Neha Masurkar, Psychologist
Experiencing abuse and neglect in childhood can lead to adverse outcomes in adulthood. Child abuse and neglect refers to any behaviour by parents, caregivers, other adults or older adolescents outside the norms of conduct and entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young person. Such behaviours may be intentional or unintentional and can include acts of neglect and abuse. The consequences of experiencing child abuse and neglect will vary considerably. For some adults, the effects of child abuse and neglect are chronic and debilitating; other adults have fewer adverse outcomes, despite their histories.
factors that affect the consequences of child abuse and neglect on adult survivors include:
§ the age and developmental stage at which maltreatment occurred: some evidence suggests that the younger the child was at the time of the onset of the maltreatment, the more likely they are to experience problems later in life;
§ the severity of maltreatment: the greater the severity of abuse or neglect, the higher the likelihood of negative outcomes;
§ the type/s of abuse and/or neglect: different sub-types of maltreatment may be related to different negative outcomes;
§ the victim/survivor’s perceptions of the abuse: worse outcomes are likely if there is the victim/survivor experiences feelings of self-blame, shame or stigmatisation
§ the relationship the victim/survivor had (or has) with the perpetrator: for example, in child sexual abuse, increased negative effects tend to be associated with the perpetrator being a father, father-figure or someone with whom the child has an intense, emotional relationship;
§ whether the abuse or neglect was detected and action is taken to assure the safety of the child (e.g., child protection intervention);
§ positive or protective factors that may have mitigated the effects of maltreatment (e.g., family support, perpetrator readiness for change); and
§ whether victims/survivors received therapeutic services to assist them in recovery.
Adults with a history of child abuse and neglect are more likely than the general population to experience physical health problems, including diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, headaches, gynaecological problems, stroke, hepatitis and heart disease. Persisting mental health problems are a common consequence of child abuse and neglect in adults. Mental health problems associated with past histories of child abuse and neglect include personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorders, depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis.