Effects of Child Abuse

There is extensive literature on the effects of child abuse. It is generally accepted that child abuse carries a significant mortality and morbidity with consequences that include the following:

• Death or disability in severe cases.

• Affective and behavior disorders.

• Developmental delay and learning difficulties.

• Failure to thrive and growth retardation.

• Predisposition to adult psychiatric disorders.

• An increased risk of the abused becoming an abuser.

In Gibbons et al.'s study (4) of 170 children, an attempt was made to disentangle the effect of the abuse from the contributing circumstances and the results of intervention. The authors found that 10 years after diagnosis, abused children were more likely to show behavior problems at home and at school, had greater difficulties with friendships, and scored lower on certain cognitive tests. There was evidence that persistent abuse, a combination of different kinds of abuse, or abuse and neglect together had a poorer prognosis. Isolated incidents of physical abuse in the context of a nonviolent family and in the absence of sexual abuse or neglect did not necessarily lead to poor long-term outcomes for children. What has emerged from this research has been the importance of the style of parenting in families: children exposed to a harshly punitive, less reliable, and less warm environments are the children with the poorest outcomes.

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