How Sexual Child Abuse Can Effect The Child's Psychological Development Term Paper

Length: 8 pages Subject: Children Type: Term Paper Paper: #25023031 Related Topics: Sexual Orientation, Psychosocial Development, Child Prostitution, Child Pornography
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Sexual Child Abuse

Child sexual abuse involves a broad range of sexual behaviors that take place between a child and an older person. These sexual behaviors are planned to erotically stir the older person, commonly without concern for the consequences, choices, or outcome of the behavior upon the child. Definite conducts that are sexually offensive frequently involve bodily contact, such as in the state of sexual kissing, touching, fondling of genitals, and oral, anal, or vaginal contact. Nevertheless, behaviors might be sexually abusive even if they do not entail contact, such as in the case of genital exposure, verbal force for sex, and sexual abuse for purposes of prostitution or pornography.

For Definitions propose four main types of child abuse (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and child neglect), but seldom if ever does one form of abuse happen alone. The suggestion in itself is illogical. Physical abuse and sexual exploitation never occur in the absence of emotional abuse. Children who are sexually abused regularly experience physical harm. When one form of abuse does exist in absence of others, it is expected to be emotional abuse.

Sexual Abuse: Effects on Children

The strongest sign that a child has been sexually abused are unsuitable awareness about sex, inappropriate sexual attention, and sexual acting out. (APA, 1995) The effects of abuse are consequence from the abuse itself, from the family's reaction to the condition, and from the stigmatization, that is associated with abuse. The signs can include post-traumatic symptoms, sexualization, depression, angst, shame, panic, sexual dysfunction, dissociative indicators, eating disorders, substance misuse, prostitution, regressive behaviors and academic and behavior problems. (APA, 1995)

Issues that impact the result in cases of childhood sexual abuse consist of the age of the victim, the regularity and degree of the abuse, the connection of the victim to the abuser, the use of force, the occurrence of severe injury, and the number of different perpetrators.(Goldman et al., 1982) The response of the victim's family has a tremendous effect on the result. sympathetic reactions from the victim's family and friends can go far to reduce the effect of the abuse while negative responses will compound the harm done.

Emotional Effects despite of the fundamental reasons of the impact of sexual abuse, the tribulations are very real for victims and their families. moreover, fresh efforts to recognize the impact of sexual abuse have gone further than clinical impressions and case studies. They are rooted upon research result.

Finkelhor, whose conceptualization of the traumatic effects of sexual abuse is the most extensively in use, divides it into four broad types, each having varied psychological and behavioral effects. (Finkelhor, 1986)

Traumatic sexualization. Included in the psychological outcomes of traumatic sexualization are unenthusiastic feelings about sex, overrating sex, and sexual identity problems. Behavioral expressions of traumatic sexualization constitute a variety of hypersexual manners as well as evading of sexual encounters.

Stigmatization. General psychological signs of stigmatization are what Sgroi labels "damaged goods syndrome" (Sgroi, 1982) and thoughts of guilt and blame for the abuse or the cost of disclosure. These feelings are displayed in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, risk-taking exploits, self-mutilation, suicidal actions and acts, and violent behavior designed to bring forth punishment.

Betrayal. Possibly the most primary damage from sexual abuse is its discouragement of trust in those people who are expected to be protectors and nurturers. Other psychological impressions of betrayal include resentment and borderline functioning. Behavior that suggests to this trauma includes avoidance of investment in others, influencing others, renewing the trauma through subsequent involvement in exploitive and damaging relationships, and engaging in angry and acting-out behaviors.



The psychological effect of the trauma of helplessness includes both an awareness of susceptibility and victimization and a yearning to control or prevail, frequently by empathy with the aggressor. As with the trauma of disloyalty, behavioral expressions may imply violence and exploitation of others. On the other hand, the vulnerability effect of incapacity may be responses, like dissociation and running away; anxieties, including fears, sleep disorders and eating problems; and re-victimization.

