The consequences of child abuse and neglect are lasting and far reaching. The potential effects of child abuse and maltreatment can affect the child throughout their life physically, mentally, psychologically, behaviorally, and socially. These effects can be life altering. In addition, the long term effects of abuse also place a significant burden on society.
Factors in Outcome
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008), several factors contribute to the later outcome and potential resilience of a child that has been abused. These factors include the child's relationship to the person abusing them, the type and severity of the abuse, how old the child was at the time, and how long they had to endure this type of treatment (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). In addition, positive personality characteristics and supportive adult role models also help to offset the effects of abuse (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008)
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Effects of Abuse
In spite of the resiliency of some abused children, the consequences of abuse can be long term and far reaching. Chronic health problems, psychological dysfunction, behavioral problems, and social maladjustment, can become manifestations of abuse that cause impairment and difficulty for the child long term as well as result in a significant burden to society (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008).
The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (as cited in U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008) reported that " more than one-quarter of children who had been in foster care for longer than 12 months had some lasting or recurring health problem." Neurological damage, problems with brain development, and chronic health problems can result from various types of abuse such as shaken baby syndrome, malnutrition, and neglect.
Psychological problems were found to be just as bad. According to U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008), up to eighty percent of adults that were previously abused had some type of diagnosable mental disorder by the time they were twenty-one years old. They also had significant incidences of "depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts" (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996 quoted in U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). According to Teicher (2000), the victims inability to process anger, turmoil, and shame from the experience of abuse can cause these symptoms.
Children who were victims of abuse also lag behind cognitively and academically (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). They struggle with language development and don't do as well in school as their peers. This presents obvious obstacles to further achievement in their lives such as career choices.
Social and Behavioral Effects
Child abuse has social and behavioral consequences as well. Common results of neglect and rejection experience in abusive environments can be borderline personality disorder, antisocial characteristics, and violence and aggression (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). In addition, children who have been abused are more likely to experience "delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use, and mental health problems" ((U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). According to Kelly, Thornberry, and Smith (1997), girls who experienced more types of abuse were more likely to become pregnant as teens. Risky sexual behaviors are also more likely and can result in sexually transmitted disease (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Another serious consequence of child abuse is the perpetuation of child abuse in the next generation. Parents who were abused have more of a tendency to abuse their own children.
The Effects on Society
In addition to children and families suffering the consequences of child abuse, society also must pay as well. In 2001, over 24 billion dollars were spent on child welfare and protection services (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Further expense is incurred through incarceration, rehabilitation, mental health, and drug rehabilitation services for individuals who experienced abuse as children and became dysfunctional as a result (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008).
Child abuse and neglect can potentially affect many areas throughout the course of the victims life Aspects that can be affected by abuse and maltreatment include physical, mental, psychological, behavior, and social functioning. The effects of abuse can be devastating. In addition to the victim, society also bears the long term effects of abuse by trying to provide for and assist those who have been victims.
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