Lasting Effects of Child Abuse

     For individuals who become victims of abuse, the negative effects don’t end when they grow up and leave their abuser behind them. They may have spent years in an abusive situation that included physical, sexual, or emotional trauma. Childhood is when you essentially learn what the world is like, learn about things like trust and rules and respect. When trauma to that degree is caused by a caregiver, it can affect the victim for the rest of their lives.


long term effects     Victims of abuse can experience social difficulties. This may start during childhood as the abuse occurs. A common component of abuse is isolation. An abusive caregiver is overly concerned about allowing outsiders to become aware of the abuse that is occurring at home. As a result the child is sometimes kept at home as much as possible. Being kept from extracurricular activities or sleepovers at friends houses can prevent youngsters from learning valuable social skills. As a teen or adult this can show itself in a difficult time making friends, or being withdrawn.

     Adults may also experience difficulty in sustaining intimate relationships. Abuse can result in difficulty forming bonds of trust with others, which keeps those affected from feeling like they can count on friends or truly trusting a potential partner. Without that trust, friends drift away and romantic relationships fizzle because of lacking emotional intimacy.

     The mental health consequences of abuse can be far-reaching as well. Some children and teens in abusive situation may experience increased anxiety or develop feelings of depression. This depression can worsen and the individual may attempt suicide or experience suicidal thoughts.

Suicidal ideation often continues into adulthood. Other lasting mental health issues can include low self-esteem, stress-induced conditions such as flashbacks, personality disorders, anxiety, difficulty controlling anger, as well as amnesia and others.


Adult survivors of abuse frequently exhibit high risk behavior. This type of behavior can start while still a child or early teen and typically consists at that age of attempts to run away or engaging early in sexual behavior. Hypersexuality is a common high risk behavior, particularly resultant of sexual/emotional abuse. Survivors engage in frequent sexual encounters typically devoid of emotional content as a way to feel more in control of their personal relationships. It is also more common among survivors to use illicit drugs as a means of escaping reality.

     There is also some truth to the stereotype of cycle of abuse. Individuals who were abused as children sometimes only have their primary caregiver as a role model for what parenting or family is supposed to look like. Spousal abuse is also common in homes where child abuse takes place. As a result, the survivors grows up not having any other frame of reference for how these types of relationship dynamics should work. Some survivors of abuse, in fact, rationalize their abuse as strict parenting, and can have trouble drawing a line when it comes to being put in that role with their own spouse/children.

     As if the horrors of child abuse were not enough, extended traumatic periods in childhood can truly affect survivors for the rest of their adult life. All too often, survivors experience lasting mental health problems, poor relationships, high rates of incarceration due to risky behavior, and even increased rates of certain physical illnesses. While it is possible to get help and attempt to overcome the lingering damage from their abusers, it does present an additional obstacle that survivors of abuse have to overcome.

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