Negative Effects of Child Abuse on Adulthood



Negative Effects of Child Abuse


Child abuse has many negative effects on children. However, these effects can become even more serious and permanent as a person grows into adulthood. For instance, a young child can be rescued from an abusive environment and not suffer from any additional short-term effects. But once he/she reaches adulthood, the brain is already fully developed, and very little can be done to reverse damages done by childhood abuse. This makes child abuse very serious for adult survivors.

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Adult survivors of childhood abuse can experience serious effects like decreased hippocampal volume compared to normal adults. Such people are often unable to cope with the demands of adult life. The act of abusing a child is seen as literally priming the brain to be receptive to severe psychiatric problems in the future. Adult survivors of child abuse suffer from serious conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) and depressions. These victims suffer from complications that were earlier viewed as being endogenic, which affects their ability to access the help needed. In some instances, some of the complications they that may suffer from, including extreme anxiety, rage, fear, suicidal feelings and low self-worth, are generally not clearly understood.

The consequences of childhood abuse on adult survivors are also experienced by the society-at-large and may form a self-sustaining cycle in which such survivors find themselves abusing children themselves. Due to all the effects that are caused by child abuse to adult survivors, there need for efforts to combat child abuse as well as assist the survivors in coping with the undesirable consequences.


Child abuse is a combination of processes, events and behaviors that cause injuries in a child physically, sexually and emotionally (Wright 2007). Various acts committed by perpetrators of abuse may amount to mistreatment or neglect to children. According to the Department for Children and Families in the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any act -either by commission or omission- done individually or in combination, one time or many times that harms or is capable of harming or threatening a child is considered child abuse (Lange 2008).

Child abuse takes place in various environments including homes, schools and other institutions (Rubinstein 1994). A significant number of cases of child abuse are done by people familiar to the abused children rather than strangers (Fong 1992). Family members, including parents, have been found to abuse children for various reasons (Haley, Stein & Kittleson 2005).

In the past, child abuse was perceived as only relating to serious physical battering which results in physical injuries in children (Panzer 2008). This perception has led to many children being denied care and protection from abusers who do not necessarily inflict physical injury on children (Desai 2010). Although physical injury on a child is a sign of an abuse, some children are abused in ways that cause other forms of injuries aside from it. These may include sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse and neglect, or witnessing domestic violence among others (Bancroft 2004). All these forms leave deleterious effects on children that grow and manifest in adulthood and throughout the lives of the survivors (Rutter & Taylor 2002).

Child abuse can occur at an early age when a child is not able to discern things, which makes some children to perceive it as a normal part of growing up. Such victims may eventually abuse their own children. Secondly, it occurs at a time in the child's life when brain development is fastest, when preservation of memories that forms a basis for reasoning in adults takes place. For this reason, the effects of child abuse are amplified in adulthood. Childhood memories are utilized for reasoning in adulthood and form the basis on which adults make choices (Sanderson 2006). For this reason, adult survivors of child abuse may find themselves unable to make morally right decisions, especially as far as child abuse is concerned (Timko, Christine, Sutkowi, Anne, Pavao, Joanne & Kimerling 2008).

An adult who was abused as a child is more likely to abuse children if he is not given the right treatment and guidance. At the same time, abused children may generally lack the right environment for growth. Sometimes the abuse affects children’s learning, playing as well as physical and mental development such that the person does not become a well-developed adult (Salkind 2002).

Another effect of child abuse is bitterness that some survivors may develop towards the abusers, people around them as well as society as a whole. This may make them develop an urge to seek revenge (Wilson & Wilson 2008). This anger and bitterness is even increased when the abused individuals mature and recognize that the people who abused them were actually entrusted with protecting them (Jongsma, Peterson & McInnis 2006). The anger may also be directed towards society in general for failing to come to their rescue.

Goals and Objectives

A large number of children are victims of child abuse, in the UK for instance, more than 500 000 children are maltreated or neglected while it is only one out of nine such children get rescued by the local authorities (Kohrt, Hruschka, Kohrt, Carrion, Waldman, & Worthman 2015). At the same time, society is suffering and bearing the brunt of the effects of adults who were abused as children (Gartner 2005). With proper management of the children’s environment, child abuse can be minimized (Bellenir 2005).

