Every year, children from all around the world suffer from childhood abuse by their parents, family members, members of institutions, or strangers. In different levels, childhood abuse can happen in many forms, starting from verbal abuse, to physical abuse and more. On Psych2Go we already discussed the topic of child abuse, its forms and side effects. In this article, I want to put my entire focus on traumatic things toxic parents do to their children and how badly the impact can change the child’s life on both the short term and the long term.
Parents are supposed to be our caregivers, our role models, our wing to hide under for protection. If parents are the main damagers of those little pure creatures, how are they supposed to trust the outsiders? How are they supposed to get strength and power to face bigger hurdles when they grow up? A lot of children, at a very young age, teach themselves how to cope with their abusive environment, while others don’t even realize that they do indeed belong to a dysfunctional family. Later on, they may either figure it out, or normalize those behaviors.
Moreover, childhood abuse has serious impact on children. Not only it can be very difficult to talk about it, but also it leaves serious damages on children, physically and mentally, that can follow them throughout their whole life even after it’s over. To emphasis on that, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links adverse childhood experiences (which include other household dysfunctions along with abuse and neglect) with a range of long-term health impacts. Ischemic heart disease (IHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), liver disease and other health-related quality of life issues are tied to child abuse.
Childhelp, which is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, published numerous numbers of shocking statistics in the U.S about this trauma. Approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. 68% are abused by a family member. Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.
So what sort of things do toxic parents do?
There are lot forms of abuse that toxic parents might do to a child. We should put in our minds that every type of abuse is still an abuse and it is as serious as the others. They can all cause traumas, in different levels, depending on the child, the parent, and the circumstances. We should never normalize any form of abuse or take it for granted.
10 Things toxic parents do that have a negative impact on children:
Physical neglect and inadequate supervision: that’s what happens when a parent does not give enough care, support, and attention to their child. It includes not feeding, or clothing, or bathing the child. Also, not taking a proper care of their daily needs as an immature person who needs the help of their caregiver. Sometimes, a parent might be incapable of taking care of a child for different reasons such as depression, anxiety, severe illness or injury. As a consequence, the child grows up faster than their normal age negatively because instead of worrying about their school homework or what toy to play with, they need to take care of more mature things which put them in danger like with kitchen tools or house gadgets. Later on, they become extremely self-dependable and they lack trust toward the others thinking that maybe they will fail them down like their parents did.
Physical abuse: includes every non-accidental injury or physical violence from pushing, hitting, slapping, spanking, torturing, etc. A lot of parents who practice this abuse insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline. They think this way they are raising their children correctly to behave better and become more polite kids which is completely far from the truth. This raises nothing in the child but fear and self-consciousness and lack of confidence. They won’t step up to talk about their problems and feelings. On the contrary, this only harms the child both physically and mentally. On the other hand, some parents just lash out of anger on their children because of personal problems or mental illnesses. In the U.S, 28.3% of adults report being physically abused as a child.
Sexual abuse: occurs when a parent uses their child for incest or involves him/her in sexual acts, gratification or excitement. It includes contact for sexual purposes, molestation, statutory rape, pornography, exposure, or other sexual exploitative activities. It’s a very complicated and difficult type of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. Children may blame themselves for this horrific incidence and find it very difficult to come forward and tell an adult what happened. They can be afraid that they’d be the reason why the family will split apart, or afraid that the abuser would harm them even more, or think that they will never be heard or believed. Which is why, if a child is brave enough to come forward and tell you what happened to them, please pay attention and take it extremely seriously. False accusations of childhood sexual abuse are not common.
In U.S, 20.7% of adults report being sexually abused as a child. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. In 2016, over 65,000 were sexually abused in U.S.
Lack of love and affection: that’s when a parent doesn’t show or give enough love, warmth and affection toward their child but rather cruelty, cold hearted behaviors, ignorance and constant punishments. The child then feels lonely, worthless and not good enough to receive their parents’ care. Also, constant belittling, shaming, humiliating, yelling, threatening, bullying, ignoring, rejecting, and limiting physical contact such as hugs and kisses can severely damage a child’s mental health or social development. In one study, 80% of 21-year-olds who reported childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
Medical neglect: refers to a parent’s intentional failure to provide sufficient medical, dental, or psychiatric care especially when it is needed to treat a physical injury, an illness, a mental trauma, physical or mental disorders, or any other type of emergency. In this form of neglect, the parent does not give help nor seek healthcare even if the child is in a critical circumstance. They refuse getting access to medical care, ignore medical recommendations and doctor’s prescriptions, refuse to support medical expenses; all these for no valid reasons. There could be different reasons why a parent would do such a cruel thing. They’re careless; they lack love for the child; they don’t feel responsible; they don’t take the sickness seriously; they don’t want to pay for the medical care expenses; they prefer home remedies, or could be caused by religious believes or a mental issue. Every child deserves adequate medical care. That’s one of the basic rights to live.
Educational neglect: is defined as a parent’s intentional failure to provide a normal study atmosphere for their child including the basic needs for a good education and monitored schooling. In this form of neglect, the parent encourages or allows repetitive truancy, doesn’t register or enroll the child in school after they reach the proper age. Also, it includes parents who don’t ensure that the child is receiving a proper education and provided with basic school supplies needed for better understanding and concentration. How can we blame a child for dropping out of school with all this?
Economic abuse: or financial abuse which means withholding money, bragging and complaining to the child about how much they cost them. Exaggerating about the amount of money they spend on them. Hiding money or taking theirs. Also, preventing from spending on the kid’s basic needs such as food, clothes, medical care, and school supplies. Reminding the child that everything they own belongs to the parent because they who have got the money.
Sudden mood changes: being raised in a home where parents constantly shift their moods can be stressful and exhausting. Kids can’t anticipate what to do and how to behave during those situations. They can’t even tell why there are mood swings anyway. Growing in this kind of atmosphere raises early stress in children and they often suffer from impaired behavior and learning skills.
Domestic violence: being a witness of domestic violence is also a form of child abuse. It is a life changing trauma that can cause long-term physical and mental health problems. Watching or hearing parents fight or one of them is abusing or assaulting the other can put the child in greater risk of being violent in their future relationships. According to The Office on Women’s Health: More than 15 million children in the United States live in homes in which domestic violence has happened at least once. These children are at greater risk for repeating the cycle as adults by entering into abusive relationships or becoming abusers themselves. For example, a boy who sees his mother being abused is 10 times more likely to abuse his female partner as an adult. A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home.
Substance abuse: specifically the compulsive use of drugs and alcohol, which makes the parent an addict, can put the child in danger. It results neglect and abusive behaviors. According to American SPCC: 1/3 to 2/3 of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree. Also, in one study, children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs were three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusive families.
To conclude, childhood abuse can develop into lifelong issues. Depending on the severity, it can cause a person to suffer from depression, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, problems with intimacy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical issues like the ones mentioned above. More mental awareness is needed to be spread out all around the world so people truly realize how traumatic child abuse can be. However, if you or someone you know is being abused, we’d want you to know that you’re not alone and it’s not your fault. It is highly advised to call an emergency hotline for help. Our hearts are with anyone out there who’s been a victim of childhood abuse.
CDC. “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2 April 2019. At: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2Facestudy%2Findex.html
Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, womenshealth.gov, 2 . “Effects of domestic violence on children.” Updated on: 2 April 2019. Published on 2017. At: https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
Childhelp. “Child Abuse Statistics & Facts.” At: https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/
American SPCC. “Child Maltreatment Statistics in the U.S.” at: https://americanspcc.org/child-abuse-statistics/