The Long Term Effect of Child Abuse

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The Long Term Effect of Child Abuse on the Health and Well Being of Adolescents


The early years of childbirth are crucial to a child’s development. Exposure to harmful external substances during this period can have lasting effects on this development. Unfortunately, many children experience a form of stress such as abuse or maltreatment.

Stress has significant effects on brain development. It leads to an increased risk of mental retardation, poor development of the hippocampus and hyperreactive ventral striatum leading to memory loss, mental retardation, high risk of depression and addiction, and high risk of various physical health problems during any stage of life. It also profoundly affects behaviours such as increasingly problematic behaviour, declining social behaviour, lack of emotional awareness and control, and increased risk of depression. The traumatic experience of childhood brings a significant impact on life. This article will review some literature on adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and their long-term effects on those who suffer from them. (1)

The Psychological Effect of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)

ACE also influences the morphology of the hippocampus, which has played a significant role in the formation of new long-term memories. Naturally, this has a detrimental effect on a person’s memory and learning.

The HPA-axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is an essential system for responding to stress. Contains an explosion of central and peripheral events leading to the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland mediating the long-term effects of stress. In addition to the stress response, HPA-axis regulates the cardiovascular system, immune function, function, and reproduction. (8) Impaired HPA-axis functional impairment due to chronic stress can lead to changes in stress exposure in later life.

It has been found that different types of ACE often lead to the tireless working of the HPA-axis in adulthood. This same effect of hyperactivity is found in people suffering from major depression. (2,3)

The Physical Effect of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)

In addition to the noticeable neurological effects, ACE can have long-term side effects body. It is associated with muscular and respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and intestinal and physiological disorders. Also, high levels of inflammation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and abbreviated telomeres, associated with a lower lifespan, are seen as victims of child abuse.(10,11)

The Emotional Effect of Adverse Childhood Experience


Children exposed to the type of abuse or neglect of ACE show an increased risk of internal and external behaviours later in life. (6,7) ACE is often linked to social exclusion, difficulties in managing emotions, strengthening social relationships. Other forms of internal abuse can leave young people emotionally deprived, making it difficult to respond positively to other people’s feelings and reducing their chances of successful social interaction. Guessing how other people will react to their negative responses can also be very difficult because of this, further reducing the chances of successful social interactions. (6)

Some patients feel that they are still struggling emotionally as adults because of their age-related effects of emotional abuse, traumatic events, contact abuse, and physical abuse.

Continued child abuse causes a decline in an individual’s self-esteem, feelings of guilt, dislike sentiments, and persistent strong negative beliefs that are difficult to resist, leading to frustration with continuous issues that they cannot control like anxiety, self-harm, haste, difficulty in lasting relationships.

Emotional abuse is the backbone of all other forms of abuse. (5) The emotional trauma of childhood abuse has made it incredibly hard to survive.

Prevention of the Negative Effect of ACE

ACE can have a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of those who have seen it. Time is of the essence in ensuring that the intervention will work. Creating characteristics in guardians or parental figures is a fundamental factor in accomplishing an outcome. Time seems to be a crucial factor. Advancing great mothers and healthy child development can decrease the drawn-out outcomes of early life can reduce the long-term consequences of early life. A rich environment can be only prevailed by conquering the effects. (8,9)

These findings suggest that the adverse effects of stress in various stages of early life are treated by utilizing proper energy in later phases of life.

The Conclusion

This article aims to provide a review of some literature on the adverse effects of child abuse, especially its long-term effects on the brain and the behaviour of those suffering from it. I hope to show students that ACE and child abuse are major health problems that can have a long-term impact after childhood.

In summary, depression during the early years of growth has significant effects on brain development. It leads to an increased risk of dementia, low hippocampi, and hyper-reactive ventral striatum leading to memory loss, mental retardation, a high risk of addiction, and even various physical health problems. It also profoundly influences practices like an expansion in hazardous conduct, a decline in social behaviour, a lack of emotional awareness, and an increased likelihood of depression.

Taking everything into account, ACE shows that ACE has a lasting severe physical, neurological, and mental effect on its victims. ACE should be considered a severe health problem. As of yet, there is still a lot unknown when it comes to potential treatments and preventions.


  1. Bellers, S.W. (2021) The effects of Early Life Stress on brain and behavior. Bachelor’s Thesis, Biology.
  2. Gjerstad, J. K., Lightman, S. L., & Spiga, F. (2018). Role of glucocorticoid negative feedback in the regulation of HPA axis pulsatility. In Stress (Vol. 21, Issue 5, pp. 403–416). Taylor and Francis Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1080/10253890.2018.1470238
  3. Joseph, D. N., & Whirledge, S. (2017). Stress and the HPA axis: Balancing homeostasis and fertility. In International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Vol. 18, Issue 10, p. 2224). MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18102224
  4. Goldman-Mellor, S., Hamer, M., & Steptoe, A. (2012). Early-life stress and recurrent psychological distress over the life course predict divergent cortisol reactivity patterns in adulthood. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(11), 1755–1768. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.03.010
  5. Herzberg, M. P., & Gunnar, M. R. (2020). Early life stress and brain function: Activity and connectivity associated with processing emotion and reward. In NeuroImage (Vol. 209, p. 116493). Academic Press Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116493
  6. Jaffee, S. R. (2017). Child Maltreatment and Risk for Psychopathology in Childhood and Adulthood. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 13(1), 525–551. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy- 032816-045005
  7. Busso, D. S., McLaughlin, K. A., Brueck, S., Peverill, M., Gold, A. L., & Sheridan, M. A. (2017). Child Abuse, Neural Structure, and Adolescent Psychopathology: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(4), 321-328.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2017.01.013
  8. Kalinichev, M., & Francis, D. (2010). Maternal Deprivation. In Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience (pp. 173–177). Elsevier Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-045396-5.00017-8
  9. Maniam, J., Antoniadis, C., & Morris, M. J. (2014). Early-life stress, HPA axis adaptation, and mechanisms contributing to later health outcomes. In Frontiers in Endocrinology (Vol. 5, Issue MAY, p. 73). Frontiers Research Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2014.00073
  10. Teicher, M. H., & Samson, J. A. (2016). Annual Research Review: Enduring neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. In Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines (Vol. 57, Issue 3, pp. 241–266). https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12507
  11. Teicher, M. H., Samson, J. A., Anderson, C. M., & Ohashi, K. (2016). The effects of childhood maltreatment on brain structure, function and connectivity. In Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Vol. 17, Issue 10, pp. 652–666). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2016.111
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Umm-E-Abeeha is a 4th-year MBBS student at Islamabad Medical and dental college.

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