Child Abuse Like Physical Abuse And Effects

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This case study is about a young girl who is 13 years old. She is an African-American girl named Christina. Christina and her siblings were removed from the parents due to reports of neglect, physical abuse, and parental drug use. She currently has no contact with either her mother or father and has lived with her grandmother, aunt, and younger siblings since she was 8 years old. The last time she has seen or spoken to her parents was prior to being placed with her grandmother. Christina oftens struggles at school and often gets notes sent home for her aggressive and disobedient behavior towards her teachers and fellow students. It should be noted that in the past she was arrested after she physically assaulted another child at the park near her house; this appears to be happening more often and her violent behavior is escalating quickly towards others. When she is asked about her future, Christina tells people she plans to move out of her hometown and become a fashion designer eventually.

Her grandmother and current guardian, Gladys who is 55 years of age, has reported that Christina is very disobedient and rebellious at home and she often has been caught sneaking out of the house. She is afraid that Christina is getting into the wrong crowd, getting mixed up with drugs and men, and she worries about her granddaughters sexual activeness. Gladys has also spoken about trying to remain a grandmother, although she also must play the role of the parent by setting rules and restriction for Christina, although she often finds herself at a loss. Gladys is also caring for and raising Christina’s brothers, Stephen, who is 9 years old, and Jamaal, who is 6; this is becoming more difficult for her as her health seems to be declining in her older years.

Child Abuse and It’s Effects:

cross-tabulations of this problem count by early maltreatment revealed that 74% of adolescents who had been maltreated experienced at least 1 adjustment problem compared with only 43% of nonmaltreated adolescents. Twenty-one percent of maltreated adolescents experienced 3 or more problems compared with 7% of nonmaltreated adolescents. Thus, maltreatment in the first 5 years of life almost doubles the risk of any problem and triples the risk of experiencing problems in multiple domains during adolescence. (Lansford, J. E., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., Crozier, J., & Kaplow, J. pg 828)

Adverse Effects of child abuse. An impressive body of research have shown that child abuse may endanger a child’s development and increase the risk of negative outcomes later in life (Graham-Berman, Hughes, 1998). For example, physically abused children were found to have greater number of depressive symptoms and lower levels of self-esteem (Toth, Manly, & Cicchetti, 1992), higher levels of aggressive behaviour (Azar, Barnes, & Twentyman, 1988), poorer peer relations (Salzinger, Feldman, Hammer, & Rosario, 1993), and poorer academic functioning (Eckenrode, Laird, & Doris, 1993) than non-abused peers. Teachers have also observed that physically abused children tended to have less social competence and social acceptance, and more externalizing behavioural problems (Rogosch & Cicchetti, 1994).

Neglect and psychological abuse could also have adverse effects on children’s well-being (Katz, 1992). Neglected children were found to have the lowest level of academic performance, and they generally suffered more severe problems than children exposed to other forms of maltreatment (Eckenrode et al., 1993). Similarly, Cicehetti and Lynch (1995) found that abused children, who experience severe negative emotions, develop representational models of angry family interactions that are closed and difficult to modify Consistent with our findings, several studies have marshalled evidence concerning the negative effects of abuse on children’s cognitive processes, including display deficits in specific cognitive skills such as receptive language (Vondra, Barnett, & Cicchetti, 1989), reading and expressive language (Burke, Crenshaw, Green, Schlosser, & Strocchia-Rivera, 1989), comprehension and abstraction (Tarter, Hegedus, Winsten, & Alterman, 1984), comprehension of social roles (Barahal, Waterman, & Martin, 1981), and auditory attention and verbal fluency (Tarter, Hegedus, Winsten, & Alterman, 1985). In addition, abused children were found to have significantly lower grades (Eckenrode et al., 1993), and repeated more grades (Wodarski, Kurtz, Gaudin, & Howing, 1990) than non-abused peers. (Abd-El-Fattah, S., & El-Gabbas, N. pg. 2-3).

Not only do maltreated children experience short-term cognitive, emotional, and behavioral difficulties, but the detrimental effects of abuse and neglect have been shown to extend beyond childhood. For example, research has demonstrated that internalizing symptoms are seen not only in abused children, but also adolescents and that physical abuse is associated with many internalizing as well as externalizing mental health diagnoses in both children and adolescents. In fact, adolescence may be a particularly troublesome time for physically abused and neglected children, as maltreatment is associated with higher rates of delinquency among youth. Even beyond adolescence, the effects of child maltreatment have also been found to extend into adulthood. For example, physical abuse is associated with an increased likelihood of violence in subsequent dating relationships as well as greater rates of perpetrating abuse against one’s children. Widom has also documented associations with child physical abuse and adult violence. Further, adults abused as children also display greater rates of substance abuse and have been found to be four times more likely to experience personality disorders during early adulthood. (DiLillo, Fortier, and Perry)


  1. DiLillo , David K.; Fortier, Michelle A.; and Perry, Andrea R., ‘Child Abuse and Neglect’ (2005). Faculty Publications, Department of Psychology. 256.
  2. Abd-El-Fattah, S., & El-Gabbas, N. (n.d.). Child abuse: Implications for Children’s Cognitive Aptitude and Behavioural Problems. Retrieved from
  3. Lansford, J. E., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., Crozier, J., & Kaplow, J. (2002). A 12-Year Prospective Study of the Long-term Effects of Early Child Physical Maltreatment on Psychological, Behavioral, and Academic Problems in Adolescence. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 156(8), 824–830.

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