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Child Abuse: Recovery May Be a Long Journey

Reviewed Jun 2, 2015

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Summary

Trained counselors help abused children build self-esteem, learn to manage their feelings, practice positive behavior and focus on strengths.
 

Long after abuse stops, a child may carry the hurt for a very long time. That is whether he can recall it or not.

Child abuse takes many forms. It can simply be lack of love and care from a parent. Or it can be as awful as a beating or rape. Most abuse falls somewhere in the middle.

More little kids die from not being cared for than from bodily injuries. They starve or get very sick. Some have deadly accidents because no one is watching them. Many teens die from drugs or drinking. Years of abuse can take a toll on a child, in ways you might not expect.   

Here are the numbers:

  • In 2011, 6 million U.S. children were reportedly harmed or neglected.
  • 680,000 of them were confirmed as abused or neglected. Out of those, close to 80 percent were not cared for. Almost 20 percent had bodily abuse. About 10 percent were sexually abused.
  • 1,570 of them died. More than 80 percent of those who died were younger than 4. Close to half were infants. 
  • Most people who caused the abuse were parents who could not control anger or their use of drugs or alcohol.

For each death, there are thousands of injuries. Each injury takes years of healing long after the bruises, scars and cuts go away. But with the right help recovery can be expected.
 
What can abuse do to a child?

Kids who have been abused can face many problems. Some are slight, but some are serious or long lasting. It all depends on what happens, at what age, how badly the child was hurt and who did it. The closer the relationship, the more harmful the abuse is to a child’s mental health.
 
Studies show that your reactions to unsafe situations make real physical changes to your brain. When kids have these traumas, their brains record their reactions, even if the child does not get what happened.

A baby has no words to name abuse. But, she might have dreams, or memories of smells or sounds that scare her. Over time, she can forget scary events but be haunted by fear. People might be grown before they can put together both feelings and memories in a way that makes sense to them or to anyone else.

“Even daily critical remarks from parents can have devastating effects on the life of a child and brain development,” says Helen Land, a professor and researcher at the University of Southern California. Emotional abuse can lead to learning problems or drug abuse later. When the child gets older, he may seek out people who will judge or abuse him, because it feels very familiar.

“Brains adjust to what is going on around them. Sometimes they shut down and depression sets in. The child withdraws, then can’t relate to others when he grows up.”

“If he says, ‘I feel like I’ve known this person my whole life’ it’s because, in a way, he has,” explains Land.

What does abuse do to a child?

In school, a child who has been abused might act out, or have trouble learning or looking back on what she learns. Because of the effects of the abuse, she might even develop: 

  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • poor behaviors, like smoking and drinking or drugs
  • serious emotional problems
  • juvenile delinquency
  • teen pregnancy
  • bad grades

As an adult, he may face:

  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • suicide attempts
  • higher risk for heart, lung and liver illnesses
  • higher risk for obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • anxiety disorders
  • smoking, drinking and drug abuse

 
Can a child ever recover from abuse?

For each minute a parent finds fault with, slaps or yells, a minute’s worth of good parenting is lost. Without warm and positive parenting, a kid does not learn how to show love in a healthy way. It is possible that she won’t learn how to disagree without fighting, or even how to feel good about herself.

Kids who have been abused grow up with poor self-esteem and poor control over their own anger when they are around adults who abuse. With no one to protect them, they may learn that violence is a normal way of life. When nothing changes for the good, they may even learn to give up hope.

Bad events can be turned around with counseling or mentoring from a caring adult or teacher.

“Human beings have a great ability to adapt,” says Sherry A. Blair, an author and therapist who works with children.

When she works with harmed children, Blair looks at the positives. She:

  • Builds self-esteem by praising them for good choices they make.
  • Helps them deal with their good and bad thoughts and feelings.
  • Teaches them to do kind things for others. Kind acts add to their own joy and lower depression.
  • Urges them to find and be thankful for good things in their lives.
  • Shows them how to eat healthy foods, work out and get enough sleep.
  • Encourages them to build friendships, stay focused in school and get involved in activities.