Additionally, deleterious effects that abuse has on children can be countered through guidance that enables the survivors to deal with the trauma properly (Hughes 1998). This research will seek to determine the effects of child abuse on adults who were victims. It will also seek to find out the various negative effects that have resulted from having been abused as children as well as the lifelong negative effects.

In discussing these effects on the individuals, there are the social aspects to keep in mind. Such effects such as lawlessness and crime will be discussed. The paper will also seek to find ways through which these harmful effects can be reduced. Various approaches such as working to stop child abuse as well as rehabilitating the abused children will be discussed. Adults may have a more difficult time being rehabilitated as some of the affects cannot be corrected or reversed. This research will also focus on how adults who suffered child abuse can be helped so that that they can live normal lives. This is very important and could assist such people not to abuse children themselves, engage in crime, or live in emotional pain that results from child abuse.

Literature Review

Various researchers and authors have researched and compiled reading materials on the topic of child abuse. The purpose of using their research and findings is for affirmative action or to foster further research. The scope of each study varies, but all of them focus on child abuse and its effects either on the children, the adults who were abused as children or society as a whole.

According to Zafar & Ross (2013), the process of bringing up children is the most crucial to a person’s life. The authors focus on a child’s world during the development and shed more light on various participants in this environment. According to the authors, very limited mental development takes place during adulthood. Instead, the strength and the malleability of the brain develop in the critical period between childhood and puberty (Moffatt 2003).

At the same time, the children’s environment has very few participants that are tasked with nurturing and stimulating the child’s growth (Miller 1984). In infancy, the child generally only has family members or a caregiver who ensure effective nurturing and stimulation of the brain for mental development (Draucker & Petrovic 1997). Sometimes in the same period, a teacher or a handful of people, including neighbors, may join in (Mitchell & Abbott 1987).

In young children, important lessons such as love and trust are learned. If a child is either neglected or abused in this period, he or she may develop to become an adult who may not trust anybody. The authors point out that those adults may have difficulty forming and retaining crucial relationships later on in life. For example, they may be unable to relate well with employers, neighbors, and spouses. The result of this can be individuals who never settle into one job, who keep on relocating and may also abandon loved ones. Such people may also be unable to collaborate with others well and may have difficulties functioning as part of a team. The above repercussions only occur where cases of abuse and neglect were mild.

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In extreme cases of abuse, these people grow up to be adults who are always anxious and bitter. This is complicated further by a large number who may not single out the source (s) of anxiety (Vranceznu, Hobfoll & Johnson 2007). They also seem to make rush decisions even when it is unwarranted. The consequences also put these victims of abuse at a predisposed position for exhibiting violence. The real mechanism under which they turn aggressive faster than people who were brought up in a caring environment is not scientifically proven. However, Zafar & Ross (2013) suggest that such people might have been desensitized by the perpetrators who abused them, which makes them perceive violence as a normal experience. Another perspective is that their brain development could have been hampered, making it hard for them to make logical choices.

According to Willows (2008), sexual abuse has extremely devastating effects on children. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to detect. Unlike some forms of physical abuse that may leave scars and fractures that allow others to detect and offer help to the victim, sexual abuse may go undetected and may only surface when an individual is an adult and already independent. The situation is further worsened by the society’s perception that children should never be trusted while adults should.

For this reason, the author states that most of the sexual abusers of children warn their victims that it is meaningless to tell anyone, as no one will trust them. This may make the abused child start distrusting their parents. In some instances, the child may actually go ahead and inform the parents, only to find that they choose to take the abuser’s side of story. In this case, the child feels more helpless and, even worse, the child abuser is left even more encouraged to commit the atrocity again and the cycle continues.

Willows (2008) notes that a sense of betrayal is felt by a child who is molested sexually by a person the child knows. In the initial learning environment of a child, the child perceives that she can trust any person in his or her environment. These mostly include parents, close relatives and other people introduced to the child by the parents (Heim, Shugart, Craighead & Nemeroff 2010). The act of abuse is usually a major betrayal that damages a child’s trust. In most cases, sexual molesters blame the child for the act. The child is left believing that the abuse it is his/her own fault. This causes guilt in the child after such an act of manipulation. The end result of sexual abuse is devastating to any child. However, due to the nature of the environments in which a child grows, these cases may go undetected. The child only acts withdrawn as he/she is denied the right environment.

