More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Exploring Child Abuse
Counselling Connection
November 2, 2009

There has been heightened awareness over the years of what effects domestic violence, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, street violence and catastrophic events have on children.

Traumatized children experience a large range of emotions and psychological pain including anxiety, helplessness, fear, loneliness, depression, vulnerability and despair (Malchiodi, 1998).

Anxiety is a common childhood psychological problem affecting children world wide. All children feel worried or scared at times, but it would appear that abused children are always on the alert causing them to react with a fight or flight response (stress response).

As stress hormones circulate, the development of the brain tends to slow down. While trying to come to terms with what has happened, children may feel so distressed that the abuse is suppressed in the unconscious memory causing them to feel fear and not know why (Cooper, 2006).

When children have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused they tend to feel unable to discuss what has happened with fear of the consequences that might follow. Children will often feel that there is nothing they can do about the situation and that they are responsible for it.

Thinking it is their fault, children may tend to punish themselves by directing their anger inward causing them to become self-destructive, depressed and perhaps suicidal (Berry, 2001).

Abuse can be difficult for them to work through as it may involve other issues generating more anger such as, pain is inflicted, safety is compromised, trust is broken, power is abused and their fear has been heightened. According to Berry (2001), having all these issues may cause children to feel stuck and unable to cope, therefore they may act out in the following ways:

  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Not allowing others close to them
  • Having superficial relationships
  • Violating others space or boundaries
  • Erupting over small things
  • Hostility or disobedience to those in authority
Abused children may feel betrayed by adults who they depend upon for nurturing and protection. To continue exploring this topic, we’ve gathered a great list of articles discussing child abuse from different perspectives.

The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
In this series, Vikki Rowe discusses the impact of child sexual abuse. This article has a comprehensive collection of references and studies in the area, offering in-depth analysis of the topic.

Child sexual abuse (CSA) has received increasing recognition as an important social issue over the past couple of decades (Webster, 2001). While reports of CSA are certainly increasing, it is unclear as to whether this is due to an actual increase in occurrence, or merely a greater awareness in the community and reporting to the authorities.

See Counselling Connection ? The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

Identifying Child Abuse
Child abuse is a phenomenon that is a universal and societal taboo. As reflected in numerous legislative acts and philosophy central to all child protection is that the welfare of the child is paramount.

Whilst having regard for the view that the best place for a child to thrive is with his/her family, any allegation of abuse must be responded to by referral to the appropriate authority.

See Counselling Connection ? The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

Recognising When a Child or Young Person is at Risk
There are behavioural cues that alert the counsellor to the possibilities of a child being abused; different indicators are associated with the different abuses.

Remembering that the indicators mentioned here are not absolute and that one behaviour that the child displays may not mean they are abused or neglected. There are four recognised forms of child abuse: physical, sexual, and psychological and neglect.

See Counselling Connection ? Recognising when a child or young person is at risk

The Consequences of Abuse and Neglect for the Child
Whatever the cause of the abuse and/or neglect, it can have long-standing consequences for the child. The younger the child, and the more vulnerable they are, the more serious the consequences are likely to be, however, with early intervention children can recover from abuse and neglect.

When the abuse is ongoing or long term it can result in the child becoming

  • Withdrawn, living in their own world, and suffering low self-esteem.
  • Abused and neglected children are at greater risk of developing anxiety disorders; they become hypervigilent always alert possible danger.
  • Attachment disorders are not uncommon, along with learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development.
  • Aggressive behaviours including other behavioural problems and developmental delay (which can include eating disorders and physical ailments).
  • Delinquency and criminal behaviour including violent and aggressive behaviours.
See Counselling Connection ? The consequences of abuse and neglect for the child

My Child Being Bullied
Long gone are the days when the phrase ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ was used to toughen the kids in the school playground. Bullying is now an issue that is taken very seriously by parents and schools.

Research over the past 25 years confirms that bullying is an international problem. The likelihood of a child being bullied is higher if the child is a boy, in primary school and has a shy/quiet temperament. However any child, regardless of their gender, age or abilities can be targeted by a bully.

Studies indicate that 15 percent of students in schools are involved in bullying, either as the bully or as the victim (Center for Children and Families in the Justice System, 1996).

See Counselling Connection ? My Child Being Bullied
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