The Impact of Abuse and Neglect on Child Growth & Development

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst

Melissa has a Masters in Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology. She has worked as an instructional designer at UVA SOM.

A healthy family relationship can contribute positively to the growth and development of a child, while unhealthy and abusive relationships can do the opposite. Review some facts and statistics on child abuse, explore the main characteristics of abusers and abused children, and see the impact of abuse and neglect on a child's growth and development. Updated: 08/23/2021

Facts and Statistics of Child Abuse

Healthy relationships between parents and children contribute to the positive growth and development of children. Growth and development can be stifled through abusive and negative relationships, however. A family system, which is intended to provide support and love, can be the cause of pain and violence. This lesson will describe characteristics of abusers and those abused. This lesson will also describe the impacts of abuse and neglect on a child's growth and development.

Child abuse statistics are hard to get a handle on because so many instances go unreported. However, in 2009, a national study found that there were 702,000 unique reports of children who were deemed as victims of child abuse in the United States. Of those 702,000:

  • 78.3% suffered neglect
  • 17.8% were physically abused
  • 9.5% were sexually abused
  • 7.6% were emotionally abused
  • 9.6% experienced various types of maltreatment

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  • 0:01 Facts & Statistics
  • 1:07 Characteristics of the Abuser
  • 2:42 Characteristics of the Abused
  • 3:20 Impacts of Abuse
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Characteristics of the Abuser

Contrary to popular belief, only ten percent of child abusers have a mental or psychological disorder. Further, abusers come from all races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Researchers have identified commonalities among abusers.

Most often, the abuser was abused as a child themselves. Abusive parenting traits tend to be passed from one generation to another. Approximately 30% of abusers claim they were abused as a child. Researchers have found that the abuse could have been witnessed or the abuser could have been the target of the actual abuse. Observation and direct abuse are predictors of future abuse of children.

Abusive parents, especially mothers, are often abused by their partners.

Abusers often have low self-esteem or confidence, are in insecure partner relationships, and hold low self-efficacy as a parent. These feelings of insecurity, especially in partner relationships cause the abuser to form negative internal working models of themselves, their children, and others. These negative internal working models suggest people can't be trusted and they are difficult to love.

Abusive parents are often unrealistic or uneducated in the care of young babies and children. In non-abusive households, when a baby cries, the parent knows it needs something: food, a diaper change, attention. However, in abusive households, the abusive parent takes the baby cries as criticism of their parenting. They are unable to understand the cries are a form of needs communication.

Characteristics of the Abused

Research does not conclude that the following characteristics are justifiable reasons for abuse. They are, however, present in most cases of abuse.

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