In adulthood, this is when such people are able to express themselves fully and in various ways. The effect of this expression may be even worse due to bitterness. Some of these people seek revenge on their abusers, parents, and society. It is also very important to note that they do not reason in a sound way and their behavior may risk people’s lives, including their own. The author focuses on how these people can be assisted to recover in adulthood so that they can lead productive lives. The author concentrates more on assisting such people living better by assisting them in getting over the harsh repercussions of sexual abuse.

Warner (2008) focuses on demystifying the whole idea of sexual abuse. The author seeks to explain the effects of sexual abuse on people of all ages. It is not possible to take a course of action of any significance without first understanding what the problem is. One of the repercussions of sexual abuse according to this author is the expression of risky behavior. It is said that the victims experience feelings of low self-worth, which makes them unable to stand up for themselves. The repercussions can include a suicidal attitude and self-destructive behavior. The victims need help so that they may stand up to these challenges (Briere 1992).

The victims usually experience deep psychological problems that society may not understand. The people around them such an adult may be very confused while trying to understand what the problem (s) could be. The process of understanding them is complicated further by the fact that most of them do not feel free to express themselves to everyone. This complication is compounded by the fact that the abuse rips victims of the trust they have for individuals and in society in general (Hebert & Bergeron 2007). The author reorganizes the difficulties that may be encountered while trying to understand victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Cicchetti and Carlson (1989) talk about various causes and consequences of child abuse. The author focuses on the research related to the theory and practical part concerning child abuse. One of the most striking revelations in this book is that a large percentage of child abuse is done by people who have abused themselves. This means that one of the greatest consequences of being a victim of child abuse is to become a perpetrator of child abuse as an adult (Arthur 1986).

Indeed, it has been found that most of the parents abuse their children because they too were abused. This may happen either consciously or otherwise. Some adults who were physically and sexually assaulted by their parents as children perpetuate the same to their children, as they do not know of any other better way to raise children. Others do the same thing as a means of revenge as they feel the need to let their anger out on someone else. For this reason, the author points out that if adequate measures are not put in place, child abuse my actually increase in the future and continue to harm society.

Cicchetti and Carlson (1989) describe the process of child abuse as priming children for mental problems in the future. Even if adequate technology was not around in 2005 to isolate the actual effects of child abuse on mental development, there was adequate evidence that those people who grew up being molested were more likely to develop psychiatric problems than the ones who grew in a caring environment (LeMarr 1996). People who grew up in a harsh environment characterized mainly by abuse were found to be more predisposed to psychiatric problems which include depression, multiple personality disorder, and suicidal attitude. Such people were also found to have problems with anger management that can quickly result in physical confrontation as the method of conflict resolution of their choice (Malone, Farthing & Marce 1997).

According to Bilo, Oranje, Shwayder, and Hobbs (2013), a diagnosis of child abuse can be a difficult task. The nature of children is that they know very little at that stage in their lives and far much fewer of them understand what to expect from their parents and caregivers. For this reasons, most of the abused children may not know if the kind of treatment they receive from the people in their environment amounts to mistreatment or not. For this reason, the process of finding or establishing if a child is being abused or not can be very tough. When interrogating a child to determine if he is abused or not, the process becomes very complex because of the limited ability that children possess in expressing themselves. Without proper training and experience, it is virtually impossible to diagnose instances of child abuse.

Sexual abusers ensure they instill enough guilt and fear in a child such that the child may never open up. On the other hand, parents and relatives who engage in verbal or physical abuse of children make the children think that the abuse was necessary and was meant to either discipline or help the child. In most cases, the child is left with nowhere to turn to help. Bilo, Oranje, Shwayder, and Hobbs (2013) expound how this feeling continues into adulthood where a person who was mistreated in childhood suffers the consequences of abuse without understanding the cause (Fouque & Glachan 2000). This is because these people were mistreated while being convinced that it was a normal experience (Crowder, & Hawkings 1995).

