The consequences of child abuse can be serious and far-reaching. They include physical, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral problems that can continue through adulthood. The seriousness of the effects depends on a number of factors, including the type of abuse, the frequency and harshness of the abuse, the child's age when abused, the child's ability to cope, and the availability of family and community support and intervention. Both government agencies and nonprofit organizations have done studies to better understand the long-term consequences of child abuse.

Physical consequences of child abuse

Physical abuse can cause severe injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, and death. If the abuse occurs in infancy or early childhood, it can impair brain development. This damage can lead to many types of learning disabilities, and mental and emotional problems, such as panic disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

There is also a relationship between child abuse and poor health in adulthood. Several studies have found that adults who were abused as children are more likely to have asthma, high blood pressure, and ulcers, among other health problems.

Psychological consequences of child abuse

Emotional and psychological effects of child abuse can translate into long-term psychological problems and disorders. These include low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, panic attacks, suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attachment disorder. Abuse can also contribute to poor performance in school and lower academic achievement.

Behavioral consequences of child abuse

Abused children may be at risk for many unhealthy behaviors as adolescents and adults, such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, and sexual promiscuity. There is also a greater chance of juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.

Childhood maltreatment can create a vicious cycle of abuse. Abused children are more likely to pass on the abuse to their children as adults. They may also have a harder time maintaining healthy intimate relationships and stable careers.

Additional resources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway: Long-term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Welfare Information Gateway: A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Child Maltreatment Prevention, Scientific Information-Consequences

Related Legal Guides:

The Basics of Child Abuse

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

Child Abuse Types

Psychological Child Abuse