Social and Emotional Outcomes of Child Abuse


The prominent status of the parent-child association has undergone development or evolution in recent years to develop into a central concern in both the encouragement of the progress, growth, or acceptance of healthy family associations and the act of preventing child abuse and neglect. However, defining the meaning of child abuse is complicated because, in all societies, getting involved, to alter or hinder an action in family life, particularly in the relationship between parent and child, supports or holds in a certain manner the risk of unchangeable disruption and damage.

However, standards that are worthy of acceptance or satisfaction of child care vary amongst the attitudes and behaviors that are characteristics of a particular social group or organization, and irregularity in child-rearing beliefs and behaviors suggests that there is not a universally defined standard of what comprises good child care.

Korbin 1981 described child abuse as the peculiar action or reaction of parents in child-rearing practice that goes against considering or holding as true cultural norms. The most efficacious manner in which a society can shield itself from danger, injury, destruction, or damage to its children is by establishing legislation and social benefit systems that allow for adequate wellbeing, housing, and compulsory primary and secondary education.

Besides trying to recognize why some adults abuse children, researchers have tried to recognize why children are abused, i.e. if the abused children share a set of distinguishing qualities that may identify them. These are some of the distinguishable characteristics which are more likely to be present in children who are abused than in children who are not abused. Children who have been abused are more prone to share the subsequent features:

  • Low ratio of live births in an area to the population of that area
  • Abnormal pregnancy or birth
  • Impairment of normal physiological function affecting the mother or child in the first year
  • parting of child and parents after birth
  • temporary state in which individuals are unable to sleep
  • Feeding problems
  • constant crying
  • physical or learning disability

Any number of distinctly separate and complicated factors likely unite to fashion the conditions in which abuse will take place. These will most likely incorporate social and environmental factors, in addition to individual factors about the abuser. The precise extent of child abuse in any extended social group having a distinctive cultural and economic organization is hard to establish because there are so many distinct or separate ways of measuring what abuse is. Some definitions will take account of the types of child abuse that other definitions left out. In addition, not all child abuse is recognized and given an account or representation of it in words -some abuse never comes to light.

Definition of Child Abuse

Different definitions of child abuse may be adopted by an organization, government, community, or investigator to fulfill a unique or specific purpose for that group of individuals. There is no single definition of child abuse that all those involved in working with abused children would agree on. Definitions have been developed according to an orderly plan by the Department of Health, by the NSPCC, by researchers and writers.

Many definitions can be used as a means of assisting us to decide on what child abuse is not, but they should not be seen as anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines our perceptual experience of whether a particular child is psychologically suffering harm.

Gilmour presented reasons and arguments that the fact that there are many different definitions of child abuse depicts that there is no distinct satisfactory definition. He said that child abuse takes place when any preventable act or available events that do not accomplish their intended purpose to act adversely affect the physical, mental or emotional well-being of a child (Gilmour 1988, p 11). This description is effective in that it shows approval that not all child abuse is the consequence of the individual’s behavioral traits.

In summary, he clarified by giving an example that any act of granting authority to undertake certain functions or mistakes resulting from neglect by an individual, institutions or society in general, and any circumstance which is a consequence of such acts or inaction, that will deprive children of equivalent rights and liberties, and/or come between as a hindrance or obstacle with their optimal development, institute what is agreed by definition as the abusive or neglectful acts or conditions.

For most children who are abused, there are no distinguishing attributes between the different types of abuse they are exposed to; however, the experience is identical. A collection of things sharing a common attribute of abuse should nonetheless be treated with care more as a tool for appreciating what abuse is to some extent than as a conclusion of the problems an individual child may be going through.

However, the general concept that marks divisions or coordinations in a conceptual scheme can help us understand more about the types of abuse that young children are exposed to.