Counseling can help through dance, art, music or other forms. Therapists teach us to forgive and protect the child within us. Over time, counselors teach victims of abuse to build new, good behaviors. They survived abuse and neglect. With help, they can turn the strengths that let them survive, and live a healthy and happy life.

Resources

Child Welfare Information Gateway
Administration for Children & Families
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
(800) 394-3366

Childhelp®
(480) 922-8212
www.childhelp.org

National Mental Health Association
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance
(877) 507-PTSD
www.ptsdalliance.org

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E. P. Seligman. Atria Books, 2012.

Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman’s Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues by the
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DHHS. 2003. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4132/SMA12-4132.pdf.

Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect by the Children’s Bureau, DHHS. 2013.  www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.pdf

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sherry A. Blair, Ph.D., MSSW, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of books about bullying and diversity for children and teens, Montclair, NJ.; Alla Branzburg, MSW, psychotherapist and adjunct professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Encino, CA; Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, Glastonbury, CT; Michael A. Jones, LCSW, therapist for traumatized children, San Diego, CA; Helen Land, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California; Molly Scott, Ed.D., LMHC, music therapist and educator, Creative Resonance Institute and Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, M.D., Associate Medical Director, ValueOptions Inc.

Summary

Trained counselors help abused children build self-esteem, learn to manage their feelings, practice positive behavior and focus on strengths.
 

Long after abuse stops, a child may carry the hurt for a very long time. That is whether he can recall it or not.

Child abuse takes many forms. It can simply be lack of love and care from a parent. Or it can be as awful as a beating or rape. Most abuse falls somewhere in the middle.

More little kids die from not being cared for than from bodily injuries. They starve or get very sick. Some have deadly accidents because no one is watching them. Many teens die from drugs or drinking. Years of abuse can take a toll on a child, in ways you might not expect.   

Here are the numbers:

  • In 2011, 6 million U.S. children were reportedly harmed or neglected.
  • 680,000 of them were confirmed as abused or neglected. Out of those, close to 80 percent were not cared for. Almost 20 percent had bodily abuse. About 10 percent were sexually abused.
  • 1,570 of them died. More than 80 percent of those who died were younger than 4. Close to half were infants. 
  • Most people who caused the abuse were parents who could not control anger or their use of drugs or alcohol.

For each death, there are thousands of injuries. Each injury takes years of healing long after the bruises, scars and cuts go away. But with the right help recovery can be expected.
 
What can abuse do to a child?

Kids who have been abused can face many problems. Some are slight, but some are serious or long lasting. It all depends on what happens, at what age, how badly the child was hurt and who did it. The closer the relationship, the more harmful the abuse is to a child’s mental health.
 
Studies show that your reactions to unsafe situations make real physical changes to your brain. When kids have these traumas, their brains record their reactions, even if the child does not get what happened.

A baby has no words to name abuse. But, she might have dreams, or memories of smells or sounds that scare her. Over time, she can forget scary events but be haunted by fear. People might be grown before they can put together both feelings and memories in a way that makes sense to them or to anyone else.

“Even daily critical remarks from parents can have devastating effects on the life of a child and brain development,” says Helen Land, a professor and researcher at the University of Southern California. Emotional abuse can lead to learning problems or drug abuse later. When the child gets older, he may seek out people who will judge or abuse him, because it feels very familiar.

“Brains adjust to what is going on around them. Sometimes they shut down and depression sets in. The child withdraws, then can’t relate to others when he grows up.”

“If he says, ‘I feel like I’ve known this person my whole life’ it’s because, in a way, he has,” explains Land.

What does abuse do to a child?

