Factors Affecting the Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect

There are many factors that play into how abuse affects a child including the child’s age and developmental level when the abuse happened, the type of abuse, the frequency, duration, and severity of the abuse and the relationship between the child and the perpetrator.


  • Death – Between four and five children die a day from abuse.
  • Abusive head trauma which can result in death, vision impairment, motor impairment and cognitive impairments
  • Impaired brain development that affects cognitive and language abilities, social/emotional development and mental health
  • Poor physical health including chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, liver disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high levels of C-reactive protein


  • Attachment difficulties in infancy
  • Poor mental and emotional health. As many as 80% of young adults who have been abused experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide attempts
  • Cognitive difficulties. More than 10 percent of abused school-aged children showed some risk of cognitive problems or low academic achievement, 43 percent had emotional or behavioral problems, and 13 percent had both
  • Social difficulties. Children who experience neglect are more likely to develop antisocial traits as they grow up. Parental neglect is associated with borderline personality disorders, attachment issues or affectionate behaviors with unknown/little-known people, inappropriate modeling of adult behavior, and aggression


  • Difficulties during adolescence including smoking alcoholism, drug abuse and high risk sexual behaviors
  • Juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. At least 25% of abuse children experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy and school difficulties
  • Alcohol and drug abuse. Child abuse victims are 1.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs
  • Abusive behavior those who have experienced abuse are more likely to repeat the behavior as adults
  • Relationship difficulties.  Child abuse can have a negative effect on the ability to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships


  • The total lifetime economic burden resulting from child abuse and neglect in the United States is $124 billion
  • The estimated average lifetime cost per victim of child abuse and neglect was $210,012, including
    • Childhood health care costs
    • Adult medical costs
    • Productivity losses
    • Child welfare costs
    • Criminal justice costs
    • Special education costs