Our childhoods are the foundation for who we are in the future. It is an important time in our lives where we learn all about the world and determines how we make connections with the world. However, when something like child abuse occurs, these connections become skewed.
For starters, let’s examine childhood brain development. As a child grows, the nerve cells in the brain called neurons develop and make connections. These connections are known as synapses. Synapses organize the brain by forming pathways that connect the parts of the brain governing everything we do—from breathing and sleeping to thinking and feeling. The environment that we grow up in facilitates how our synapses develop.
Healthy child development depends on the child making strong, positive connections with the world. Having the full support of dependable parents reinforcing good habits and behaviors is key. This also includes allowing the child deal with certain stresses, which helps prepare the child for the world ahead.
However, what happens with a child who has suffered abuse? Unforunately, the connections that are made are negatively influenced ones. An example would be if a child asked for food and was met with an abusive response. The child will then make the connection that if he asks for food he is going to be abused. If this connection is reinforced for long enough, it can carry well into adulthood.
Physical abuse can harm a child’s brain itself. Shaken Baby Syndrome can destroy brain tissue and tear blood vessels. In the short-term, shaking can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, or even death. In the long-term, shaking can damage the brain so that a child develops a range of sensory impairments, as well as cognitive, learning, and behavioral disabilities.
Together we can empower parents with the knowledge to make healthy decisions for their children. If you have any questions about this article or about our website, please contact us.