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Impact on development

Children learn to think, speak, and reason when they are very young. The human relationships that children form make a big difference in their social and emotional development. Children who have secure, trusting relationships with their parents or guardians when they are young grow up much differently than children who learn at a young age that they can’t trust anyone.

The toll of child abuse and neglect can resonate throughout a child’s life. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, half of infants who have been abused or neglected exhibit some form of cognitive delay.

They are more likely to have deficits in IQ scores, language ability, and school performance than other children. Infants and toddlers who are victims of abuse and neglect are also more likely to have physical health difficulties such as greater neonatal problems, higher rates of failure to thrive, and dental disease. Disproportionate exposure to early trauma and other developmental risk factors can result in a variety of mental health disorders. Physical abuse impairs a young child’s social adjustment, including elevated levels of aggression that are apparent even in toddlers (American Humane Association, 2011).