the effects of child abuse

The Effects of Child Abuse
and Childhood Trauma

Child Abuse and Childhood trauma can impact a person well into adulthood, often in unexpected ways.

More than 678,000 children find themselves abused in some way or another. As these children continue to grow into adulthood, they find that their experiences as a child begin to display themselves in adulthood.

Child abuse and neglect is something that people must get educated about to ensure that the proper actions get taken to stop it. Here we will detail the effects of childhood trauma in adults and the types of child abuse and signs that people should look out for.

Helping a child that’s currently in an abusive situation could do more for their future than you could imagine. As a part of Child Abuse Awareness Month, it’s only right that we do our part in this fight to protect and save children that are in need.

Take the time to learn more now because you never know when the things you have learned could save a child’s life. Keep reading to learn more.

Types of Child Abuse

There are several types of child abuse that a child might find themselves enduring. Each of these types of abuse can have a lasting effect on the child as they continue to grow into adults.

Sometimes, the effects left behind aren’t noticed until someone has become an adult and they start to exhibit signs of past traumas. Knowing the types of child abuse can help you make the correct type of report and get the child the help they need.

Emotional Abuse

Between 2016-2017, 14,000 children found themselves on government protection plans because they get subjected to emotional abuse at their caregivers’ hands. Emotional abuse is when someone says or does things to a child to make them feel less than, worthless, and unlovable.

As the emotional abuse continues, a child will begin to believe the things that are being said and shown to them. They might become withdrawn from others and begin repeating what they’ve been told.

Some examples of emotional abuse include:

Each situation of emotional abuse is different from others, but the common theme is that the child isn’t being treated or taken care of the way that they should be. There are other types of abuse that we’ll detail shortly, with underlying traces of emotional abuse as a component piece in those abuse cycles.

If you suspect that a child is emotionally abused, there are some signs that you should be able to notice. A child that is emotionally abused, as mentioned, will show signs of withdrawing from others, especially in social situations.

Another sign of emotional abuse is showing fear or anxiousness whenever they are asked to share their emotions and views with others. If a child goes from one extreme to another as far as behavior is concerned, this is another sign they could be dealing with emotional abuse.

For example, the child might appear calm at one moment, and then seemingly out of nowhere, they begin to act aggressively towards people. These are just a few of the signs that you might notice to help get the child the necessary help.

Physical Abuse

1 in 4 children are victims of physical abuse, and in most cases, it’s from people that they are close to and trust. There are several types of physical abuse forms that a child may be subjected to. 

Forms of physical abuse include:

Children who are being physically abused will commonly have bruises or scratches that they make up stories to cover up what actually happened. Children who are being physically abused don’t always come forward because they fear the repercussions when they get home.

Another form of physical abuse is Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy. This is when someone makes up symptoms as a reason for a child to undergo medical procedures or surgeries. 

This is especially dangerous because, in difficult situations, the child’s guardian may go to great lengths to prove that the child is ill. They may do this by intentionally finding ways to make them sick.

Someone who is physically abusing a child will do their best to cover it up, but that doesn’t mean you cannot notice some key signs. The most common sign of physical abuse is unexplained bruises or cuts on a child’s body.

Another sign is reoccurring injuries. If a child shows up every couple of days with a burn mark or welt on their hands and arms, this is a potential sign of abuse. If you reach out to touch a child and they flinch before you’ve touched them, it could allude to physical abuse.

Or if a child shows some kind of aversion to being around a specific person, as in shows fear or becomes instantly quiet when this person is around, it shows that they are fearful of this person.

Child Neglect

When you think about it, any form of abuse is child neglect because you’re not taking care of the child’s needs to help them develop and thrive into productive adults. The general definition of neglect is when the sole guardian or parent of a child doesn’t meet the child’s basic needs.

These needs don’t stop with physical needs it includes the child’s mental and emotional needs as well. Because of this neglect, the child’s development is negatively affected and will continue to be as they grow into adults.

