Lasting Issues: Understanding the short-term and long-term effects of child abuse

It is common knowledge that any act of abuse or neglect causes irreversible damage to the victim. However, effects are present even after the initial offense and has deeper impact than the immediate damage created. Here are some of those effects, both short-term and long-term.


Academic difficulties often occur for children as a result of abuse or neglect. In terms of learning, the child victim to abuse typically has lower receptive language skills, lower expressive language skills, poorer reading ability, impaired comprehension and abstraction skills, and poorer task management. The effects also seep into relationships with others in the classroom. Children of abuse  are more often in trouble for fighting, have an increased number of fights, exhibit bullying behaviors, and have fewer positive emotions than their non-abused peers. They also tend to be disruptive and non compliant in class and have difficulties relating to others.

Even outside the classroom, abused children display negative behavior, which includes aggression towards others, engagement in delinquent behaviors, and a higher likelihood to partake in risk-taking behaviors, such as physical or daredevil risks, legal risks, smoking drinking, and drug use.

Children of abuse often feel mistrustful, anxious, or angry, keeping them from others and creating an inability to build healthy relationships. Initial feelings of mistrust, anxiety, and anger can solidify into more permanent parts of the child’s personality, which can lead to personality disorders and psychiatric difficulties later in life.


If a child has been abused before, they are at greater risk for revictimization–the most cited long-term consequence of abuse. Not only is there a possibility for repeated abuse, but they could be revictimized by the same perpetrator or different perpetrators. A study found childhood victims faced a higher risk for physical and sexual assault/abuse.

Victims also face chronic health conditions. The most predominant health conditions are higher BMI scores, which are linked to obesity, and increased risk of receiving a sexually transmitted disease. According to some studies, physically abused children are at risk for more adverse health outcomes dealing with weight.

Because children of abuse typically have lower levels of education, this leads to economic downfall creating lower employment opportunities, lower earnings, and fewer assets as adults.

Although understanding these effects is important for everyone to know, having this knowledge as a mandated reporter could help prevent further effects of abuse when it is stopped early enough.

As quoted in our Mandated Reporter textbook,

The mandated reporter should recognize that prompt recognition and reporting of abuse will not only protect their child in the immediate period following the abuse but will also hopefully prevent the child form experiencing chronic conditions that have been found to be associated with chronic abuse and neglect…helps prevent immediate negative effects as well as years of physical and emotional consequences.

If you are interested in learning more about child abuse and its effects, view our different child maltreatment books at our website.


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