Such adults find themselves grappling with uneven temperament, depression, the inability to develop relationships, but without understanding that something is wrong with them or what the cause is. The author provides procedures on how to recognize all these factors and come up with a reliable diagnosis in cases where a child is being abused or when an adult was abused as a child. These procedures are especially helpful for all other forms of abuse that leave no physical evidence.

Krugman and Korbin (2013) talk about the trends in child abuse over the last 50 years. In the book that was authored to commemorate their research and study in child abuse, various trends that have occurred in the field comes to life. According to them, tracking the life of an abused child as he/she grows up can be an unpleasant experience. The devastating effect that results in such people’s lives is enormous. Some of them can grow and becoming child molesters themselves and hence perpetuating the vicious cycle further (Connell-Carrick 2010).

Others grow to develop psychiatric problems and conditions such as PTSD or depression while others may even engage in violent crimes as a means of revenge on the society that failed to protect them from abuse at their young age. A significant number may continue to remain silent and adopt a very low self-worth that results in suicidal attitudes or developing self-destructive behavior (Kohrt, Hruschka, Kohrt, Carrion, Waldman & Worthman 2015).

For this reason, the authors emphasize the importance of assisting such people to recover their lives. It would be very important for every person to participate in lending a hand to these victims either as children or as adults. According to the researcher, the advantage of rescuing young children from abuse is that less damage is already done and a child may be able to outgrow the negative effects and develop normally. However, the shortcoming of this is that children are often too afraid to speak out and the abusive parents and relatives may try to hide such children for various reasons (Hurley 2011).

On the other hand, helping adults to outgrow the effects of their abuse as children is easier in that adults are able to open up easily and communicate well (Warner 2008). In addition, adults could be easier to reach, as it does not happen through parents (Lamis, Wilson, King & Kaslow 2014).

However, the damage to the mental development in adults cannot be reversed or corrected and the adults may learn to live with the adverse effects of living with underdeveloped parts of their brain and the inability to handle intense pressure (Jaudes & Diamond 1985). This is the basis of their conclusion that the effects of child abuse in adulthood may not be reversible. The victim has to live with these adverse effects and the help provided would be more useful if it focuses on assisting one to cope (Hunter 1995).

As the literature above shows, child abuse affects both the physical and psychological development of children. The physical effects may fade but the mental and emotional development is permanently damaged. This leads to very complex emotional and psychological challenges in adults that were abused as children.

Methodology and Ethics

In trying to find out the negative consequences that adults experience as a result of being abused as children, this research will adopt a secondary approach. This means it will rely on previous research that has been conducted, analyzed, and compiled in materials such as articles and textbooks. The primary reason for the selection of this approach is that it saves time and resources. However, the greatest advantage that this research will reap from this approach is that it allows for the evaluation of views and standpoints of various authors and specialist that increases the scope of information that the researcher gets. The approach allows insight into various materials that include textbooks, internet resources, and articles. Books with previous research and findings concerning the effects of child abuse in adults will be revisited and evaluated.

The research paradigms that will be applied in this research is positivism, where it is the position of the paper that child abuse has lifelong effects on an individual that are mostly expressed in adulthood due to the autonomous nature or adults. The research will seek and analyze information concerning this idea.

The research will also seek to find out various negative effects that some adults go through as a result of having been mistreated as children. This is important as it supports the fact that the negative effects of child abuse do not end in childhood. After discussing the effects of abuse to adults, the research will also seek and analyze information about the consequences and challenges that these adults face. These will mostly be mental and psychological as the literature review suggests. In addition, these psychological effects eventually have a physical manifestation in individuals as well as society as a whole. The literature suggests that these effects are either continuous or recurrent in adult life, which aggravates their effects.

Finally, the research will also look at the effects of child abuse on a societal level. The extent to which society is affected varies, as do the direct effects. The effects on society may be difficult to analyze, as it is difficult to isolate the ones that are strictly caused by adults who were abused as children. However, it is important to note that the number of victims is large, which increases the scope of the research. The research is not about one person or a few marked individuals but a large number of people who have suffered from one or a combination of several mistreatments at various ages of their childhoods over a varying period of time. This becomes complicated in that the effects on each individual are very specific and that various victims have taken varying courses of life afterward. Some have chosen to come out and seek help; others have chosen to take revenge on their children or on society while others do not know how to respond at all.

