Impact of Child Abuse and Maltreatment

Category: Psychology


Child maltreatment became widely recognized in the USA in the 1960s and since then is spread worldwide, wherever systematic investigations were held. Thus, the issue concerning the wrong influence of parents on children became urgent today. The wrong influence means the child abuse. Any kind of child maltreatment causes traumas on various levels. A trauma is an experienced event, which has negative psychological impact on a child development. Consequences of child maltreatment and lack of parental love can be shown throughout all life of the child, adversely affecting both its mental and physical health.

Consequences of violence or neglect of the basic needs of children can be considered as a result of their injury. The concept of a psychological trauma includes disorders of physical, cognitive, personality, and social dysfunctions of the child, which are caused by actions or inaction of parents or other adults. The psychological trauma occurs in that case when influencing incentive exceeds the ability of the child to cope with it (Hagele, 2005).


Child abuse and maltreatment are more probable when there is a coinciding influence of such destructive factors as psychological (psycho-pathological) features of parents or trustees, conflict inter-familial relations, negative influence of other family members and a social environment, indifferent attitude of society to the facts of child abuse. In the teenage and adolescence periods, the de-socialization caused by maltreatment in childhood, occurs mainly on a personal level and is expressed in social and psychological deformation of the personality with the formation of antisocial attitudes to values. Thus, for some infants, transition from a delinquency stage to steady criminal behavior is accompanied by accumulation of negative, de-socializing influences and fixing antisocial value orientations. At the other part of infants, the asocial behavior is not caused by defects of legal consciousness but by disorders of mental development and deviations in emotional and strong-willed and intellectual spheres with the features of the detainee mental dysontogenesis and personal immaturity (Bert, Guner, & Lanzi, 2009).

Children, who are often abused and roughly called by their parents, are most likely to perform high level of aggression, existence of interpersonal problems, and deviations in behavior. Such features of children stir them to social adaptation and cause rejection by contemporaries and adults. Constant criticism and insults lead to that the child starts considering that it does not deserve a good attitude of parents or other adults and is not worthy their love. Level of the child's self-esteem is considerably lowered, the low self-assessment, so-called “inferiority complex”, is formed. Such children, adapting to a situation, develop various ways of behavior, for example, from the tendency to privacy, extreme dependence and subjugate to another to aggression and antisocial behavior.

Threats, intimidation, and humiliations from parents cause an anxiety and fear, suppress the dependence of the child, and in most cases, psychosomatic diseases develop among abused children (Hagele, 2005).

Recent researches showed that children who started walking were exposed to a physical abuse and have not developed reliable allegiance, suffer of distortions and delays in cognitive development, development of the “self”, language acquisition, and coherent processes. The child abuse sometimes relates to the imposed mother's care who does not consider desires of the kid and prevents it to perform own activities. When the style of interaction of mother with her 6-month-old baby is characterized by imposing of her own will, the child can further show low levels of educational, cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral skills (Felfe, Nollenberger, & Rodriguez-Planas, 2012).

The correlation between bad mental abuse and cognitive development disorders of small children also takes place. Thus, the last researches found a reduction of cognitive skills among 9-24-month old children whose mothers are psychologically inaccessible. In addition, similar to children, suffering from other forms of maltreatment, children of school age who are exposed to the bad mental abuse perform lower results on tests of achievements and intelligence, and lower school performance than children who are not exposed to the bad mental abuse (Delima & Vimpani, 2011).

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Cognitive and language development suffers, as a result of abandonment, more, than at any other form of maltreatment. Abandonment is, as a rule, shown in that environment, where since the very first years of life of the child, the lack of sensory stimulation and an external response is observed, and parents practically do not show interest to achievements of their child. Deficiency of cognitive abilities remains from the early age up to the school. Abandoned children who start studying at school have a lower level of development of basic skills, and their skills of speech, readings and math lag behind normal children approximately for two years throughout studying in elementary grades. Similarly, the Abandoned teenagers have the lowest grades among all victims of child maltreatment and often remain on to re-training course (Felfe, Nollenberger, & Rodriguez-Planas, 2012).

Any kind of child abuse leads to the various consequences, but they are united by damage to health of the child or danger to its life. Negative consequences for health are as following: loss or deterioration of function of any organ, disease development, disorders of physical or mental development. Approximately 1-2 of 100 cases of a physical abuse over children are finished with death of the victim of violence. Consequences of a physical abuse are bruises, traumas, fractures, internal injuries of liver, spleens, kidneys, etc. Some time is required to heal these damages, but more time and efforts are required to heal sincere wounds, and mentality of the child who suffered from beating (Goldman, Salus, Wolcott, & Kennedy, 2003).

Almost all children affected by maltreatment and neglect experience mental traumas; therefore, they develop with the certain personal, emotional, and behavioral features, which are negatively influencing their further life. Children, who have experienced different types of abuse, usually experience anger, which most often is poured out on weaker younger children or animals. Their aggression is often performed in games, sometimes flash of their anger have no apparent reason. Some of them, on the contrary, are excessively passive and cannot protect themselves. Contact and communication with contemporaries are in either case broken. Abandoned and emotionally deprived children, have the aspiration to attract attention to themselves in any possible way; it is sometimes shown in the form of defiant and eccentric behavior (Kendall-Tackett, 2002).

The most universal and heavy reaction to any abuse is the low self-assessment, which promotes preservation and fixing of the psychological maltreatment connected with abuse. The person with a low self-assessment endures sense of guilt and shame. Such children are characterized with constant conviction in own inferiority. Thereof, it is difficult for a child to achieve respect of people around, success, and its communication with contemporaries is complicated. Among abused children, even in adult age, the high frequency of depressions is noted. Depressions are shown in attacks of anxiety, unaccountable melancholy, feeling of loneliness and sleep disorders. At older ages, teenagers tend to commit suicide (Kendall-Tackett, 2002).


To sum up it should be noted that among children, the integration of which at certain stages of development was insufficient (for example, lack of opportunity for allegiance emergence in the age to three years), corresponding functions may be developed insufficiently. The situation of small children abuse can be improved by changing the relationship between children and their parents and other significant people, and creating a more favorable environment. Thus, the most important step is the early intervention directed both on work with trustees, and their relationship with the child. After the creation of more favorable environment, therapeutic work with the child is also required. Undoubtedly, the most effective intervention is prevention or identification of the unacceptable relations between the child and parents at a stage when negative consequences are not so obvious yet.

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