Effects of Child Abuse Growing up is an essential time for children because they look to their parents for safety, love, security, support, understanding, and nurturance. In addition, children learn a lot about relationships, life, models of good behavior, and early attachments are formed. When child abuse occurs in the home, it has a major impact on the child that drastically changes the family dynamic and trust is violated within the child. The impact the abuse on the child may be present for the rest of the child’s life, which will affect how the person interacts with others and possibly their own children.
Studies have shown that nearly three million children in the U. S experience some form of maltreatment. Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual (Spinazzola, Hodgdon, Liang, Ford, Layne, Pynoos, & Kisiel, 2014). The effects of abuse can be seen in the decrease in functioning in many areas such as cognitive changes, affect changes, neurological variations, and behavior modifications. In this paper I will explore the effects of child abuse cognitively, affectively, behaviorally, and neurologically.
In addition, I will offer a personal reflection, which will include ideas of countertransference that may occur and a spiritual view of child abuse and how scripture can be integrated. Cognitive Research has shown that a major impact is placed on a child’s cognitions after experiencing abuse. Considering the fact that abuse violates the trust the child has with the parent, a conflict occurs within the child. The child starts to debate whether it’s their fault it happened and that’s when the negative thoughts and decreased functioning in cognition occurs.
Studies have explored that childhood abuse can impact the rates of suicide, increased cognitive errors, and negative self-views. According to Weismoore, & Esposito-Smythers (2010), research has provided evidence that early trauma such as abuse or assault are associated with poor psychological outcomes such as suicide ideation, non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, distorted thought patterns, cognitive errors, depression, anxiety, and cognitive rumination.
From this research, Weismoore and EspositoSmyhers conducted a study to examine the effects of abuse and assault on children and their cognitive function. The article aimed to explore a relationship between abuse and cognitive deficits such as NSSI, distorted thinking, cognitive errors and negative self-views. The article sampled two hundred and sixty three adolescents from ages 13-18 who had been hospitalized for depression, anxiety, NSSI, or suicidal ideation. The sample was assessed for psychiatric disorders, assault, abuse, and NSSI.
The study used multiple assessments such as the Schedule for Affective Disorder and Schizophrenia for School-Age ChildrenPresent and Lifetime Version, Cognitive Triad Inventory for Children, and the Children’s Negative Errors Questionnaire. After the analysis of he assessment was completed the results reported that moderate relation was found in abuse and assault in children is related to decreased cognitive function. From the results, I think that more research should be explored to enhance the information found in this study.
Overall, this study shows the impact abuse can have on cognitive function. Affective Affect is a major part of communication in the world. Affect is the experience of feeling or emotion, which may include facial, vocal, or gestural behavior. From the studies that I have explored, I recognized that the parent and child relationship has a major impact on how the child functions on multiple levels. According to Glaser (2000), a major factor in a developing child is responding sensitively and helping them gauge their emotions accurately.
In other words, affect is key in helping children to learn how to gauge their emotions effectively. In cases where abuse is present in the home, this does not always occur. Hence the child misses out on this learning process. The article reports that engaging in the appropriate behaviors with the child are necessary in order for the child to regulate affect, arousal, and behavior (Glasser, 2009). By having the child engage in these behaviors with the parent, the child will know how to interact accordingly. I explored another interesting article on affect in children who have been abused.
The meta-analysis reported that a child’s facial emotion recognition accuracy was directly related with abuse (Wagner, Milner, McCarthy, Crouch, McCanne, & Skowronski, 2015). In other words, children who were abused were not as accurate at recognizing facial emotions or displaying facial emotions in comparison to children who were not abused. From these studies vouc n these studies you can se the impact that abuse has on a child’s affect. Behavioral Amongst many of the statements I have heard about abused children, behavior problems have by far been the biggest impact on children who experience abuse.
Specifically children who have experienced abuse have increased levels of aggression, inattention, hyperactivity, conduct problems, noncompliance, and delinquency (Spinazzola et al. , 2014). In addition, effects of abuse have also been linked to low self-esteem, suicidality, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and internalizing symptoms. In other words, abuse has a major impact on how a child behaves in various types of setting such as in school, at home, other peoples homes, and out in public. These behaviors can be difficult for teachers, family members, and others to handle.
I think it is important to be aware if some of these behaviors are present to assess for possible abuse because the other issues related to abuse may not be as noticeable or prevalent. I explored an article that completed a study specifically geared at behavior changes in children who have been abused. For this study the CDS collected data from 14,088 children from a spa of 2004 to 2010. The children were evaluated using measures such as the UCLA Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Reaction Index (PTSD-RI), the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the Trauma
History Profile (THP), and an indicator of severity and clinical evaluation assessment. From the results of the assessments of a span of six years, the results showed that abuse in childhood not only augments, but independently contributes to a statistically high risk for negative behavior outcomes in youth (Spinazzola et al, 2014). Thus proving that abuse in childhood has a major impact on the behaviors of the abused youth. Neurological Brain damage related death in abused children is said to be the leading cause of abuse related deaths in children.
Research has shown that significant changes in biochemical, functional, and structural factors are shown in children whom have experienced abuse (Glasser, 2000). The article I explor ed in regards to neurological changes in the brain due to abuse highlights the main areas where the changes in the brain occur in response to abuse (Glasser, 2000). In this research major changes were seen within the cortex and limbic system. Specifically, when abuse occurs a decline in cortex activity, decreased hippocampal volume, and increased limbic system sensitivity were seen.
In addition, EEG studies have shown children with a history of abuse were seen to have underdevelopment of the left-brain, a smaller corpus callosum, and neuro-endocrine alterations. From this research it is clear to say that abuse can cause a damage impact on child’s development. The brain is a vial part of our bodies and damage to it can be debilitating. Reflection Abuse is a topic that hits close to home. I was never abused as a child but as a young adult I was in an abusive relationship. I can account from first hand experience how much of an impact it has on a persons cognitions, behaviors, affect, and neurological damage that can occur.
After someone experiences abuse it changes how your relationships are with other people, how you think and behave. Specifically for me I would find my self doing things that I would have done with my old abusive boyfriend, with my new not abusive boyfriend and that was extremely frustrated. Trying to unlearn behavior patterns is a difficult process. So when peaking in terms of children I cant even imagine how they must feel. Luckily they are much more resilient. I think that by having that abusive experience I could meet the child where they are in a sense.
I can help them build back their trust, self-esteem, and change their negative thought patterns. The main issues I see with countertransference for me would be against the perpetrator and the victim. Specifically for the child, it may take me back to that difficult place and may stir up a lot of emotions. In terms of the perpetrator, I know that I may have feelings of anger towards them for how they treated my client. Despite the countertransference that may occur, I do not believe that it will impact therapy in any way.
I think that if anything my experience will add to the therapeutic relationship and therapeutic process. In addition, I would definitely incorporate a spiritual perspective in treatment. The Bible talks about how God does not condone abuse. One scripture that stands out to me is that God speaks to abuse victims and says they are safe and protected by him. The verse says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught”.
I like this verse because it can help victims to feel safe and secure with God. Providing a safe and secure environment for the child can be beneficial for their recovery. Overall, I explored the many levels that abuse effects a developing child. As therapists, it is important to have an understanding of the effects of abuse so we can better inform others and help our clients to recover from abuse. In addition, providing a spiritual aspect in therapy can help the client feel safe and secure, not only with the therapist but with God as well.