In school, a child who has been abused might act out, or have trouble learning or looking back on what she learns. Because of the effects of the abuse, she might even develop: 

  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • poor behaviors, like smoking and drinking or drugs
  • serious emotional problems
  • juvenile delinquency
  • teen pregnancy
  • bad grades

As an adult, he may face:

  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • suicide attempts
  • higher risk for heart, lung and liver illnesses
  • higher risk for obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • anxiety disorders
  • smoking, drinking and drug abuse

 
Can a child ever recover from abuse?

For each minute a parent finds fault with, slaps or yells, a minute’s worth of good parenting is lost. Without warm and positive parenting, a kid does not learn how to show love in a healthy way. It is possible that she won’t learn how to disagree without fighting, or even how to feel good about herself.

Kids who have been abused grow up with poor self-esteem and poor control over their own anger when they are around adults who abuse. With no one to protect them, they may learn that violence is a normal way of life. When nothing changes for the good, they may even learn to give up hope.

Bad events can be turned around with counseling or mentoring from a caring adult or teacher.

“Human beings have a great ability to adapt,” says Sherry A. Blair, an author and therapist who works with children.

When she works with harmed children, Blair looks at the positives. She:

  • Builds self-esteem by praising them for good choices they make.
  • Helps them deal with their good and bad thoughts and feelings.
  • Teaches them to do kind things for others. Kind acts add to their own joy and lower depression.
  • Urges them to find and be thankful for good things in their lives.
  • Shows them how to eat healthy foods, work out and get enough sleep.
  • Encourages them to build friendships, stay focused in school and get involved in activities.

Counseling can help through dance, art, music or other forms. Therapists teach us to forgive and protect the child within us. Over time, counselors teach victims of abuse to build new, good behaviors. They survived abuse and neglect. With help, they can turn the strengths that let them survive, and live a healthy and happy life.

Resources

Child Welfare Information Gateway
Administration for Children & Families
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
(800) 394-3366

Childhelp®
(480) 922-8212
www.childhelp.org

National Mental Health Association
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance
(877) 507-PTSD
www.ptsdalliance.org

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E. P. Seligman. Atria Books, 2012.

Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman’s Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues by the
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DHHS. 2003. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4132/SMA12-4132.pdf.

Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect by the Children’s Bureau, DHHS. 2013.  www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.pdf

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sherry A. Blair, Ph.D., MSSW, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of books about bullying and diversity for children and teens, Montclair, NJ.; Alla Branzburg, MSW, psychotherapist and adjunct professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Encino, CA; Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, Glastonbury, CT; Michael A. Jones, LCSW, therapist for traumatized children, San Diego, CA; Helen Land, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California; Molly Scott, Ed.D., LMHC, music therapist and educator, Creative Resonance Institute and Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, M.D., Associate Medical Director, ValueOptions Inc.

Summary

Trained counselors help abused children build self-esteem, learn to manage their feelings, practice positive behavior and focus on strengths.
 

Long after abuse stops, a child may carry the hurt for a very long time. That is whether he can recall it or not.

Child abuse takes many forms. It can simply be lack of love and care from a parent. Or it can be as awful as a beating or rape. Most abuse falls somewhere in the middle.

More little kids die from not being cared for than from bodily injuries. They starve or get very sick. Some have deadly accidents because no one is watching them. Many teens die from drugs or drinking. Years of abuse can take a toll on a child, in ways you might not expect.   

Here are the numbers:

  • In 2011, 6 million U.S. children were reportedly harmed or neglected.
  • 680,000 of them were confirmed as abused or neglected. Out of those, close to 80 percent were not cared for. Almost 20 percent had bodily abuse. About 10 percent were sexually abused.
  • 1,570 of them died. More than 80 percent of those who died were younger than 4. Close to half were infants. 
  • Most people who caused the abuse were parents who could not control anger or their use of drugs or alcohol.

For each death, there are thousands of injuries. Each injury takes years of healing long after the bruises, scars and cuts go away. But with the right help recovery can be expected.
 
What can abuse do to a child?