Nevertheless, the four main categories of child abuse that we are going to consider are:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse takes place when an adult or adult in an intentional manner inflicts physical damage to the body of a child or with full knowledge and deliberation fails to stop the child from coming to physical harm. Physical abuse may involve the following: hitting, punching, or beating the child, kicking, burning, scolding, throwing objects at a child, stabbing or cutting the child with any form of sharp object.

This class of physical abuse is also made up of what is known as Munchausen’s set of symptoms by proxy. This set of symptoms contain as a part an individual making up or invigorating illness and receiving pointless medical treatment, probably together with surgery. Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy is where the parents fabricate or bring about the symptoms of illness in a child for the child to be given irrelevant medical attention or intervention (DoH, 2001).

Developmental outcomes of Physical abuse

Physically abused children may undergo or be subjected to a variety of injuries over long or short periods. There is evidence to show that children who have minor injuries imposed on them may be in jeopardy of additional injuries at a later date and for that reason, minor injuries should always be comprehensively looked into. Intensely or extremely bad physical abuse of children may result in continuing or enduring damage or death.

Children who are killed by their careers have in most cases been abused regularly over some time and may have undergone or been subjected to multiple injuries around the time of death although head injuries and internal injuries are most frequently the real cause of death.

Some physical abuse of children is represented in words especially with sharpness and detail as over-punishment. This occurs when a child is subject to physical punishment from a guardian which then goes too far, follow-on in injury.

This may be the outcome of the carer losing their sudden outburst of anger or being unable to control their behavior. It may also result from an increase of punishment whereby the punishment becomes stricter over time because the lesser punishments are considered as not producing an intended effect.

Child abuse systematic investigation is long-lasting and high-priced and extremely demanding for those who have to give proof. The process of calling for an inquiry has been criticized from time to time because they use a lot of public money to reach conclusions that could be reached in a less detailed method. However, child death inquiries have served to bring to public attention the reality of child physical abuse and the likely outcomes for the child and also to make recommendations for meliorating child protection practice.

Case Study of Physical Abuse

George a child of 18 months old went to a small informal nursery group meeting for half-day sessions with bruising around his mouth. The bruises looked as if his face had been grasped over the mouth with considerable physical energy or intensity. The small informal nursery group meeting for half-day sessions was organized by two social workers who noticed the bruising and asked his mother about it. She denied all knowledge of the bruising but later accepted that her new fiancé had squeezed George’s face to try and stop his crying.

The case conference agreed that George was not safe to live with her mother’s fiancé after the pediatrician distinguished that other bruises had been found on George’s body. He was later prosecuted and imprisoned for some months for assault.

George’s mother moved in with another man in the meantime. However, the Nursery staff monitoring George’s progress alarmed social workers about his long absence from a nursery. On investigation, He was found to have a black eye, torn lip, and bruising across his face. On this occasion, George was taken into care although he was later effectively reformed to his mother’s care.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be said or seen as constituting any damage to the child’s intellectual process and growth about emotion because of intense or extreme emotional cruel treatment. Emotional abuse can include: oral abuse, denunciation, and abandonment of affection, continuous criticism, brushing aside the child, not communicating with him, making fun of the child, threatening the child, treating the child as less valuable or important than other children in the family traversing the child’s achievements.

There are several concise explanations of emotional abuse which reveal professional disorder resulting from a failure to behave predictably as to how to define the extent of emotional abuse. Working together to safeguard children (DoH, 2001) defines emotional abuse as follows:

Emotional abuse is the never-ceasing aroused ill-treatment of a child such as to cause harsh and never-ceasing inauspicious consequences on the child’s emotional growth. At some point, it may entail letting children know that they are of no value or unloved, insufficient, or appreciated only in so far as they meet the needs of another person. It may entail getting children habitually to feel thrown into a state of intense fear, desperation, danger, mistreatment, or corruption of children.

However, emotional abuse arises when children are exposed to a regular onslaught of emotionally destructive adult behavior, not because of separate incidents to protect or prevent interaction. This means that to express emotional abuse the behavior has to be severe and it must result in long-term damage to the child’s emotional development.

