Abused children feel worthless and insecure and bring this into adulthood.

I want readers to understand the long and short-term effects of each type of abuse on the child. Physically abused and neglected children develop a sense of worthlessness and insecurity. Ultimately, they feel unlovable. Their instinct is logical, ‘if my parents do not love me, it must be my fault, and I must be unlovable’. This leads to depression, confusion about their identity, and sadness. These children find it more difficult to socialise than non-abused children. They lose trust in people, suffer from anxiety, shyness, and perform poorly in school.
The normal reaction to danger is to fight or to flee. A child cannot do this, and so they freeze their feelings, dissociate, and shut out the unbearable reality of the pain. Children split off part of themselves to hold the trauma of abuse. I believe that this psychic numbing is the most harmful effects of abuse, because it deprives children of their feelings, and makes it difficult for them to form healthy relationships in later life. They experience rage and anger at the beginning of their teens, have discipline problems in school, and eventually may drop out or be expelled. Many run away from home, become addicted to substances and alcohol, become involved in crime, and have an aggressive and hostile outlook.
We must realise, too, that children are severely affected by witnessing physical abuse directed at someone else in the home. They are indirect victims of physical abuse, and experience emotional, behavioural or physical difficulties. As an only child, I hated it when my parents fought. I hated the tension in the house, and welcomed the thaw! Children reared in an abusive environment suffer from guilt and take responsibility for the abuse. They are constantly anxious, and they may feel guilty for loving the abusive parent. They suffer fear of abandonment, can become withdrawn, blame themselves, and combine contradictory behaviours such as being needy and clinging, as well as being rebellious and angry. It is likely that these children will suffer from anxiety and depression. Many children who are indirect victims of physical abuse may have problems in school. Their concentration is affected, they may have high absenteeism, have difficulties with language problems, and they do not reach their potential. They may suffer stress-related illnesses such as headaches, stomach problems, rashes, nervous ticks, nausea, vomiting, bedwetting, insomnia and eating disorders. Children who witness severe physical abuse may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Infants also suffer from severe emotional and physical problems if they are in an abusive home. They may not walk at the appropriate age, and become emotionally stunted.
Boys who witness domestic abuse are more likely to batter their partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. They see it as normal.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, physical abuse