Some examples of child neglect include, but aren’t limited to:

All of these are categorized as neglect and can lead to the deterioration of a child mentally, physically, and emotionally. Earlier, we stated that some other forms of child abuse have components of the others.

Child neglect is a type of abuse that also combines emotional abuse with it. The signs of neglect aren’t always noticeable to some, while others might see it as a child growing and becoming a teenager.

For example, a young boy not showering and having dirty clothes could be passed off as a ‘boy being a boy when in fact it’s a key sign that he could be getting neglected at home. Other signs that allude to neglect could be the child not having their lunch or money for lunch when it’s that time at school.

The child might also begin to miss school frequently because their guardian doesn’t view them getting an education as a priority.

Sexual Abuse

According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 20 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault.

Sexual abuse not only affects a child during their childhood, but it will also affect the way they approach and view relationships for the rest of their lives. Sexual abuse is when a child is forced or coerced into performing sexual activities.

It’s crucial that people understand even if a child is fully aware of what’s happening and isn’t being forced to perform these sexual acts, it’s still sexual abuse. In many cases, children are groomed or ‘brainwashed’ into thinking the things they’re being asked to do are normal.

When asked about the abuse in these situations, they might even defend the actions of their abuser because they don’t see what’s happened to them as abuse. Activities that are categorized as sexual abuse include:

Some of these actions are sexual abuse because they lead up to the act of penetration. As mentioned prior, it’s grooming a child to believe these things are okay because ‘it’s just a game’ or ‘other people are doing it.’

The thing about sexual abuse is the person that’s abusing the child isn’t one type of person. They can be male, female, an uncle, a friend, a cousin, or a babysitter.

Sexual abuse can be inflicted on a child by anyone. There are some signs of sexual abuse that you can be on the lookout for, including a child displaying sexual behavior towards others.

Another sign of abuse is the child beginning to wet the bed even if past a young age.

How to Report Child Abuse

Once you’ve realized that a child is suffering from emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or child neglect, the next thing you need to do is report it. If you don’t take immediate action, you never know what could happen to the child you’re concerned about.

The thing about reporting abuse is you don’t have to know what type it is, but it does help to have some evidence as to why you suspect that the child is a victim of abuse. If the child you suspect is being abused, the first thing you need to do is no longer allow the suspected abuser to be around your child.

You are then encouraged to seek medical attention for your child, including getting them into counseling because abuse has long-term effects. A personal decision that you should make as the child’s parent is to figure out if you want to press charges against the person suspected of abusing your child.

If you suspect that a child is the victim of abuse, but it’s not your child, the first thing you need to do is figure out if you’re a mandated reporter. If you sense that the child is currently in danger, the first thing you need to do is call the police to get them out of a dangerous situation.

After you’re sure the child is safe, child protective services need to be notified. You can do this anonymously, but you need to let them know all of the child’s information and what’s happening with them.

If you’re a mandated reporter, you should know that you will need to fill out some forms and sign them as a part of your report. Then turn them into the proper person.

Types of Trauma

Another issue that children might have that can affect them as they continue to grow is childhood trauma. While instances of abuse can affect and cause child trauma, this is a classification all its own.

Below we’re going to list traumas that you may or may not know about and provide more information about each of them.


Bullying is a form of trauma that many children experience in their adolescence, and it haunts them as they continue into adulthood. There are several ways that a person can be bullied, whether it’s at school, at home, or online.

Bullying is something that happens over and over by someone that is looking to assert their dominance over the person that their bullying. There are several ways that a person can be bullied, including:

While these might seem like things that someone can let go of, it’s not that easy. Many children want to be liked by those that are their own age.

When that doesn’t happen, it can cause anxiety and depression to set in. The child will begin to believe that they’re worthless and don’t deserve to live. 14% of young teens have admitted that they’ve attempted to commit suicide as a result of bullying.

Bullying will cause a child to withdraw and not wish to be social with others. It can also cause them to have ongoing mental health issues and can cause problems for the child as far as school is concerned.

