Child abuse and neglect may affect an individual's health and mental health in a number of direct and indirect ways. Negative effects on physical development can result from physical trauma (e.g., blows to the head or body or violent shaking) and from neglect (e.g., inadequate nutrition, lack of adequate motor stimulation, or withholding medical treatments). Maltreatment during infancy and early childhood has been shown to negatively affect early brain development and can have repercussions into adolescence and adulthood. The immediate emotional effects of abuse and neglect--isolation, fear, and an inability to trust--can translate into lifelong consequences including low self-esteem, depression, and relationship difficulties.
Research suggests that adults who were maltreated as children show higher rates of many health problems not typically associated with abuse and neglect, such as heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and liver disease. The link between maltreatment and these diseases may be depression, which can influence the immune system and may lead to high-risk behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse, overeating, and sexual risk-taking.
Age of Onset of Child Maltreatment Predicts Long-Term Mental Health Outcomes
Kaplow & Widom
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116(1), 2007
Shows results that indicate early onset of maltreatment predict anxiety and depression in adulthood; later onset of maltreatment predicts behavioral problems in adulthood. The article also discusses implications for assessment of maltreated children and prevention.
Brief Communication: Physical Abuse of Boys and Possible Associations With Poor Adult Outcomes
Holmes & Sammel
Annals of Internal Medicine, 143(8), 2005
Examines men from a population-based urban sample who were physically abused as boys, what proportion of perpetrators were parents, and the relationship of childhood physical abuse and adult outcomes that are often associated with perpetration of violence. (PDF - 707 KB)
Child Abuse and Neglect: A Mental Health Perspective
Caffo, Lievers, & Forresi (2006)
In Working With Children and Adolescents: An Evidence-Based Approach to Risk and Resilience
Discusses the intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for abuse, the neurobiological and developmental consequences of abuse, factors that influence resiliency, and prevention and intervention strategies.
Child Abuse and Stress Disorders
Examines the impact of child abuse on brain development and common psychological disorders later in life.
Child Abuse in Religiously Affiliated Institutions: Long-Term Impact on Men's Mental Health
Wolfe, Francis, & Straatman
Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, 30(2), 2006
Looks at men who were abused as children in a religious institution. Results show that many had developed posttraumatic stress or other disorders.
Child Maltreatment and Pediatric Health Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study of Low Income Children
Lanier, Jonson-Reid, Stahlschmidt, Drake, & Constantino
Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 2009
Examines whether maltreatment predicts increased risk of hospital-based treatment prior to age 18 years for asthma, cardiorespiratory illness, and non-sexually transmitted infectious disease. The study found that children with maltreatment reports had a 74- to 100-percent higher risk of hospital treatment, and that recurrent reports predicted a higher count of hospital care episodes.
Child Maltreatment in the United States: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Adolescent Health Consequences (PDF - 291 KB)
Hussey, Chang, & Kotch
Pediatrics, 118(3), 2006
Examines the sociodemographic characteristics of children who were maltreated and their later health outcomes.
The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child & National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (2010)
Discusses the impact of adverse experiences on child health, ways to promote healthy development, and strategies to improve policies and programs that affect long-term health outcomes.
Physical Punishment, Childhood Abuse and Psychiatric Disorders
Afifi, Brownridge, Cox, & Sareen
Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, 30(10), 2006
Compares the childhood experience of physical punishment or physical abuse and whether it was associated with adult psychopathology, after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and parent-child attachment type.
The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning Gold Into Lead (PDF - 203 KB)
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study examines the long-term effects of child maltreatment on more than 17,000 patients of the Kaiser Permanente Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, California. Preliminary findings reveal links between the number of adverse experience types and health problems.
The Role of Depression and Dissociation in the Link Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Later Parental Practices
Collin-Vezina, Cyr, Pauze, & McDuff
Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6(1), 2005
This study was undertaken to identify links between childhood sexual abuse and maternal parenting, while taking into account mothers' childhood physical and emotional traumas and current depressive and dissociative symptoms.