Developmental Effects

The developmental effects of abuse can be distinguished in terms of loss of affection, condensed self-worth and less interpersonal relationships. There may also be problems of greatly sexualized or highly hostile behavior, substance use, dissociation, self-injury, or other dysfunctional ways of dealing with strain and unease.

In Erikson's Psychosocial Theory, there are eight phases of development, from birth until death. The Psychosocial development of the persons depends on the social relations at the time. A inference is that the growth of the child should not be damaged during pre-adolescence or puberty. There are three key stages in Erikson's theory that follow with this conclusion. The first stage is reliance vs. mistrust. This stage takes place during the first year of life. The important relationship is with the mother. The positive outcome is trust. If a child is mistreated during this time, the trust in the abuser, is misunderstood. The child still feels devotion and love for the abuser, but does not in fact comprehend what is happening. The confusion from the child leads up to the next stage, which is independence vs. humiliation and uncertainty. This stage occurs when the child is two years old. The major bond the child has is with the parents. If a child is sexually battered during this stage, they will feel abandoned and also feel embarrassment and doubt. They will feel shame since they do not understand what is happening. The doubt takes place because they are doubtful of the sexual acts and do not know what is right and what is wrong. The embarrassment and reservation lead to the third stage, which is initiative vs. guilt. The child is three to five years old during this time. The major relationship is with the basic family. At this point, the conclusion is that the family may begin to deduce that something is wrong, and the child may become closer to the mother and farther apart from the father, who would be the probable abuser. The encouraging result in this stage is reason and direction, when the child comprehends that the abuse is wrong and becomes closer to the mother. The child comprehends a sense of wrong of the takes action. The distinctive age range for a child to be sexually abused is from ages seven to thirteen. However, a child can be abused at any age, not just during that time period. Erikson has more stages in his Psychosocial Theory, but these three phases were the stages that child sexual abuse is most likely to occur.

Short-Term Effects

There are numerous short-term effects that a child experiences, psychologically, emotionally, and physically. According to Dr. Patricia McClendon, "Approximately 40% of all victims/survivors suffer aftereffects serious enough to require therapy in adulthood."..whether being short-term effects or long-term effects, all effects of the exploitation are grave enough to encourage therapy.(McClendon, 1991)

The short-term effects of child sexual abuse are few and not as damaging to the child as the long-term effects are. By the short-term effects after the sexual abuse has taken place, the child will feel some things for a short time and feel other things throughout their entire lives, often contradictory feelings and views, which is certainly long-term. Children feel uneasy, angry, scared, and apprehensive before, during, and after the abuse has transpired, according to the National Association of Social Worker's Journal, volume 42, #2.(NASW News, 1997) Nevertheless, they only feel these emotions for a short time and then they get used to these feelings if the abuse is continuing. The child victims also have nightmares, troubles in school, and feel miserable and ill-tempered. These problems can be addressed and do not last a long time if they are taken care of right away, or as soon as possible.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects last all through the child's life and are more psychologically destructive to their well-being. Concludes Kathleen Berger. "The long-term effects impair the child's ability to develop normally." If the abuse is continuing, the child is further prone to be in an violent relationship as an adult. It is also difficult for the victim to found a trust and/or connection with anyone, mainly with older adult. subsequently, while the abuser is for the most part is liable to be older, the injured party may date older men, double their age, as they be reminiscent them of the abuser. They do not have faith in them completely, but they still feel devotion and love for older men. This is only in the situation where victims are young girls who were abused by their fathers. Stepfathers are also a common as abusers, the girl might also have an abnormal outlook on sexuality, and may be uncertain about her sexual orientation as she develops and ages into an adult (Berger, 1998).

A number of other psychological costs are drug and alcohol abuse, becoming sexually active at a young age, and revolt in school, with their counterparts, or authority figures. Victims are…

Sources Used in Documents:

Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Mental Health Effects of Family Violence. American Medical Association Web Site.

McClendon, Patricia D. November (1991). MSSW candidate. Incest/sexual abuse of children. Internet. p.23. Available:

National Association of Social Worker News. (1997, February). States eye domestic abuse welfare option. NASW News, Volume 42, #7, pp11.

Cite this Document:

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