Effects of child abuse

Harm experienced in childhood can have significant and lasting effects and children can respond differently to what has occurred.

Children may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical problems as a result of being harmed, including:

  • low self esteem
  • increased fear, guilt and self-blame
  • distrust of adults or difficulty forming relationships with others
  • disrupted attachments with those who are meant to keep them safe
  • mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorders
  • self-harming or suicidal thoughts
  • learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development
  • developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments
  • permanent physical injuries or death
  • violent, aggressive or criminal behaviour or other behavioural problems
  • drug and alcohol abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour.

It should be noted that for some children who have been abused, the impacts will not be evident in their behaviour.