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Untreated Abuse and Neglect Can Have Lifelong Effects

A dire report was covered in the Washington Post yesterday:

In the first major study of child abuse and neglect in 20 years, researchers with the National Academy of Sciences reported Thursday that the damaging consequences of abuse can not only reshape a child’s brain but also last a lifetime.

Untreated, the effects of child abuse and neglect, the researchers found, can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults. The researchers recommended an “immediate, coordinated” national strategy to better understand, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect, noting that each year, abuse and neglect costs an estimated $80 billion in the direct costs of hospitalization, law enforcement and child welfare and the indirect costs of special education, juvenile and adult criminal justice, adult homelessness, and lost work productivity.

The good news was that physical and sexual child abuse has declined in the past 20 years, and neglect has held steady. But emotional and psychological abuse, which can cause the most serious long-lasting ­effects, have increased. And as in many things, the ways that states deal with abuse vary, so it may be hard to coordinate efforts. But the researchers think there is reason for hope.

“The effects seen on abused children’s brain and behavioral development are not static,” said committee member Mary Dozier, chairman of child development at the University of Delaware. “If we can intervene and change a child’s environment, we actually see plasticity in the brain. So, we see negative changes when a child is abused, but we also see positive brain changes when the abuse ends and they are more supported. Interventions can be very effective.”

Read more here.



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