Child Abuse and its Impact on Adulthood Saru Sharma Wingate University PSYCH 101 Shannon Parham Tuesday

February 13, 2019 0 Comment

Child Abuse and its Impact on Adulthood

Saru Sharma
Wingate University

Shannon Parham
Tuesday, November 13

The purpose of this research was to explore the long-term consequences of child abuse that extend into adulthood of a person.

1. Child Abuse
Child abuse means any behavior by caregivers, other adults or an older person that is beyond the norms of conduct and involves a risk of harm to a child (Bromfield, 2005; Christoffel et al., 1992; Gilbert et al., 2009). Such behaviors may be intentional or unintentional (Bromfield, 2005). The common kinds of child abuse are child neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. (Roxanne D.E. 2018). Neglect refers to a failure of parents or caregivers to provide an adequate care which results in physical, emotional or sexual harm (Goldman J. & Salus M.K. 2003). Physical abuse involves causing physical injury on a child through assault like corporal punishment resulting in physical injuries like scratches or bruises, emotional abuse involves statements by a caregiver that affect a child’s sense of self-esteem like giving negative names and cursing at, while sexual abuse involves exposing a child to inappropriate sexual acts, behavior, or contact. (Roxanne D.E 2018). Researchers have found that exposure to abuse in childhood leaves scars on every aspect of a person’s development, which means child abuse has various consequences that extend to adulthood which are explored in the remainder of this paper.
2. Effects on adulthood
2.1. Mental Health Problems
Researches have revealed that people who suffered from early life stress (ELS) which also includes abuse (sexual or physical) have a higher risk to have depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), all characterized by cognitive malfunction. Several studies show that people who faced ELS are likely to have a deficiency in executive functioning, attention, and concentration, memory, and processing speed (McClintock et al., 2010). In a research by F. Gould et al (2012), deficits in memory, executive functioning, processing speed, and emotional processing distinguished ELS patients from other controls, which suggest that a history of ELS is associated with an altered neurocognitive function.

2.2. Aggression, violence and criminal behavior
Aggression and violence are one of the major long-term effects of child abuse for adults, specifically for those who experienced physical abuse or grew up in a violent environment (Gilbert et al., 2009). In a research, it was found that adults with a history of abuse and neglect were more likely to get arrested and involved in adult criminality and violent criminal behavior (Widom 1989). Bevan and Higgins (2002) studied 36 men with a history of domestic violence and found that child maltreatment (mainly child neglect) was associated with the frequency of physical spouse abuse. Adults with a history of physical abuse in childhood are more likely to be violent and in criminal because they learn that such behavior is the only way for dealing with stress or conflict (Chapple, 2003).
2.3. Re-victimization
A number of studies have demonstrated that adult women with histories of child abuse are more likely to experience victimization later in their life. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study in 2006 in which it was found that 1 million children in the United States experience abuse and/or neglect each year (Igrounds, 2011). In a study about adult victims of abuse, 20% participants reported that they had been sexually abused as a child. Of these, 52% reported a minimum of one form of unwanted sexual contact as an adult, while 25% reported at least one incident of severe physical abuse or two incidents of minor physical abuse in adulthood (Messman-Moore and Long, 2000). These data support the fact that women with a history of childhood sexual abuse were times more likely to be sexually re-victimized in adulthood.
2.4. Suicidal behavior
Child abuse is also linked with the suicidal behavior in adulthood. A study by Esme F.T. et al. (2012) provides strong evidence that there is a relationship between childhood physical abuse and suicidal feelings in adulthood. In a study of Adverse Childhood Experiences, researchers found that adults who went through adverse experiences for four or more times in their childhood were 12 or more times likely to be suicidal in their adulthood compared to those adults who had no such experiences in their childhood (Edwards, V. et al. 1998). Suicidal behavior is attributed to mental health problems of adults who survived the abuse in their childhood. The early life trauma disturbs their mind and alter their cognitive function which lead them towards depression and having suicidal thoughts.
2.5. Substance abuse
Drinking problem or substance abuse is often linked with child abuse (mainly neglect). In a systematic review of studies (Cathryn H, 2014), strong association was found between child abuse and likelihood of substance abuse in adulthood. In the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in the States, adult survivors who had four or more experiences of abuse in their past were seven times more likely to be an alcoholic, five times more likely to have used illegal drugs and ten times more likely to have injected drugs compared to those with no such experiences (Edwards, V. et al. 1998). Again, the likelihood of substance abuse varies on the basis of gender. Male survivors are more likely to have drug addiction or drinking problems in their adulthood than female survivors as they are less likely to disclose their history because of social expectations and values (Simpson and Miller, 2002).
2.6. Physical Health Problems
Childhood traumatic experiences can have an impact on sleep and appetite in adulthood which leads to various physical health problems. Child abuse has been found to have association with eating disorder or obesity. In a study, Anne L.S (2014) found that the risk of obesity is 34 percent higher for adults with traumatic experiences in childhood than other with no such experiences. Unusual experience causes increased stress, negative mental and emotional patterns, and poor mental health which leads to alter the physical health of a person.
2.7. Homelessness or poverty
Adverse experiences in childhood affect cognitive functions which reduces the mental capacities of a person like, intelligence, data processing etc. because of which people with the history of child abuse are more likely to quit their school earlier than other who had no such experiences in their lives. Some survivors have difficulty in handling housing and responsibilities.These lead a person towards poverty and mostly homelessness. A study by Tam, Zlotnick, and Robertson (2003) examined the relation of childhood adverse experiences with negative behavior of homeless adults in United States. 72% of participants reported their histories of child abuse. This provides the evidence that child abuse can lead to poverty or homelessness in adulthood.

