Abuse and Child Development Essay Example

According to  The Principle of Subsidiarity Applied: Reforming the Legal Framework to Capture the Psychological Abuse of Children, abuse has “often been used synonymously with the terms emotional abuse, emotional maltreatment, psychological battering, and soul murder” (Weaver 256). Before I begin, I wanted to warn any readers that my paper will be vulnerable and emotional. I will be writing in-depth about the sensitive topic of abuse and neglect. Moreover, talking about abuse and neglect or “soul murder” is a very prevalent topic today. In a 2019 survey done by the Administration for Children & Families, and the US Department of Health and Human Services, it was found that over 399,992 children experience neglect and 101,973 children experienced multiple mistreatment types of abuse (see Figure 1). When I heard this statistic, I was disgusted. Furthermore, with starting this paper, I thought the most logical place to start would be to define abuse and neglect. 

Jessica Weaver defines abuse as a “repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting another‘s needs” (256). Additionally, she broke down abuse into four key features: “adverse parental behavior… sustained pattern of negative interaction… child vulnerabilities… [and] damage in terms of emotional and psychological functioning” (Weaver 257). I add to this definition that abuse causes harm to the victim whether physically or emotionally. In a study trying to prove a link between abuse, neglect, and psychopathology, Faith VanMeter identifies five types of neglect involving “failure to provide physical needs, lack of supervision, emotional neglect, moral–legal neglect, and educational neglect” (5). Now that both abuse and neglect are defined, it will be easier to pinpoint the detrimental effects this mistreatment has on childhood development.

In a survey done to see the effects of abuse and neglect in the early years of life, “results indicated that childhood abuse and neglect [were] robustly associated with symptoms of psychopathology in adulthood” (Parade). Furthermore, the analysis of the surveys found that abuse “perpetrated by maternal figures… was uniquely associated with high levels of self-reported symptoms of psychopathology in adulthood” (Parade). These results show the long-lasting impact abuse can have on mental health even from childhood trauma. Abuse and neglect have deep roots in the lives it corrupts. In a second survey, the results showed that trama is biologically embedded. Early “childhood trauma can impede brain development and alter gene expression”, which can interfere with youth executive functions (Smith). Overall, mistreatment in a young child’s life can cause secure attachments, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, low self-esteem, behavior problems, negative coping habits, and poor social skills.

When studying how the human brain works, researchers will use mammalian brains as their instincts and responses are similar to humans. Macaque monkeys, in particular, are the most “predominant nonhuman primate model in neuroscience” (Gray). A study by behavior scientist Harry Harlow used baby Macaque monkeys in order to show the impact of contact comfort on primate development and the side effects of social isolation. There were groups of baby monkeys, each group-from birth- was raised in bare wire cages. These monkeys “suffer[ed] total maternal deprivation… [and no] affectional ties with their peers” (Harlow 3) for either three, six, or twelve months. Harlow observed that “12 months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially” and the 12- month isolates were “highly fearful and showed almost no positive social behavior” (Harlow 5-7). In a similar psychology study, a Romanian orphanage was studied to learn how early deprivation harms children. This was called the Bucharest project. In the project, the psychology team assigned half of the test group of orphans to move in with foster families and left the other half in the orphanage’s care. Comparing the children raised in foster care versus being raised in the orphanage, the Bucharest project found “profound problems among the children who had been born into neglect… [such as] delays in cognitive function, motor development and language...deficits in socio-emotional behaviors and experienced more psychiatric disorders” (Weir). Thus proving, in both the Macaque monkeys and humans, parent-child relationships are critical to proper development. 

The reason why I feel so passionate about this topic is that I know the consequences of abuse and neglect firsthand. Throughout my whole childhood, I thought that these experiences were normal. Even now that I am out of that situation, I still battle with my past. I have nightmares, triggers for my anxiety, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. One of the most real parts of abuse and escaping toxic situations is realizing that you will never forget your experiences no matter how hard you try. It always haunts you. I wanted to raise awareness for the effects abuse and neglect have on childhood development. It hurts me to know that there are children and people who know and share my pain.

Abuse and neglect are destructive, but I am in no way advocating for helicopter parenting and limiting childhood adversity. I merely aim to educate people about the consequences surrounding abuse and neglect and being vulnerable with my audience. The physical, mental, and emotional damage caused by abuse and neglect is a pain I wish on no one. However, because of my experiences, I have become resilient, strong, and successful.


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