How Abuse and Neglect Can Affect a Childâ€™s Brain Development
Many people who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without lasting negative effects, but abused and neglected children will have more difficulty and experience traumatic stress reactions that may affect the development of a young brain. As the brain develops, areas of the brain responsible for how a human being will learn to cope, relate to others, and think all begin to take shape. This process is greatly affected by how the child is treated and cared for throughout critical early years of development.
Children who live in an abusive home may experience the following:
Hitting or frequent spanking
Drug or alcohol related abuse
Lack of food or other life essentials
Violence or other negative behaviors like â€˜Toxic Stressâ€™
Toxic stress in a young child may look like temper outbursts, crying easily, sudden and significant changes such as bed wetting, withdrawal from usual interests or activities, high degrees of fear or anxiety, poor school performance, difficulty getting along with others, fighting, running away, severe mental illnesses and many more difficulties.Â Though no family is perfect, life and childhood can be challenging under the best of circumstances, the above increases the risk for unnecessary risk to a young childâ€™s ability to develop to his or her fullest potential. There is always hope; there is help.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has legal jurisdiction to investigate allegations or concerns of abuse and neglect. Although there may be many differences of opinion on disciplining children, there are statutory definitions of abuse and neglect that serve as the legal standards beyond the concept of reasonable discipline, as defined by Texas Family CodeÂ§261.001and Texas Administrative Code,Â 40 TAC Â§700.501(5,17)).
Physical abuseÂ is a physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, such as bruises, fractures, or death. It also can include a genuine threat of harm even if there is no visible injury.
Sexual abuseÂ is sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare. This includes fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, indecent exposure, and exploitation through producing pornography.
Emotional abuseÂ is an action that results in a marked impact on a child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. Emotional abuse includes extreme forms of punishment such as confining a child in a dark closet, habitual scapegoating, or belittling to the point that it results in noticeable effects on the child’s daily functioning.
Labor traffickingÂ means to knowingly use a child for labor or services by force, fraud, or coercion. This includes obtaining the child for personal use OR providing the child to others. It involves the exchange of monetary or non-monetary benefits, including the child’s services. Labor or services involving sexual conduct is sex trafficking.
Sex traffickingÂ means to knowingly use a child for illegal sexual conduct. This includes obtaining the child for personal use OR providing the child to others. It involves the exchange of monetary or non-monetary benefits, including the child’s services. Sex trafficking occurs even if the child seems complicit or does not believe he or she is a victim. Prostitution is a form of sex trafficking.
An individual can also commit abuse by:
Causing or permitting a child to be in a situation in which he or she sustains a mental or emotional injury
Failing to make a reasonable effort to prevent physical or sexual conduct that is harmful to a child
Compelling or encouraging a child to engage in sexual conduct
Using a controlled substance in a manner or to the extent that it results in physical, mental or emotional injury to a child
Causing, permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance
Neglectful supervisionÂ means placing a child in a situation that requires judgment or actions beyond what the child is physically or mentally capable of doing and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to a child.
Medical neglectÂ is failing to get or follow up with medical care for a child when the lack of care results in physical injury or in a marked impact on a child’s growth, development, or functioning.
Physical neglectÂ is the failure to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. Physical neglect can include a situation where the home environment presents a health or safety threat to children.
Abandonment and refusal to accept parental responsibilityÂ are two other categories of neglect.
Failing to protect a childÂ from any situation described above also falls under the definitions of abuse and neglect.