills including didactic instruction followed by group discussion, engaging active behavioral skills training, and utilizing video modeling (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015). More important, neglect and abuse have important links with mental health, which should not be ignored. Combining these two can result in a very negative outcome for children. Research has found that there are very few child- focused, school-based programs for the prevention of psychological abuse or interpersonal violence. However, this is an element of several existing child- concentrated sexual and physical abuse prevention programs (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015).

There are flaws with these programs because there are only a few to none that focus on abuse or neglect. There are also no manualized evidence?based, school?based programs on the prevention of psychological or physical neglect by parents. This is because it is challenging for children to protect themselves from neglect (Brassard, Fiorvanti, 2015).

These issues draw concerns because if there are no programs that help children cope with these situations, then how will children get better? Brassad and Fiorvanti have identified programs which review how these interventions help families cope with neglect. The most recent review of child neglect treatment studies identified two intervention programs for neglected preschool children that were rated as “good” (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015). The two interventions were random clinical trials with peer interaction, supervised by therapists, as the primary treatment. School psychologists in early childhood programs could implement these interventions if, with further research and development, they became manualized programs (Brassard & Fiorvanti, 2015).

Maltreatment and disability often accompany each other in the lives of children. Children who are maltreated have a higher chance of developing a disability, while children with disabilities are also more likely to be maltreated. Despite being supported by many service systems, children with disabilities who have experienced maltreatment are often not fully supported by these service systems (Corr & Santos, 2017).

For years, the call for cross-system collaboration has been accurate across literature in noting the need to bridge the areas of early childhood, social work, pediatrics, and child advocacy. This cross system collaborative work is considered critical and is now receiving more attention. Despite building collaborative legal requirements, is also known to be a very difficult task (Corr & Santos, 2017). While there are insufficient studies, the findings from this article aids and widens this perspective.

Future cross-systems efforts should pinpoint on shared priorities, significant partnerships, clearer roles, and equal resources. Recent literature has shown that parent- involvement components of abuse prevention programs are related to increased program success. This is because of increased communication about abuse and more repetition of concepts about neglect (Corr, Santos, 2017).

Additionally, the likelihood and willingness of parents to talk to their children about sensitive topics may improve the strength of the parent–child relationships (Corr, Santos, 2017). Parents showed significant changes in their experience of abuse and their attitudes about abuse after their children participated in an abuse prevention program that included a minor parent education component and targeted physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (Corr, Santos, 2017).

These interventions would work because teachers, and caregivers and social workers could work together on building better futures for children. I would focus more on this because if you implement programs or intervention that concentrates on different kinds of stress factors than you could slow down future issues as well. When you are talking about stress than it could be important to go forward with neglect and abuse and how they impact each other. If you are in school setting which is critical because of the skills they learn, the interventions could increase healthy brain development and decrease the chances of negative developments.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is one of the critical aspects of legislation that guides child protection. CAPTA, in its original form, was signed into law on January 31, 1974 (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). It was reauthorized since then and with each reauthorization, amendments have been made to CAPTA that have expanded and clarified the scope of the law. CAPTA was most recently reauthorized on December 20, 2010, by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). The Secretary of Health and Human Services makes grants to the states from allotments made under subsection (f) for each state that applies for a grant under this section. This is for purposes of assisting the states in improving the child protective services system of each such state (Administration for Children and Families, 2010).

Under these grants, states can improve the intake, assessment, screening, and investigation of reports of child abuse or neglect and create and use multidisciplinary teams. They also fund interagency, interstate, and intrastate protocols to heighten investigations (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). These funds intensify legal preparation and representation, such as procedures for appealing and answering to appeals of substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect.

They also provide for the appointment of an individual to represent a child in judicial proceedings and case management, including ongoing case monitoring, and delivery of services and treatment for children and families (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). These additions enhance the general child protective system by developing, improving, and putting risk and safety assessment tools and protocols in place. Other ways these grants help professionals is by training professionals in research-based strategies to promote collaboration with families (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). Training include the legal duties of such individuals and personal safety training for case workers; training in early childhood; child and adolescent development. Grants also cover improving the skills, qualifications, and availability of individuals who provide services to children and families; and supervision (Administration for Children and Families, 2010).

Through the child protection system, such grants provide enhancements in the recruitment and retention of caseworkers; developing facilitating, and implementing research-based strategies and training protocols for individuals instructed to disclose child abuse and neglect (Administration for Children and Families, 2010). They also help by developing, implementing, or operating programs to assist in obtaining or coordinating necessary services for families of disabled infants with life-threatening conditions.

Child care is one of multiple services for which states may use TANF funding. Additionally, states may transfer up to 30% of their TANF allotments to the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) (Congressional Digest, 2014). However, this is to be used according to the rules of the child care program (as opposed to TANF rules). The CCDF aids low-income families in obtaining child care so that they can work or attend training/education classes (Congressional Digest, 2014).

In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) created the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program under Title V of the Social Security Act (Congressional Digest, 2014). This program provides grants primarily to states, territories, and tribal areas for home visiting services that enhance maternal, infant, and child health, as well as improving school readiness and achievement, preventing child abuse or neglect and injuries (Congressional Digest, 2014). The act also increases family economic self-sufficiency and decreases crime and domestic violence; it also increases coordination and referrals for community resources and supports (Congressional Digest, 2014).


Brassard, M. R., & Fiorvanti, C. M. (2015). School-based child abuse prevention programs. psychology in the schools, 52(1), 40–60. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.21811

Congressional Digest. (2014). National Early Childhood Policy. Retrieved from www.CongressionalDigest.com

Corr, C., & Santos, R. (2017). Not in the Same Sandbox: Cross-Systems Collaborations Between Early Intervention and Child Welfare Systems. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal., 34(1), 9-22.14. doi:DOI: 10.1007/s10560-016-0470-4.

Font, S. A., & Berger, L. M. (2015). Child maltreatment and children’s developmental trajectories in early to middle childhood. Child Development, 86(2), 536-556. doi:DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12322.

Jankowski, K. F., Bruce, J., Beauchamp, K. G., Roos, L. E., Moore, W. E., & Fisher, P. (july 2017). Preliminary evidence of the impact of early childhood maltreatment and a preventive intervention on neural patterns of response inhibition in early adolescence. Developmental Science, 20(4), 1-15. doi:DOI: 10.1111/desc.12413.

Nicklas, E., & Mackenzie, M. (2013). Intimate partner violence and risk for child

neglect during early childhood in a community sample of fragile families. Journal of Family Violence, 28(1), 17-29. doi:DOI: 10.1007/s10896-012-9491-8. (AN: 84580286)

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Including Adoption Opportunities & The

Abandoned Infants Assistance Act. (n.d.). Retrieved from Administration for Children and Families. (2010).

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