What are the Effects of Child Abuse on Children & Wider Society?

Domestic/child abuse

Child abuse can have many negative consequences and effects on children and on society. Childhood maltreatment can create long term problems leading into adulthood, these include physical and mental health problems as well as behaviour issues. This guide aims to provide a better understanding about the effects of child abuse and how this impacts the society.

Who does child abuse affect?

Child abuse effects not only the child themselves but also the family members. Children may suffer from physical and psychological effects that will have an impact on their future well-being. Family members may also experience anxiety and other mental problems from the trauma, unsure about how to support the child. Witnesses can also be affected as well as other people who know the child such as teachers, friends or neighbours.

How does abuse affect children who experience it?

Children who experience abuse can be affected by a lifelong impact on their physical and mental health, some of these impacts include;

Physical: from minor bruising to severe injuries such as broken bones or internal bleeding

Psychological: Post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and mood disorders (depression)

Social difficulties: childhood abuse can impact a child’s ability to communicate with others and form healthy relationships. Children will have problems with trusting others and are more likely to form insecure attachments with people.

Trauma: overwhelming experience that makes the child question whether the world is good and safe, having a negative effect on their development

Brain development: impaired cognitive abilities such as delayed speech and development, difficulty in paying attention, also a state of fear and anxiety in a child.

Behavioural: being sad and withdrawn or aggressive and hyperactive

The effects of the abuse will of course depend on a number of factors such as the age of the child, the length and the severity of the abuse, the environment and the personality of the child. Every child will react differently to what has occurred. 

How does child abuse affect the family and friends around it?

There can be an impact on family and friends, whether they were involved or not. They may feel confused, fear, guilt resentment or misalignment in their self-esteem. They may feel guilty for not being able to protect or help the child and suffer from mental issues trying to come to terms with what has happened. 

There is also a risk that relationships with family members and friends is damaged if the perpetrator was a member of the family or close friend of the family, or if the child was not believed when the abuse was disclosed.

What are the short-term effects of child abuse?

The short term effects on the child include some of the following;

These effects will depend on a number of factors that will impact on how the child responds

  • Depression anxiety , guilt and shame
  • Changes to sleep and eating patterns
  • Low self- esteem
  • Regressive behaviour
  • Physical injuries
  • Poor social function 
  • Isolation

Although domestic abuse can affect anyone, most cases involve women and children. The long term effects on women may involve physical abuse causing infertility, children witnessing or experiencing the abuse are also at risk of long-term physical or mental problems. 

Children may become violent in their future relationships as they will have learned from behaviour witnessed in their childhood.

What are the long-term effects of child abuse?

Child abuse can have devastating long term effects which can include;

  • Certain regions in the brain fail to develop or function properly, causing issues in learning, memory, motor skills, emotion regulation and other problems
  • Diminished executive and cognitive skills
  • Poor mental and emotional health
  • Difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships 
  • Post- traumatic stress disorder
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Substance abuse

Unfortunately victims of child abuse can learn to treat their own children in the way they were treated themselves, passing the trauma of abuse down through generations. 

What are the wider consequences of child abuse on society?

Children that have experienced abuse tend to suffer from long term physical and mental health problems making it difficult for them to concentrate in school, reducing their career and employment prospects. The effect of child abuse on the economy and resources is also large as many of the incidents will involve the police, hospitals, courts, doctors and other services such as foster care. Unfortunately children who have been victims of abuse are likely to develop antisocial behaviour and tend to resort to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. 

These behavioural issues increases the risk of the child growing up and continuing the cycle of violence, putting the strain back into society.

How does it affect people at a community level?

Child abuse affects a community’s quality of life and economic prosperity, such as healthcare and foster care costs when children are removed for their safety. Indirect costs including lower academic achievement, adult criminality and lifelong mental health problems. 

These issues affect the safety and the well-being of the community too, people are put at risk of dealing with aggressive abusers in trying to support victims. One of the most crippling effects of child abuse is difficulties in forming relationships and trust in others, weakening the community structure further.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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