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Aside from the immediate physical injuries kids can experience through maltreatment, children’s reactions to neglect or abuse can have lifelong and intergenerational impacts. 

Child abuse can devastate a child’s self-esteem, beliefs, development, and functioning ability. Abuse commonly occurs over again and involves over one type, leading to lifelong complications to a kid’s physical and mental health. Childhood maltreatment can be linked to later psychological, physical, and behavioral consequences and societal costs. These consequences may somehow be independent of each other, but they also may be interrelated. 

Additionally, children who experience maltreatment are often affected by other adverse experiences (e.g., domestic violence, parental substance use, poverty), making it challenging to separate the unique effects of maltreatment.

What are the Menacing Effects of Child Abuse?

All forms of abuse and neglect harm children and young people. Below are four of the dangerous consequences:

1. Physical Health Consequences. Physical child abuse may affect minor injuries such as abrasions and bruises or severe injuries such as internal bleeding, broken bones, or deep lacerations. These physical injuries can also result in long-term emotional damage. Additionally, some long-term physical effects of neglect or abuse may occur immediately (such as brain damage caused by head trauma). Still, others can take months or years to be detectable or emerge. There is a direct link between physical abuse and physical health, but it is also essential to recognize that maltreatment can cause long-term physical consequences. 

2. Psychological Consequences. The impact on a kid’s mental health can persist well into adulthood. Child abuse can affect mental health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Further, child neglect and abuse can cause a variety of psychological problems. Maltreatment can cause victims fear, isolation, and distrust, translating into lifelong psychological consequences such as low self-esteem, educational difficulties, depression, and trouble forming and maintaining relationships. 

3. Behavioral Consequences. Child abuse can lead to behavioral concerns during childhood and young adulthood. Victims may have mood changes, emotional outbursts, sadness, behavior, withdrawal, violence, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, low self-esteem, bed-wetting, etc. Some of these behaviors can even continue into adulthood. Similarly, child abuse and neglect victims often exhibit behavioral difficulties after the maltreatment ends. Examples of how maltreatment can affect children’s behaviors later as adolescents and adults are unhealthy sexual practices, juvenile delinquency leading to adult criminality, alcohol, and other drug use, and future perpetration of maltreatment.

4. Societal Consequences. Although the psychological, physical, and behavioral consequences of child neglect and abuse weigh heavily on the shoulders of the kids who experience it, the impact of maltreatment does not end there. Society pays the price for child abuse and neglect through indirect costs (like foster care payments and hospitalizations) and indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity at school, long-term care, and juvenile and criminal justice systems costs). Children who are neglected and abused have trust issues and are often fearful. They may have difficulty maintaining relationships and communicating. They may be anxious, insecure, aggressive, withdrawn, or clingy. 

Final Word Child neglect and abuse can have long-lasting and devastating effects on a child. The effects on each kid vary widely and are affected by a mixture of factors, including the child’s age and developmental status when the maltreatment happened; the severity, type, duration, and frequency of the maltreatment; and the relationship between the perpetrator and the child. However, communities can act to stem the effects of abuse and even prevent it. Evidence-based supports and services can promote protective factors that mitigate the effects of maltreatment and provide communities and families with the tools to stop it before it occurs. Child welfare agencies can work with communities and families to spearhead initiatives that build upon strengths and address needs.

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