The Psychology of Trauma

Child Abuse

What factors protect against the after effects of child abuse?

A warm, close relationship with an alternative caretaker, such as an aunt, grandparent, or even a caring neighbor, can soften the damaging effects of child abuse. Likewise, if the abuse is addressed promptly and the child protected from further harm, this can do a good deal to restore the child’s faith in the world. This is simplest if the abuser is not a close family member. However, if the child is strongly attached to the abuser—for example, if the abuser is a parent—separation from the abuser can also bring tremendous feelings of loss.

Psychotherapy can help the child victim understand what happened to him or her, correct any distorted views of the abuse (such as self-blame), and work through the complex and sometimes contradictory feelings about the abuse and the abuser. Hopefully, such help can protect against some of the negative psychological effects that often follow experiences of child abuse. Further, connections with institutions that foster relationships with the larger community (e.g., school, church), appropriate discipline in the home, and family stability protect against the negative psychological effects of child abuse.


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