Child Abuse

With child abuse, there is a misconception that once a child’s immediate injuries are addressed and they are removed from the abusive situation, they are in the clear. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in most instances. Child abuse can have some very long-term effects, especially if the child involved experienced the abuse over a lengthy period of time. According to an experienced child abuse attorney, there are physical, psychological, and behavioral long-term effects of child abuse that must be addressed as quickly as possible once abuse has been identified.

Long-Term Physical Effects of Child Abuse

Some physical injuries to a child as a result of abuse can have lifelong consequences and require ongoing treatment. For example, a child who has suffered head trauma may have irreversible brain damage that will continue to affect their life forever. These permanent injuries are the most obvious long-term physical effects of child abuse, but there are less obvious effects that are linked to abuse as well, including the following:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Vision problems
  • High blood pressure

Additionally, studies have shown that children who have suffered abuse have a higher risk of chronic ailments such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Lung disease
  • Stroke
  • Bowel disease

Long-Term Psychological Effects of Child Abuse

While physical effects of child abuse are generally easier to diagnose because they can be seen, psychological effects can be just as or more harmful to a child’s future. Victims of child abuse often feel isolated and experience fear and distrust on a regular basis. These feelings can lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trouble forming relationships, and educational difficulties. Studies have shown that children of abuse have a higher risk of developing the following psychological conditions:

  • Problems with executive functioning (working memory, self-control, organization, attention)
  • Diminished cognitive skills
  • Poor mental and emotional health (depression, anxiety, higher risk of suicidal tendencies)
  • Attachment and social difficulties (forming positive relationships)
  • Post-traumatic stress (feelings of fear, anger, shame, guilt, horror that manifest as nightmares, panic attacks, irritability, hypervigilance, and more)

Long-Term Behavioral Effects of Child Abuse

Children who are victims of abuse tend to exhibit behavioral problems even after the maltreatment ends. Sometimes, these behaviors mirror the abuse they experienced, but often, the behaviors are risky in nature because children of abuse frequently have stunted brain development that doesn’t allow them to accurately assess risks. As a result, child abuse can lead to the following long-term behavioral issues:

  • Unhealthy sexual practices
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug use and abuse
  • Juvenile delinquency (leading to adult criminality)
  • Future perpetuation of abuse

Generally, girls who suffer abuse tend to express internalizing behaviors like social withdrawal, self-harm, and anxiety, while boys who suffer abuse tend to express externalizing behaviors like bullying, hostility, and aggression. Of course, these are only generalizations and any of those behaviors can manifest in any child of abuse regardless of gender.


Child abuse is something that not only impacts a child in the present, but can continue to impact their lives negatively for decades, especially if they don’t receive appropriate treatment. For this reason, it is critical that a child who has been in an abusive situation has access to resources from the moment they are freed from their situation.

By Ricky

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