Kids who have been abused can face many problems. Some are slight, but some are serious or long lasting. It all depends on what happens, at what age, how badly the child was hurt and who did it. The closer the relationship, the more harmful the abuse is to a child’s mental health.
 
Studies show that your reactions to unsafe situations make real physical changes to your brain. When kids have these traumas, their brains record their reactions, even if the child does not get what happened.

A baby has no words to name abuse. But, she might have dreams, or memories of smells or sounds that scare her. Over time, she can forget scary events but be haunted by fear. People might be grown before they can put together both feelings and memories in a way that makes sense to them or to anyone else.

“Even daily critical remarks from parents can have devastating effects on the life of a child and brain development,” says Helen Land, a professor and researcher at the University of Southern California. Emotional abuse can lead to learning problems or drug abuse later. When the child gets older, he may seek out people who will judge or abuse him, because it feels very familiar.

“Brains adjust to what is going on around them. Sometimes they shut down and depression sets in. The child withdraws, then can’t relate to others when he grows up.”

“If he says, ‘I feel like I’ve known this person my whole life’ it’s because, in a way, he has,” explains Land.

What does abuse do to a child?

In school, a child who has been abused might act out, or have trouble learning or looking back on what she learns. Because of the effects of the abuse, she might even develop: 

  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • poor behaviors, like smoking and drinking or drugs
  • serious emotional problems
  • juvenile delinquency
  • teen pregnancy
  • bad grades

As an adult, he may face:

  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • suicide attempts
  • higher risk for heart, lung and liver illnesses
  • higher risk for obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • anxiety disorders
  • smoking, drinking and drug abuse

 
Can a child ever recover from abuse?

For each minute a parent finds fault with, slaps or yells, a minute’s worth of good parenting is lost. Without warm and positive parenting, a kid does not learn how to show love in a healthy way. It is possible that she won’t learn how to disagree without fighting, or even how to feel good about herself.

Kids who have been abused grow up with poor self-esteem and poor control over their own anger when they are around adults who abuse. With no one to protect them, they may learn that violence is a normal way of life. When nothing changes for the good, they may even learn to give up hope.

Bad events can be turned around with counseling or mentoring from a caring adult or teacher.

“Human beings have a great ability to adapt,” says Sherry A. Blair, an author and therapist who works with children.

When she works with harmed children, Blair looks at the positives. She:

  • Builds self-esteem by praising them for good choices they make.
  • Helps them deal with their good and bad thoughts and feelings.
  • Teaches them to do kind things for others. Kind acts add to their own joy and lower depression.
  • Urges them to find and be thankful for good things in their lives.
  • Shows them how to eat healthy foods, work out and get enough sleep.
  • Encourages them to build friendships, stay focused in school and get involved in activities.

Counseling can help through dance, art, music or other forms. Therapists teach us to forgive and protect the child within us. Over time, counselors teach victims of abuse to build new, good behaviors. They survived abuse and neglect. With help, they can turn the strengths that let them survive, and live a healthy and happy life.

Resources

Child Welfare Information Gateway
Administration for Children & Families
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
(800) 394-3366

Childhelp®
(480) 922-8212
www.childhelp.org

National Mental Health Association
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance
(877) 507-PTSD
www.ptsdalliance.org

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E. P. Seligman. Atria Books, 2012.

Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman’s Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues by the
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DHHS. 2003. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4132/SMA12-4132.pdf.

Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect by the Children’s Bureau, DHHS. 2013.  www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.pdf

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sherry A. Blair, Ph.D., MSSW, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of books about bullying and diversity for children and teens, Montclair, NJ.; Alla Branzburg, MSW, psychotherapist and adjunct professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Encino, CA; Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, Glastonbury, CT; Michael A. Jones, LCSW, therapist for traumatized children, San Diego, CA; Helen Land, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern California; Molly Scott, Ed.D., LMHC, music therapist and educator, Creative Resonance Institute and Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, M.D., Associate Medical Director, ValueOptions Inc.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider. ©2016 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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