Parents should keep a watch out for signs of bullying. Noticing abrupt changes in a child’s demeanor could open up the channels of communication to get your child the help they need.

It also shows your child that they can come to you whenever they’re having problems and talk to you. We recommend that you get your child into counseling and speak to the necessary people in charge if you suspect other children are bullying your child. 

Keep in mind bullying isn’t always by children that are the same age as your child.

Childhood Trauma

Childhood traumas can be a number of experiences that a child goes through. Childhood trauma is typically defined for children that are between the ages of 0-6.

Some people are under the impression that a child being young means they are protected from traumatic events, but this isn’t the case. Even though a child cannot verbalize the traumatic events that they have experienced doesn’t mean that they haven’t been affected.

Traumatic events can be categorized as situations in which someone close to the child is in danger, or the child is in danger themselves. These traumatic events can be things like sexual abuse, or they can be things like natural disasters that misplace the child and their families.

Another form of childhood trauma can stem from a child losing someone close to them. Again they might not be able to verbalize these happenings, but they will have emotions about what happened.

When a child is affected by trauma, it affects the relationships they have with people around them. They could begin to withdraw as a means of protecting themselves from future trauma that could take place.

If your child has been a victim of trauma, it’s best that you get them help as soon as possible. The help could be in the form of counseling to help the child process the emotions that the trauma has caused.

Not processing your emotions leaves you in a vulnerable spot and can wreak havoc on the child as they continue to grow. Of course, you could use other types of interventions, but it would be best to speak with someone about what form of intervention will work the best for your child.

The bottom line is to get them help as soon as possible.

Lasting Impacts of Abuse on Adults

Throughout this post, you’ve sense various references about how abuse and trauma play a role in a child becoming an adult. When you think of your childhood, it’s supposed to be filled with joy and making friends, making memories.

But, for some adults, childhood might be completely erased from their minds, or it doesn’t bring up the fondest of memories. Children are supposed to be provided with a safe environment full of love and support to guide them in their development and help them thrive.

When they’re not provided with this, it can have a detrimental effect on who they become as an adult. There are several ways that childhood trauma and abuse show themselves in adulthood.

If an adult was neglected as a child, it affects the relationships that they have in adulthood. This means that they show distrust when it comes to relationships with other people.

Because of this, they’ve built a fear of making fears or even entering into intimate relationships with anyone that shows interest in them. Another way that childhood abuse affects a child in adulthood is they might become overly independent.

They become overly independent because they don’t have to rely on others for anything ever again. Other ways childhood issues play a role in an adult’s life are they become anxious and exhibit signs of social anxiousness.

They will create relationships with people but never feel 100% secure in these relationships. They will become clingy and needy, forcing the people that their in relationships with to take on the role of the person that hurt them the most when they were a child.

Without seeking help, an adult will have issues living and thriving as productive members of society.

Do Adults that Have Been Hurt, Hurt Others?

This is a question that many people might be wondering about an adult who has faced a horrific childhood. The question is yes and no.

In some cases, someone that has been sexually, mentally, or physically abused might get older and do the same thing to someone else. They might not know why they’re doing these things, but it’s a result of the abuse they sustained as children.

In other instances, just because someone has been a victim doesn’t mean they make other people their victims. They might take it upon themselves to get the help they need to overcome past traumas and abuse so as not to do it to others or continue allowing it to hold them back.

Without some kind of treatment, childhood abuse and trauma will continue to affect an adult in ways that are hard to overcome on their own.

Helping Children Overcome the Past

There are several types of childhood traumas that children might be subjected to, just like there is more than one type of abuse. The first step to understanding child abuse and trauma and how to help children in these situations is educating yourself about it.

If you’re an adult that is seeking help or the parent of a child and are looking into mental health therapies, contact D’amore Mental Health. We’ve got the resources and experts you need to take steps forward and lead a healthier adult life.