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The research will also adopt an interpretive approach in that no data will be collected in the field or among the affected individuals. The research is secondary research that will be based on the existing materials to answer the research questions. As a result, it will borrow concepts and findings from other materials that will be interpreted in order to get the information required to effectively respond to research questions. A significant amount of findings may not be represented in numbers, as it is neither measurable nor gradable. This informs the choice to interpret and analyze them in words.

Most importantly, it is important to note that the majority of people want to live in a society that is defined by refinement where behaviors that are seen as archaic especially the ones that harm or lower the quality of life are avoided or systematically eliminated (Crosson-Tower 2015). For this reason, many people and organizations have engaged in research to find ways to eliminate child abuse and help adults who were abused as children to overcome the effects of child abuse. Many researchers, as was seen in the literature review, feel that the victims should not be left to bear the consequences of child abuse alone but should be assisted in whatever way possible. This is not forgetting that others do not consider child abuse and its effects as a significant issue and would not give any significant attention to it.

Ethics, on the other hand, refers to the acting in the expected way in a given area. Every group has rules and norms that direct the behaviors of all members (Weis 2008). This can be described as a code of behavior or conduct and is the norm in the given area. There are rules, regulations, and expectations that regulate the collection of data in a research project or other forms of research. This code of behavior helps in protecting the research subjects from victimization and stigmatization. In short, one of the issues that are given top priorities in research and collection is the privacy of the research subjects.

In research, as in other fields, ethics is a standard way of respecting the rights of other people. Although research is widely viewed as a hunt for the truth, ethics outline the extent to which this should be done. Various organizations ensure that their research is done in an ethical way. Every research organization or academic discipline may have set rules that guide the extent and the manner in which information from research subjects may be collected. One such organization that sets ethical standards for research is the BSA (British Sociological Association) in what is called the Statement of Ethical Practice. The paragraph below will outline and discuss some of the regulations given by this organization to ensure that any sociological research is conducted in an ethically acceptable way.

In every research conducted, the respondents or the research subjects must be duly informed about the research, which should only proceed if such a group has consented to such an activity. This is done to ensure that the people who are participants of the research understand fully the research being carried out as well as any potential repercussions that may follow so that they can make an informed choice.

Secondly, the researcher or the research organization is expected to treat the information with the confidentiality it deserves. At this stage, the people being researched on have limited power but the researcher is trusted to honor this. However, oversight organizations such as the BSA ensure that confidential information is maintained. The second requirement goes hand-in-hand with the third requirement, which is the anonymity of the respondent. The researcher should take all measures to ensure that the details of the respondents are not released to the public.

The reason for this is that the research is sensitive in nature and some information revealed about an individual may lead to stigmatization and victimization of the respondent. This assurance that the anonymity of the respondent will be observed also encourages people to participate in research; otherwise, people may find it hard to participate in research that is sensitive in nature.

Researchers should also respect the privacy of the respondents. The respondent must not be coerced into answering question that he is not comfortable with. Additionally, the design of research questions should ensure that no question seeks private information. This goes with the sensitivity of the question asked. Some questions, even if not private, may be sensitive and may trigger undesired feelings. The researcher should see to it that such questions are avoided at all costs. The researcher should recognize questions or other forms of research that could potentially harm the respondents or the people being researched. Essentially, such questions and activities should be avoided except in instances where the potential benefit outweighs the harm. The researcher should always assess the risks of potential harm to the respondent.

The general principle is that the researcher should ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible manner such that the rights of the respondents are not infringed. In some instances, some research organizations and institutions of higher learning take it upon themselves to ensure that all the above ethical considerations are observed. This happens mostly in the primary research where the researcher him/herself will go to the field and meet the respondents or the research subjects. For this reason, such an institution may request any researcher to submit an ethical clearance form and fill in a risk assessment for each research. These institutions direct and advise on which steps need to be taken so that the research is ethical.

This paper will deal with secondary data where all the ethical consideration was taken care of by those who did the primary research. For this reason, this research might not have many ethical guidelines to follow. However, should sensitive or any data that violates the privacy of the respond be found in any of the primary materials to be referred to, this research will refrain from using them and adhere to sound research ethics.

