The most obvious effects of child abuse are physical effects, which can range from mild to life-threatening. Children who are physically abused may have cuts or bruises, burns, or, in severe cases, lasting brain or bodily damage. Infants may suffer from Shaken Baby Syndrome, while children of any age may carry effects from head trauma as a result of blows to the skull, all of which can affect cognitive development. Neglect, meanwhile, may show itself in physical signs such as inadequate hygiene, hunger or malnutrition, or unusual or insufficient clothing. Similarly, sexual abuse can result in sexually transmitted diseases or genital swelling or irritation. All of these forms of abuse can also transition into more severe long-term health problems such as diabetes or heart and lung issues.
However, there are also many emotional, mental, and behavioral effects of abuse that continue to leave a lasting mark long after physical injuries heal or even in their absence. Children who experience abuse have a significantly increased risk of suffering from psychiatric issues such as depression and borderline personality disorder. They may also have developmental disorders and struggle in school, and suffer from sleep disorders. Because abuse creates a state of persistent and continuous fear, children who have been abused or neglected may be nervy or timid, become emotionally withdrawn from others, or have significant delays in mental development or speech development.
There are other behavioral and social issues that may be exhibited especially as children grow into puberty; these are sometimes the result of the extended isolation that comes from abuse and neglect. As abused children grow into their teenage years and then into adulthood, they may exhibit tendencies toward unusual aggression or antisocial disorders.
Unfortunately, these issues continue into adulthood, especially in the absence of proper counseling or other treatment. Adults who suffered maltreatment as children have a higher likelihood of misusing substances such as drugs or alcohol, including hard drugs such as heroin, and engaging in sexually hazardous behavior, which can increase the risk of sexually transmitted disease as well as higher levels of depression. Juvenile and adult lawbreaking is also higher among those who were abused as children. Unfortunately, the cycle of abuse has a likelihood of continuing, as children who experience maltreatment are more likely to become abusive adults.
The long-term effects of child abuse, whether it be physical or emotional abuse or neglect, have the potential to be severe. It is vital that caretakers understand the unique needs of children who have suffered in the past in order to provide them with a brighter and happier future.