Garbarino, Gutman and Seeley gave a definition for the meaning of the word emotional abuse as an implicated attack on a child’s development of self and social skillfulness in the command, a pattern of physical destructive behaviour which consists of five norms; i) rejecting (the adult refusing to acknowledge the child’s worth and the legitimacy of the child’s needs); ii) isolating (cutting the child off from normal social experiences, preventing the child from forming friendships, and making the child believe that he or she is alone in the world; iii) terrorising the child (verbal assault, creating a climate of fear, bullying and frightening a child, making the child believe that the world is capricious and hostile; iv) ignoring (depriving the child of essential stimulation and responsiveness, stifling emotional growth and intellectual development); v) corruption (stimulating the child to engage in anti-social behaviour, reinforcing that deviance, making the child unfit for normal social experience) (p. 12)

This definition focuses on the outcomes for the emotionally abused child rather than the behavior of the abusing parents.

This approach helps recognize that there are many and varied types of adult behavior towards a child which can result in emotional impairment. Rather than list all of these types of behavior, the definition attempts to classify the results of adult emotionally abusive behavior in whatever form it takes.

As much emotional abuse of children in point of fact results from other forms of abuse, this approach can help to keep the focus of the week with the child on the emotional condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness she/he has suffered.

For a while, unfair criticism or acts of deriding or treating with contempt and rejection can be painful and destructive of morale and self-reliance for some time even to non-abused children. Children can be extremely Responsive to physical stimuli and criticism. However, slight unpleasant incidents can have a short-term effect on the child’s freedom from doubt, thereby, belief in their selves and abilities.

Developmental outcomes of emotional abuse

However, emotional abuse involves long-term damages to the child’s feeling of pride and sense of dignity which may leave the child with continuing or enduring emotional and psychological problems. These can include anxiety, nervousness, violent or withdrawn behavior, and lack of ability (especially mental ability) to partake in childhood activities and experience enjoyment.

If emotional abuse keeps or maintains in unaltered condition for a long period, the child may grow to adulthood struggling with a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity or neurosis or even suicidal thoughts and acts. Emotional abuse usually results from other types of abuse but can be treated as a separate class when it is the main form of abuse. It is, however, important to remember that where the child suffers from other types of abuse but can be treated as a separate group when it is the most important type of abuse.

It is, however, important to remember that where the child suffers from other types of abuse, it is frequently the attendant emotional damage that causes the long-term problems. For example, many sexually abused children do not suffer the most important physical injuries from sexual abuse but the emotional phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon of such abuse can last a lifetime.

In the same way, adults who have suffered physical abuse as children will time and again continue to suffer the effects of that abuse long after the bones have mended and the scars have healed. Dealing with the emotional aspects of abuse is often the fundamental subject matter when working with children who have been abused.

In court, emotional abuse can be difficult to prove. Expert witnesses such as clinical psychologists are often called in to estimate or determine the nature, value, quality, ability, extent, or significance of the child’s emotional and psychological state and then to give proof in court. There is no crime of emotional abuse of a child, but emotionally abused children can be made subject to care proceedings under the 1989 Children Act if the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm because of parental behavior.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children closely connects and often incriminatingly any sexual behavior or activity through which an adult uses a child for his or her sexual state of being gratified or satisfied. The child may be forced through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral, or intellectual means into the sexual activity and may be too young to fully understand the nature of the activities in which he has been involved.

The child may be enticed or intimidated to stop him from disclosing the abuse. The child may also be convinced into the sexual behavior if it appears to be the most important way in which the parent will show him any apparent love.

Sexual abuse can also be described as the act of causing to take part through pressure or highly attractive and able to arouse hope or desire of a young person to indulge in sexual behaviors, irrespective of the child’s knowledge of the occurrences.

Consequently, some may consist of non-contract activities, like calling for children to look at, or recommending materials designed to arouse lust or gazing at sexually related activities, or motivating children to behave in sexually inappropriate manners.