Discussion and Analysis

This section will discuss various negative effects that adults face after having been abused as children. Very many adults today suffer the effects of child abuse. Only some of the victims understand how they have found themselves in the predicament they are in, while a significant number think they are simply unlucky (Gil 1979). This is because the issue of child abuse is among the least explained in a child’s life (Maniglio 2011). Irresponsible parents and caregivers do not tell the children what is expected of them as parents or caregivers (Shengold 1991). Some of them take advantage of the children’s ignorance in that they abuse children and make them believe that it is somehow a normal experience (Coons 1986).

In adulthood, very few victims understand that what was actually done to them was child abuse (Crosson-Tower 1988). For this reason, they do not understand that they were deprived of something that they should seek assistance to catch up with their peers that grew in a loving environment (Sattler 1997).

Most of the adults, after realizing that what was done to them actually amounted to child abuse, ignore it as something that happened in the past, and only remember it as an old memory (Jones 1991). Little do they understand that it caused physical damage to the brain and puts them in a predisposed position to suffer from psychiatric illnesses.

According to Slavlavitz (2012), child mistreatment cripples brain development. This researcher did not only research on the effects of child mistreatment, but also its consequences into adulthood. Child abuse does not only lower a child’s brain but injures its development in various areas that can lead to mental illness in adulthood (Szalavitz 2012). Early abuse of children was seen to contribute to almost all types of mental ailments (Mayhall 2014). In the largest and most sophisticated use of the most current brain imaging technology, brain scans of victims who had been abused as children were analyzed to identify if they were any different from individuals who grew up in a stable environment (Gall 2006).

The in-depth analysis revealed marked changes in specific areas of the brain such as the hippocampus. These changes were identified as the ones that would foster development of problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and depression (Szalavitz 2012). This confirms earlier qualitative findings by researchers that adults who suffered abuse as children were more likely to become addicts or suffer from serious depression (Raymond, Starr & David 1991). The author analyzed research that was conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard University led by Dr. Martin Teicher. The research was extensive and had around two hundred participants. The subjects of the study were young adults (18-25 years) from middle-class families.

The research also required that all the subjects be well educated, as education is very crucial in defining mental development. The research was meant to specifically examine people who had suffered abuse and neglect, so people who had suffered other forms of developmental trauma were excluded from the study. People on medication, including severe addicts, were also excluded as these conditions lead to changes in the brains, which could alter the results or give an unclear picture. On the other hand, people with PTSD and depression and who had been identified to have suffered abuse in their childhood years were used as control subjects.

The results found that 25 percent of the people studied had undergone severe depression in their lives. It was also revealed that about 7 percent had been medically identified to have PTSD. This grim picture was identified with participants who had suffered only one type of abuse, such as neglect, verbal or physical abuse. On the other hand, 16 percent of the participants had suffered from at least three forms of abuse, such as sexual, verbal, physical abuse and neglect in any combination. These had suffered the most severe consequences of child abuse and this was found to have affected their brain in a regrettable way. Forty percent of this group had been established to have full or partial PTSD while 53 percent had experienced depression.

The effects of the trauma permanently changed their brain, and this could be seen through scans. The changes were evident in all of them in varying degrees whether or not an individual had been diagnosed with any disorder. The most shocking revelation was that adults who were formerly abused as children had very reduced parts of the hippocampus, which was up to 6% in volume in at least two areas. The subiculum and presubiculum regions of the hippocampus were found to be at least 4% lower in volume compared to people who had grown in a stable environment (Oksana 1994). These reduced areas of the brain were the primary reason where these people had reduced capacity to cope with problems in life and hence depression among other disorders (Bancroft 2004).

Slavlavitz (2012), through analysis of the results and findings of this research, tried to establish the reasons for the reduced part of the brain. The author also evaluated previous research that had proposed that elevated amounts of stress hormones in abused children slowed the growth of hippocampus or damaged the already developed parts. The remaining region was very reduced and inadequate to handle stress in adult life (Kenney 1990). The author concluded that early stress erodes the resilience of brain in adult life that leaves a person vulnerable (Szalavitz 2012).

