The Permanent Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect

September 17, 2011

Research has found that the effects of child abuse/neglect are permanent:

researchers also review evidence that suggests this early damage to the developing brain may subsequently cause disorders like anxiety and depression in adulthood.

The science shows that childhood maltreatment may produce changes in both brain function and structure,” says Martin Teicher, MD, PhD, director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean, and author of the paper. Although a baby is born with almost all the brain cells (neurons) he will ever have, the brain continues to develop actively throughout childhood and adolescence. “A child’s interactions with the outside environment causes connections to form between brain cells,” Teicher explains. “Then these connections are pruned during puberty and adulthood. So whatever a child experiences, for good or bad, helps determine how his brain is wired.

I post this only to stress the seriousness of child abuse in all it’s forms (emotional, physical, sexual). Many people who were abused as a child don’t even realize it. They just remember being “disciplined” with a belt or remember a tough parent being hard on them. Or they think that parental fighting or drinking has no effect on them. This reflects the general ignorance people have about child abuse.

A child only has to be hit once or witness someone being hit to cause this permanent damage. Emotional abuse is less obvious but just as traumatic. One traumatic event will forever alter the child’s biochemistry. Hostility and defensiveness will become second-nature to this child. And they will carry these traits well into adulthood.

This is not to discourage people from seeking help. The damage is permanent, but there is still hope. The damaged person can learn new coping skills. Just as an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, an abused child will always carry the weight of being an abused child. But they can learn to cope day by day.

10 Responses to “The Permanent Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect”

  1. savorydish said

    If you have memories of being afraid of a parent (afraid of how they might react when you did something bad), that is a sign that you were abused.

    Children should never be afraid of a caregiver. That child will grow up with a deep-seated fear of intimacy. When somebody gets emotionally close they will have an irrational fear of that person hurting them.

  2. savorydish said

    The confusion between love and pain is a common theme amongst abused children. Wrist-cutting and other forms of acting out are also a sign of childhood pain.

    Parents who cover up their children’s pain are hiding the evidence. Bad parenting is at the root of most childhood traumatization.

    I have had parents attack this blog, trying to convince me that they are defending their children. But in reality, they are covering up their own tracks- their own failures as a parent. Suppressing guilt is a family tradition.

    • savorydish said

      If you watched the Casey Anthony trial, you would have witnessed how abusive parents hide the evidence. Was Casey Anthony sexually abused by the father? It’s hard to say when someone tells as many lies as Casey Anthony. But one thing is for sure- something caused permanent damage to her psyche. The best evidence of childhood abuse is the abused child turned troubled adult.

  3. savorydish said

    Anything that causes emotional harm is abuse. Therefore, neglect is abuse. Abandonment is abuse. Excessive criticism is abuse. Cheating, excessive drinking, and fighting is not only setting a bad example for your child, it is harming them at the deepest emotional level. This kind of behavior is not traditionally classified as abuse. But it is abuse.

  4. savorydish said

    Abusive behavior is often passed onto the child. Children of borderline/bipolar parents will mimic their abusive behavior. The cycle stops when the child seeks treatment.

  5. savorydish said

    As posted earlier, arrested emotional development is one of the permanent effects of abuse. People who suffer from arrested development aren’t evil. They are childish. Just like children, they can be loving and sweet one moment. And then, the next they can act like selfish monsters.

    Children are easily bored and lose interest in things that once filled them with excitement. An adult who suffers from arrested development will think they are madly in love, and then months later feel suffocated. They can love a person with all their heart and then months later hate their guts.

    We expect this kind of behavior from a child. We are shocked when an adult acts this way.

  6. savorydish said

    When we hear the words “child abuse”, we automatically think of a child who is physically abused. But abuse includes any behavior that causes undue emotional distress. A loving parent can have bad days. They can have temper tantrums. They may not mean to harm the child but their erratic behavior creates insecurity and mistrust.

    Infidelity is a form of child abuse, because when a child witnesses a parent cheating it creates a fear that the family will unravel. Subsequently, the child will grow up with an irrational fear of all relationships unraveling. They will be unable to trust anyone. Cheating hurts the child as much as it hurts the spouse. And because their minds are more fragile and unable to process the event, it is even more harmful.

    Alcoholism is also a form of child abuse. It doesn’t even have to be full blown alcoholism. When a parent drinks excessively in front of a child, it sends a message that this is a proper way to deal with life’s ups and downs. Alcoholism is often a sign that there are deeper issues at hand. It is a package deal that involves a lot of chaos.

    Children need stability and constancy. Parents who are happy and loving one day. And then angry and sad the next are sending mixed signals to their child. That child will grow up confused and lost. That is why children of bi-polar parents will often develop personality disorders of their own.

    These forms of abuse are more subtle, so they often go unnoticed. Usually the effects are not evident until much later in life. A child doesn’t cut their wrists unless they are going through an extreme amount of emotional pain. If this pain is continuously suppressed and ignored, the results can be catastrophic.

    Emotionally-damaged children will go on to live a life filled with never-ending tragedy. They will display a pattern of unstable relationships and self-destructive behavior. Suicide rates are much higher amongst this group.

    • savorydish said

      To make matters worse abusive/negligent parents will cover up the emotional harm they have caused their children. When confronted with the truth, they will flat out deny it. From day one these children are taught to keep skeletons in the closet and dirt under the rug. Denial is a family tradition when the family is this dysfunctional. The emotional damage is left unchecked, unacknowledged and untreated. On top of that, the damaged child has learned ineffective coping strategies. And because they are conditioned for abuse, they will gravitate towards those who would add to the damage and run away from those who are not damaged enough for them.

      • savorydish said

        Because they have been exposed to drama/abuse from day one, they will become desensitized to it. An abused child gravitates towards drama, they crave it. They have been conditioned to accept. A healthy normal life will seem foreign. Normal healthy relationships will suffocate them. They will literally be bored out of their minds. Stability and constancy are boring to an adult who was abused as a child.

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