Sexual abuse of children could include the following

Masturbation (manual stimulation of the genital organs of oneself or another for sexual pleasure), forcing an individual to have sex against their will (rape), sexual intercourse including virginal or anal penetration, of the child or the adult by the child, touching, touching or stroking lightly lovingly or endearingly (fondling) or kissing the child in a sexual manner and for sexual gratification, involving the child in sexual activities with other adults and children for the sexual gratification of the adults present, indecent exposure and child prostitution which would involve the child in sexual activity with several partners who pay.

Definitions of child sexual abuse used to contain references to informed consent and to the child’s developmental inability to truly comprehend the acts in which they were involved. It is clear that children are not in a position to permit would an adult because of the differences in power between an adult and a child. Children were dependent entirely or fundamentally on adults and do not have the same choices about relationships as do adults.

A young girl who was once raped by her stepfather said that she had consented to some of the earlier subjections to unwanted or improper sexual advances or activity because she was afraid since he was her father and as such had authority over her. She had not known what actions would be and had no concept of how to turn down her stepfather’s wishes. The question of informed consent seems unnecessary in a situation where the child has so little control over events.

However, adults who are sexually attracted to children argue that children can give knowledgeable consent to sexual activities, and as such, the adult would not be guilty of a misdeed if they involved the child in such activities.

The incidence of child sexual abuse is often considered to be greater than available statistics may indicate. There is a big difference between the statistics for reported sexual abuse and estimates of the real level of sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse may go unreported for years, or may only come to light when the child becomes an adult. Researchers often have to use adults who have been accused to try and get figures for the incidence of child sexual abuse, so there is a time-lapse between when the abuse took place and the gathering of data about the abuse, which may affect the quality of the outcomes.

Information of successful institutions and conduct of legal proceedings implies low rates because of the difficulties of successfully prosecuting child sexual abuse cases.

However, sexual abuse in Britain is seen as having an emotional or cognitive impact on close to one in eight girls and one in twelve boys. Some researchers put the estimate as high as one in four girls. The figures depend on what definition of child abuse is excluded.

Kelly, Regan, and Burton used a sample to ascertain how many had had unwanted sexual experiences. They drew up a dimension of nine concise explanations of the meaning of sexual abuse in increasing severity. The widest definition found 60 percent of women and 25 percent of men had been subjected to some unwanted sexual attention.

By the rigidly accurate definition, 4 percent of women as 3 percent of men had been sexually abused. The rates fell noticeably when the definition changed to include physical contact. (Kelly, Regan, and Bruton, 1991).

Child sexual abuse may take place within or outside the family. It was once considered that children were mostly sexually abused by individuals they are not acquainted with. Nowadays there is widespread acceptance that children are sexually abused within families and that a huge proportion of abusers are fathers and stepfathers. Women have also been found to be abusing children sexually but current figures report a low percentage of female sexual abusers compared to male sexual abusers. However, most children are abused by adults they know. Children are also sexually taken advantage of outside the family in other ways. Child prostitution is distributed to a considerable extent across the world and children are used to the greatest advantage to produce materials designed to arouse lust in many countries.

Many women’s liberationists implied as a possibility that child sexual abuse is highly spreading rather than unusual in society. They present reasons and arguments that the majority of female children are exposed to some form of sexual abuse from the males in their family during childhood and that this is part of more general domination of females by males.

A story is told of one woman aged 60 years who uncovered, exposed to view the sexual abuse she had suffered over 50 years ago after watching a program on television about incest survivors. The experience was as fresh in her mind as if it had happened that week. She was amazed and extremely relieved that her experience, which she had felt to be so disgraceful that she could never admit to it, was not only shared by others but was now being received sympathetically and sensitively.