The above describes what happens to a child, how it causes maldevelopment and the results in adulthood. The effects are seen and described from the brain level. However, this section will describe the effects that these changes lead to and how it manifests itself in an adult who was abused as a child in the real world. The analysis of the above can be assisted by the work and explanation of the current U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy concerning mental health (Kohrt et al. 2015). He tried to describe the neurological occasioned by child maltreatment and the effects throughout the individual. This was important as only fellow surgeons could understand the effects of the neurological changes but a large number of people would understand associated effects if it was expanded in nonprofessional terms (Warner, Spinazzola, Westcott, Gunn & Hodgdon 2014).

According to the surgeon general, recurrent trauma occasioned by child mistreatment alters neurobiological as well as psychological growth, which severely alters responsively to press and significantly altering the behavior of adults in a permanent way (Goodyear-Brown 2012). As a result, the affected persons are seen to have lives that are characterized by personality disorders, moods and anxiety all of which the affected person may not be able to explain. This is in addition to the wrong attitude that is acquired by children abused early age.

To these individuals, their trust is recurrently broken when the people they consider as a source of their love, nurturance, security, understanding, support, and security turn against them in the crucial period where the child could be developing a constructive relationship with the world. In such instances, the core of such people’s relationship with the world is destroyed (Bass & Davis 2008).

Adult survivors of child abuse have a very negative scheme of belief systems towards the world (Kilgore 2013). Their brain refers back to an early experience that no person should be trusted and each person is seen as being potentially harmful. Such adults have marked difficulties in establishing and supporting meaningful attachments in the course of their lives as they view every person as having plans to betray them. For this reason, their relationships are seen to be very conflicting and their lifestyles are always disorderly. This happens with or without them noticing; however, a large number of them complain of extreme problems in developing close attachments in adulthood while others express behaviors that interrupt or end intimate relationships (Gold 2013).

In addition, adult survivors of child abuse have lives filled with recurrent crises which may occur in workplaces, relationships and financial obstructions (Maltz 1991). They may have serious problems settling into one thing for a long time and could be disruptive or hasty. Some of them relocate several times in their lives. The reason for this is varied as child abuse has very varied effects on the individual. A minor issue as unsettled childhood problem could be the course of such devastating effects on a given adult (LeBlanc, Brabant & Forsyth 1996). Regardless of the specific result of abuse in childhood that leads to these crises, the overall effects is a feeling of desperateness accompanied by vulnerability as the chaos is very disheartening (MacFarlane et al. 1988).

A Harvard Medical School study was conducted over a period of 5 years that involved 528 patients diagnosed with trauma and receiving treatment in various hospitals. Although the study identified a wide range of symptoms among the affected victims, it found out that each of them had had a prolonged period of sexual abuse in the childhood years. This research concluded that prolonged periods of child abuse brought a myriad of challenges to adults, which included somatic disorders even when childhood abuse was not physical. The survivors were also found to overreact to emotions such as fear and anger. All of them are related to having negative self-perception, feeling enormously isolated, having chaotic relationships, and feeling desperate (Alisen 2003). These are the conditions described as dissociation and being amnesiac (National Research Council 1993).

The research revealed that the conditions that were previously seen as being inborn were actually developed in children during their childhood (Warner, Spinazzola, Westcott, Gunn, & Hodgdon 2014). In the past some people have chosen to associate depression, anxiety, various forms of phobia, multiple personality disorders, and eating disorders as hereditary, either being controlled by some genes or some genetic markers. (Campbell 2007)

However, even though genetics may play a role in these disorders, they are most commonly brought about by the effects of nurturing in children. The children’s environment matters in determining the type of personality achieved in adulthood and throughout life (Kinnear 2007). For this reason, it is imperative to ensure that all children have access to a safe nurturing environment that is free from abuse to shield these children from having many problems that are associated with an abusive environment (Zafar & Ross 2013).

Various other research has been carried out and all associate problems like addiction, depression and PTSD with childhood abuse (Wilbur 1984). These effects do not occur to the individuals alone but may manifest in the whole of society. This is due to the fact that various people are affected, who later become a significant percentage of the adult population. For instance, one of the most discussed effects of childhood abuse in adults is being at a higher risk of doing that other people (Schoedl, Costa, Mari, Mello, Tyrka, Carpenter & Price 2010). At the same time, one of the main problems affecting the adult population in developed countries like the UK and the US is addiction (Lee 2012).

