Rates of emotional, psychological child abuse have increased, according to new study

After completing the first major study of the effects of child abuse in two decades, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine are recommending an “immediate, coordinated” national initiative to better address and prevent the long-reaching effects of abuse and neglect, reports the The Washington Post.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Abuse and neglect cost roughly $80 billion each year in direct (e.g. child welfare and the cost of hospitalization) and indirect costs (e.g. special education and lost work productivity)
  • The prevalence of physical and sexual abuse have declined
  • Emotional and psychological abuse have increased, which can lead to the most serious, long-term consequences
  • Rates of neglect have remained largely unchanged
  • Parental depression, parental substance abuse and whether parents had been abused or neglected as children all contribute to the risk of child abuse

When left untreated, the study found, child abuse and neglect has a dramatic impact on the child’s physical and mental health, the ability to control emotions and impulses, academic achievement and current and future relationships.

Mary Dozier, an author of the report and chairman of child development at the University of Delaware, told the Post:

“The effects seen on abused children’s brain and behavioral development are not static. If we can intervene and change a child’s environment, we actually see plasticity in the brain. So, we see negative changes when a child is abused, but we also see positive brain changes when the abuse ends and they are more supported. Interventions can be very effective.”