It is clear that child Abuse

Author Acknowledgement:

Works cited
Bevan, E. & Higgins, D. (2002). Is domestic violence learned? The contribution of five forms of child maltreatment to men’s violence and adjustment. Journal of Family Violence, 17(3), 223-245
Bromfield, L. M. (2005). Chronic child maltreatment in an Australian statutory child protection sample (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Deakin University, Geelong.
Chapple, C. (2003). Examining intergenerational violence: violent role modelling or weak parental controls? Violence ; Victims, 18(2), 143-162.
Christoffel, K. K., Scheidt, P. C., Agran, P. F., Kraus, J. F., McLoughlin, E., ; Paulson, J. A. (1992). Standard definitions for childhood injury research: Excerpts of a conference report. Pediatrics, 89(6), 1027-1034.
Gilbert, R., Spatz Widom, C., Browne, K., Fergusson, D., Webb, E., ; Janson, J. (2009). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. Lancet, 373, 68-81.
Goldman J. ; Salus M.K.(2003). A coordinated response to child abuse and neglect: The foundation for practice. On-line
Gilbert, R., Spatz Widom, C., Browne, K., Fergusson, D., Webb, E., ; Janson, J. (2009). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. Lancet, 373, 68-81.
lgrounds 2012, Retrieved from
McClintock SM, Husain MM, Greer TL, Cullum CM. (2010). Association between depression severity and neurocognitive function in major depressive disorder: a review and synthesis. neuropsychology, 24(1):9-34
Roxanne D.E. (2018), Child Abuse. MedicineNet. Retrieved from
Esme F.T. Tobi M. B, Sarah B.M. (2012), Evidence Supporting an Independent Association between Childhood Physical Abuse and Lifetime Suicidal Ideation, Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior, 42(3):279-291
Edwards, V., Felitti, V., Anda, R., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, F., Spitz, A. et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction in many of the leading causes of death in adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4).
Cathryn H. (2014), Effects of child abuse and neglect for adult survivors, Retrieved form
Simpson, T., ; Miller, W. (2002). Concomitance between childhood sexual and physical abuse and substance use problems. A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 27-77.
Tam, T., Zlotnick, C., ; Robertson, M. (2003). Longitudinal perspective: Adverse childhood events, substance use, and labor force participation among homeless adults. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 29(4), 829-846.
Anne L.S. (2014), Abused children risk adult obesity, Retrieved from: