Child Abuse

The Affects of Child Abuse

How Does Child Abuse Affect Families?

Child abuse does not end with childhood. It stays with the victim and the family for years to come. Sometimes strong ties with siblings that have tried to protect or support them. Most of the time there are still issues with secrets and betrayal.These kinds of family dynamics can have the victims feeling traumatized all over again. A common struggle is feeling guilty like they betrayed or abandoned their family. Family members can also be in denial about what had happened saying it’s the daughters fault for being sexually abused by a father or grandfather, responses like this invalidate a victim's story and feelings.

How Does Child Abuse Affect a Person's Mental Health?



Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Early abuse may contribute to all mental illnesses. Abuse leaves people more vulnerable to depression, addiction, and PTSD, studies show.In one study 25% of participants had suffered Major depression at some point in their lives, 7% had been diagnosed with PTSD but among 16% that had suffered three or more types of abuse, it was much worse 53% of them had suffered depression and 40% had full or partial PTSD. 80% of 21 year olds who were reportedly abused met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

How Does Abuse Affect a Person's Brain?

Brain scans of adults with depression and PTSD, show reductions in the size of the hippocampus. Earlier research on abused children did not find the same changes, animal studies on early life stress have suggested that differences in the hippocampus may not show up until after puberty. The new study suggests that the same is true for humans.

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How Often Does a Child Die From Child Abuse?

About 5 children die everyday from child abuse. The united states loses an average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. In 2012 an estimated 1,640 children died of child abuse and neglect. More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger. More than 80% were not yet old enough for kindergarten. Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as the perpetrator. A report of child abuse happens every 10 seconds.

What are The Signs and Symptoms of Abuse?

Behavior changes such as fear, anxiety, depression, aggression or withdrawal, not wanting to go home, or appearing afraid of certain individuals.


  • Overly sexualized behavior or use of explicit sexual language that's inappropriate for the child's age
  • Changes in sleeping patterns including frequent nightmares, difficulty falling asleep. Both may result in the child appearing tired or fatigued
  • Changes in school performance and attendance, such as being unable to concentrate in class or frequent absences
  • Eating habits that lead to extreme weight gain or loss
  • Visible unexplained injuries such as burns, bruises, or broken bones
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Trouble walking or sitting


Warning signs of emotional abuse in children


  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).


Warning signs of physical abuse in children


  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.


Warning signs of neglect in children


  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
  • Is frequently late or missing from school.


Warning signs of sexual abuse in children


  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
  • Runs away from home.
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Reporting Child Abuse

Reporting child abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you're doing the right thing, or question if your voice will even be heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in difficult situations:

  • Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, "The parents are not dressing their children right," say something like, "I saw the child running outside three times last week in subzero weather without a jacket or hat. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable. He seemed to want to come inside." However, remember that it is not your job to "prove" abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.

  • Understand that you may not learn of the outcome. Due to confidentiality laws in the U.S., unless you are a mandated reporter in an official capacity, you probably won't be updated by Child Protective Services (CPS) about the results of their investigation. The family may not broadcast that they have been mandated services, either—but that doesn't mean they are not receiving them.

  • If you see future incidences, continue to call and report them. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.

How to get help.

Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453)