Child Abuse: Possible Long-Term Results

Child abuse and child neglect can have not only psychological aftermath, but produce biological consequences as well.

Child abuse comes in several different varieties: physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and neglet or rejection - to mention a few. Children often are unaware that the abuse they are experiencing is even abnormal, because, for them, it might be the only behavior they know from the very people that they depend upon for care. It is often not until later in life that they become cognisant of the fact that the care they received is not the same as that of others they know, and in reality was abusive.

Impact of Child Abuse on Children

I will talk about the psychological and behavioral consequences of childhood abuse later in this blog. Recent research has shown that child abuse and/or child neglect can have not only psychological aftermath, but produce biological consequences as well. Researchers have shown that victims of neglect or abuse in childhood often develop brain changes with decrease in actual structure of certain brain components. In addition, as a result of these changes, those victims of child abuse are more prone to develop depression, anxiety disorders, and are even more likely to attempt suicide.

Psychologically, early child abuse lends itself to later behavioral problems such as aggression, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and withdrawal and isolation. Those with a history of early childhood trauma are more likely, later in life. to suffer from a variety of psychiatric disorders including: borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorders and depression. Later on in life, those who witness physical and verbal abuse may themselves engage in the very behaviors they swore as children they would never do. Worst of all, many abusers suffer in silence as they "protect" the family secret. Fearing to reveal the abuse, they allow the internal feelings to "fester" and remain alive psychologically.

Treatment of Child Abuse

Once they become aware of the impact the child abuse is having on their adult lives, many of the abused can be helped in psychotherapy. Both individual and group therapy can be useful for these people. But having "success" in therapy means learning new ways of coping and dealing with the feelings of fear, anger, resentment -- and the notion that "I must have in some way caused the abuse to occur." The end result of therapy should be recovery from the impact of the abuse and for the person to come from a "victim" to a "survivor" mentality.

On the HealthyPlace TV show, we will explore the causes, impact, and recovery from childhood abuse - Tuesday June 16 (5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET live and on-demand on our website).

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Borderline Personality Disorder: Symptoms to Treatment
~ more mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, June 9). Child Abuse: Possible Long-Term Results, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info