There are numeral pieces of law enacted by a legislative body that make the sexual manipulation of children a condemnable offense. However, there are areas where the issue of whether a particular event is sexually abusive or not is less clear. These usually relate to teenagers who may be having sex with others of their own or similar age. Although these activities may be illegal they may not be regarded as sexually abusive.

Developmental outcomes of sex abuse

Sleeper Effect

This refers to critical shreds of evidence that may not arise until years after the abuse (Briere, 1992). A general example of the sleeper effect is when sexual abuse occurs with a child at the age immediately before puberty; often marked by accelerated growth, and then evidence develops when the child is older, such as during puberty with sexual acting out. The idea of sleeper effects is broadly acknowledged among child abuse professionals, even though there is little if any support derived from experiment and observation rather than theory for it (Finkelhor and Berliner, 1995). Finkelhor and Berliner pointed out that the belief in the sleeper effect has had several profound consequences for child sexual abuse clinicians and researchers.

Not all children who are subjected to sexual assault by adults are forced or attacked. Although some children are caused to experience, suffer, or are made liable or vulnerable to dreadful assaults involving physical damage and trauma, other children are subjected to more harmful attacks which may involve a gradual process within which the child is caused to personally know the various types of sexual activity without any assault or physical oppression. The child may experience little bodily pain and may not be primarily greatly traumatized by the events.

Depressive disorder

This is an impairment of normal physiological function affecting the body, mood, and thoughts. It has an emotional or cognitive impact upon how one swallows solid food as well as how an individual tackle emotional and sensational or be in a particular state of mind.

Without care provided to improve the situation especially medical procedures, symptoms can last for long. Consequently, suitable care provided to improve a situation especially medical procedures or applications that are intended to relieve illness or injury can be of help to those undergoing or are subject to depression.

Child sexual abuse has progressively been in public judgment for a period of indeterminate length now and the reported occurrences of this type of abuse have risen dramatically. Some accept as true that despite the increased acknowledgment of child sexual abuse, many cases go unreported.

As a result of the improved detection of child sexual abuse, there has been the call for improvement of authority qualified to counsel apprentices and agencies concerned with or connected to various kinds of abuse. These have occasionally been rigorously criticized by a range of inquiry accounts which have been to a great degree reported in media.

However, the most recognized report marked by or capable of arousing controversy is the Cleveland Report, which is the result of an inquiry into how a hefty number of alleged child sexual abuse cases were covered in the Cleveland area.

In this case, unlike the child death investigation cases already talked about, the professionals concerned were not criticized for failing to take action to protect the children concerned; instead, they were criticized for taking conduct that was well-thought-out as beyond normal limits and inappropriate which were established on argumentative evidence (Butler-Sloss, 1988).

The Cleveland investigation came as a result of the grievances of a group of parents whose children had been engaged in care because of suspected child sexual abuse. At the center of the argument was the use of the automatic instinctive unlearned reaction to a stimulus and a lengthy discussion as a method of establishing after calculation, or investigating whether sexual abuse had taken place or not.

Children were believed to have been sexually abused on the fundamental assumptions of medical evidence alone, some of which were remarkably controversial.

Nevertheless, the circumstance was worsened by the number of suspected cases becoming greater or large, and the professional and personal disagreement between the hospital pediatricians and police surgeons. Parents were not authorized to see their children brought into care on Place of Safety Orders (the emergency Court Order used before the Children Act 1989 to bring children into care when they were very close or connected to danger. although sexual abuse is usually not life-threatening.

In court, it is often difficult to prove cases of sexual abuse in court and successfully convict the offenders. In the past, there have been problems between social workers and police officers because their different roles in a child sexual abuse case are sometimes incompatible.

The police are looking for an indication that makes something evident that a crime has been committed, to institute charges against a specific individual or individuals, while the social workers have the duty of shielding the child against harm or discomfort. Any maneuver made as part of progress toward a goal like specialist units and joint guidance is designed to try and minimize any conflict between different professional interests and to take full advantage of the chances of shielding the child and bringing a criminal or legal action against those responsible for the abuse.


