Child Abuse

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

What are the complications and prognosis of child abuse?

Children who are subjected to maltreatment are at risk for a variety of physical and emotional problems, often depending on their age. Physically, children can suffer from brain injury, including mental retardation, concussions, seizures, and death. Behaviorally and emotionally, children may develop a myriad of problems, including depression, anxiety, trouble bonding with others, and issues with controlling their anger.

Adults who were the victims of child abuse are at higher risk for a variety of emotional and physical problems, as well as for economic problems. The most common physical problems are neurological and musculoskeletal problems, followed by respiratory, heart, and gastrointestinal ailments. Compared to adults with no history of child-abuse victimization, those who were abused as children are at risk for achieving lower levels of education, employment, income, and assets. Those risks are apparently even greater for women compared to men. Adult survivors of abuse are also at higher risk of incarceration and for family violence occurring in their own homes.

Is it possible to prevent child abuse?

There are primary, secondary, and tertiary ways of preventing child abuse. Primary intervention involves awareness training for professionals who work with children, policy makers for children's issues, and for the general public. Secondary prevention programs work to alleviate the risk factors that make vulnerable children at risk for abuse. Tertiary prevention programs work with families in which abuse has already occurred in an attempt to decrease the effects of the abuse and to prevent it from occurring again.

Attempts at secondary and tertiary prevention of child abuse tend to address the risk factors and strengthen protective factors. Such programs often use approaches that strengthen parenting skills and supports, as well as enhance the ability for the caretaker to provide for the needs of the child. The inverse of most risk factors, protective factors for child abuse include having the involvement of supportive family, strengthening family and peer relationships, developing healthy coping skills, and improving individual emotional regulation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2016

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  • Child Abuse - Prevention

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