This is because it lowers the quality of life of the victims and makes them less productive (Gelb 1993). Additionally, severe addiction permanently injures or alters the brain, leading to more health complications (Cooper 2000). While several methods have been used to respond to the problem of addiction, focusing on resolving childhood issues may help in assisting survivors to avoid becoming addicts (Chouliara et al. 2011).

Additionally, unresolved issues of child abuse among adult survivors have only served to increase the cases of abuse among children which serves to increase the vice (Brady 1991). It has been found that some survivors have not yet understood that what had happened to them as children was unnatural and should not be done to children (Music 2011). Due to these, such survivors continue abusing their children, which is undesirable. Still, some adult survivors have been found to harbor bitterness against people and may potentially engage in violent criminal activities (Fry & Barker 2002). This happens because they fail to understand the real value of human beings (Browne-Miller 2012).

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For them, this lesson is skipped or distorted through acts of child abuse. They may seek out opportunities to dish out violence as it was dished out to them by people who abused them. This is not desirable for society and means of solving it through guidance and resolution of a childhood crisis may help (Karatzias, Ferguson, Chouliara, Gullone, Cosgrove & Douglas 2014). Society is affected by the effects of child abuse coming back to reduce the quality of lives led by adults. As discussed earlier, some of these effects such as malformed brain and the accompanying effects are permanent. This results in permanent effects that devastate the survivors for the rest of their lives. For this reason, it becomes very important to support the adult survivors to deal with these negative effects promptly and in the best way possible.


The research has concentrated on various negative effects that survivors of child abuse face in their lives. It also provided explanations about some behaviors such as low self-worth, eating disorders, PTSD, depression, suicidal feelings and others that were once seen as being endogenic or genetic. All these are caused or worsened by child abuse and affects adult survivors with varying severity depending on the extent of abuse (Murray 1993).

The above can be corrected through medical assistance as well as specialized medical attention. As seen earlier, the effects of child abuse could be irreversible, an example of which is the retardation of some areas of the brain (Morrisonn 1990). The reduced areas are incapable of effectively responding to life's challenges. In such instance, medical assistance can be used to respond to various psychiatric conditions that follow. However, specialized guidance support to the affected person becomes important (Disch & Avery 2001)). Such a person needs to be assisted to understand the conditions he/she is in and how to cope. The victim can also be assisted on how to deal with stress or factors in the environment to avoid depression. Issues such as anxiety, phobias, and extreme rage can also be corrected through psychological support (Gurvits, Gilbertson, Lasko, Orr & Pitman 1997).

To mitigate the effects of child abuse in the present and in the future, it is very important for society to participate fully to ensure that no child should be abused (Barth 2009). Parents, teachers and caregivers should be educated on how to avoid any form of mistreatment towards children (Skinner 2010). Although there is the adequate legal framework in the UK and the US that may act as a deterrent to child abuse, they have shown limited efficacy in some forms of abuse that are difficult to prove but are considerably common, such as physical abuse and some forms of sexual abuse (Burke-Draucker & Martsolf 2006).

Additionally, neighbors, parents, and teachers must work together and ensure that every child is shielded from all forms of mistreatment (Davis 1991). This will ensure that the effects of child abuse will not be experienced in adults in the future (Mathews 1995).

Society as a whole should also try to assist adult survivors in coping with the trauma. This can give members of the society a good chance to demonstrate some concern for such people who suffered unprecedented retardation of some parts of brain making life to be permanently challenging for them. If this is done, the bitterness that some of them have against society may be eliminated (Lynch & Roberts 1982).

Additionally, demonstrating concern and helping victims of child abuse could help in making their lives less chaotic. This can help boost their self-worth and may alleviate hopelessness since it reduces self-worth and lead to chaotic lives, which contribute to suicidal feelings and may lead to these people terminating their lives. With assistance and concern from the society, this group may be able to prevent violence to themselves and others (Becker 2012).

Most importantly, guidance of this group can assist them to stop perpetuating child abuse. This group engages in child abuse either due to ignorance, for revenge, or from the fact that a good number of them end up with psychiatric disorders. Friends and neighbors can guide and assist victims through guidance and other forms of assistance so that they do not end up abusing children themselves.

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