Neglect comes about when the child’s parents stop working towards meeting the child’s fundamental requirements, like food, clothes, warmth, shelter, hygiene, and medical care. The child may also be neglected through inadequate supervision such as when a young child is left alone or in charge of even younger children, or when a child is allowed to wander in the community without supervision or concern for his whereabouts.

Essentially, neglect is more often than not referred to as not doing something to look after; giving medical or emotional help for the child rather than actively causing harm to the child as in physical abuse.

Neglect can result from: Not providing sufficient or inappropriate food, not providing sufficient or inappropriate clothing, refusing to grant, or failing to offer the child sufficient warmth, failing to wash or bah the child, failing to watch and direct the child in areas with a possibility of becoming very dangerous and as a result of which the child may be injured or killed and failing to look for medical care when the child is ill or injured.

Neglect can however be defined as continuous failure to provide a child’s essential, bodily, and/or mental or emotional needs, likely to result in serious damage that results in a reduction of strength or quality of the child’s health or development.

Developmental outcomes of Neglect

Children who are neglected are usually ignored in several ways and these may add together to increase the child’s unhappiness. The child may be more likely to be in a poor or unsatisfactory manner; not well or be injured through poor diet, inadequate clothing, and poor supervision.

If the parents do not seek medical care for the child, then infection can turn out to be more intense or habitual. Neglected children may not be in a position to undergo education because there is no one to take them there or they might go by themselves at too young an age. The child may arrive early in school and be not eager to go home.

Consequently, like emotional abuse, neglect can be hard to describe perfectly well. Children developing and or reaching maturity in households on low incomes usually come out to be neglected, regardless of the efforts of their parents to supply satisfactorily for them, because there may not be having enough resources to meet all the child’s needs.

Although neglect is often affiliated with poverty, children can still be neglected in households where there is the probability of meeting their needs. To some extent, neglect may be a result of the illness or learning disability of the parent.

Psychosocial dwarfism

Children suffering from this disease are exceptionally short for their age; have a weight that is well below normal; have a small head circumference despite normal calorific intake, and have no noticeable unprocessed basis for their inability to grow. In addition to these, they show strange habits of eating behavior, they also show physical, cognitive, and social development delays


In societies across the entire continent, children are always abused in many different ways. Definitions and classes of abuse can be useful in trying to assess the degree of child abuse in different societies and at different times, but they do not always help us know what child abuse is.

This can be further and in a meaningful manner determine the results by paying attention to a sound and the experience of the child. Assessing the degree of child abuse can be disorganized. There are so many issues that influence levels of giving an account or representation of abused children that the figures cannot be expected to be perfect. It is usually believed that all child abuse is constantly under-reported and that research only shows us the tip of the iceberg.

Perhaps the most important point is that child abuse is widespread across a range of classes, cultures, and types of families, and that children often suffer unheard because this is not always recognized.

Reference List

Briere, J. (1992). Child abuse Trauma: Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Butler-Sloss, E. (1988). Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland (The Cleveland Report), London: HMSO.

DoH (2001) Children and Young People on Child Protection Registers-Year End 31st March 2001. England London: Web.

Finkelhor, D., & Berliner, L. (1995). Research on the treatment of sexually abused children: A review and recommendations. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34, 1408-1423.

Garbarino, J., Guttman, E. and Seely, J. (1986). The Psychologically Battered Child: Strategies for Identification, Assessment and Intervention. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Gilmour, A. (1988). Innocent Victims: The Question of Child Abuse. London: Joseph.

Kelly, l., Regan, L. and Burton, S. (1991). ‘An Exploratory Study of the Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in a Sample of 16-21 year olds’, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, University of North London, in DSRU, Child Protection: Messages from Research. London, HMSO, pp. 88-89).

Korbin, J.E. (1981). Introduction. In J.E. Korbin (ed.), Child abuse and neglect: Cross-cultural perspectives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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