The consequences of child abuse and neglect

Here at EBL, we’ve written before about the horrible consequences of child abuse and neglect.  The statement we made before remains true: No one needs an academic study to understand that abuse and neglect take a terrible toll on young people, their families, and our society.  But it is helpful to understand the specific effects this behavior causes.

A new systematic review examines the long term impacts of  physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in childhood on later mental and physical health.  The review synthesized data from 124 studies that followed victims of child maltreatment later in life.

The findings demonstrate  significant associations between physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts. The researchers estimate that all three forms of maltreatment double the risk of developing a mental health disorder later in life.

Adults who were victims of child maltreatment were also more likely to use drugs, to engage in risky sexual behavior, and to contract sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, research has found a possible relationship with chronic diseases and other physical health outcomes, but the evidence is sparse and not consistent across types of maltreatment. The authors said more research is needed to better understand these consequences.

At Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, researchers manage a project called the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN). The project, which is housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, makes existing child maltreatment data available to qualified researchers so that they can conduct their own original research and learn more about the costs, consequences, and prevention of child maltreatment. Datasets at NDACAN include large-scale surveys and annual federal efforts collect data from official child abuse and neglect reports and about maltreated children living in foster care.

“The Archive is an important tool that allows social scientists to replicate and expand on our scientific knowledge base,” said Elliott Smith, Associate Director of NDACAN.

The take home message: All forms of child abuse and neglect have serious ramifications that last throughout the life-span.


  1. Emmy Vesta Taylor says:

    It’s abusive to steal copywritten photos.
    That photo is my son. It is my Art. Neither of which was consented to.
    To practice what you preach, then live a life of consent. What I don’t know doesn’t hurt me right? But now I know, and I feel violated.
    Add on to that, I am a former foster child and an adult survivor of severe child abuse, now also a women who is a survivor of spousal r@pe and domestic violence. My five children all have ptsd from their father.
    How do you think they feel at being exploited by strangers? I know how I feel.

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