Human development is understood only in the light of a thorough knowledge and understanding of the complete makeup of man (Berk 2007). However, the accumulation of bases and proofs for the evidences in this understanding would not be possible without utilizing scientific methods – in their distinct capacities and limitations – that helped cement psychology’s place in the realm of scientific knowledge. Only when psychology employed scientific methods did it come to be a force to reckon with among many of the pure and applied sciences (Bootzin 1991). This paper presents in précis the long term effects of child abuse in terms of physical, psychological, emotional and mental, cognitive functioning from evidence-based documents collated from various sources. The implication of the study in general states that parental oversight has never been as significant and important as when a baby is born until that child reaches physical and psychological maturity. Development does not end once a person reaches physical maturity, but continues throughout life. Developmental psychologists seek to describe and analyze the regularities of human development across the entire life span. It focuses primarily on those aspects of development that make one person similar to another as a species (Berk 2007).
Nature of Human Development
Developmental psychologists tell us that development is caused by two very extensive intermingling factors: heredity or nature, and environment or nurture. Often determining the demarcation line between these two factors, which directly or indirectly influences our biological and psychological constitution, is not an easy task.
Nature speaks of the transmission of traits from parents to offspring through the genes which is universally known as heredity. This biological transmission of traits from one generation to another plays an important role in the determination of traits that are considered human and nonhuman. The biological structures, people inherit, at the same time, make people’s behavior possible. It is also these biological structures that limit human behavior (Hurlock, 1964).
On the other hand, environment embraces all the influences that affect or shape man. The other process of development that occurs through the medium of the environment is called learning.
In general, it can be argued that all behavior reflects the influence of both nature and nurture. All organisms acquire or inherit a range of structures that set the stage for certain behaviors. Yet environmental influence such as nutrition and learning also help decide whether or not genetically possible behaviors will be displayed. The genius of such creative writers as C.S. Lewis or Stephen King may never appear should they have been reared in less fortunate circumstances without the privilege or opportunity of even writing and reading.
Nurture especially during the early stages in the life span influences some of the arenas of human existence. The best illustration to this is in the aspect of intelligence. Many studies have been conducted to emphasize the role of environment and this is illustrated in the areas of research where scientists try to manipulate the initial milieu around which many young children are in jeopardy of developing poor intellectual functioning. These researches actually put stress or accentuate the preventive aspect instead of addressing the interventions that may be applied later on. A lot of families from below the poverty line reasonably, are not able to afford their children a cognitively motivating atmosphere. For this reason, majority of these children are even expected to perform below their capacity. It is arguably to the side of nurture in instances that intellectual functioning is compromised when the environment component is not maximized. Hence the reason that some of the government’s popular programs to address the problem are in place. They include such services as Head Start, which are confirmed effective strategies in developing the child’s intellectual capability (Ramey, 1989 in Halonen and Santrock, 1996, p. 280). Despite some of the controversies that surround the efficacy of the “No Child Left Behind Act” spearheaded by President George W. Bush, the rationale following this public policy is the fact that children coming from inner cities and minority groups will be provided ample opportunities for cognitive development via government funding. Schools that do not perform at par with “productive ones” will be evaluated and funding consequently is affected. This raises up the standard of the schools especially their teachers. Whether this is fail-safe or not, is not the question here. However, this is a clear illustration that without any environmental intervention, children left to themselves may not develop competence or achieve their potential.
Another evidence that point to the effect of environment on human development especially during the early years is based on observations or studies on parental abuse of children. According to research, the growth and development of a child is modified incessantly by the influences in the environment. The fact that maltreatment by parents over their children account for the vast differences of performance of school age children and many of the resulting disorders or maladjustment problems that are frequent problems encountered by educators, substantiates the claims of nurture or environmental influence (www.ipce.info/library_3/files/glaser/glaser_2.htm).
Early childhood environment impacts the child’s cognitive ability is also shown in a study on the effects of nutrition in infancy and later cognition. Nutrients as provided by formula or any other supplement affect brain development significantly. The study supports the hypothesis that optimum nutrition in infancy “has significant consequences for cognitive development (Lucas, 1998).
Demographics and Factors Influencing Effects of Abuse
Number of Maltreated Children. In a research backed by government funding, Child Trends is an agency which specifically cater to the issues of child development in contemporary America. Their advocates say that 800,000 have become the baseline for the population affected in the United States alone gathered from surveys, the recent accumulated from 2001 and 2002. According to Child Trends and Gateway, these are only from reported cases hence in all probability. an unprecedented number can be assumed (2008; 2002).
Juvenile Delinquency. The correlation with neglect and abuse as children readily shows in the data corresponding to crimes committed by the youth. Virtually every research reveals the evidence tying that adolescent offending are results of parental abuse and neglect. Statistics show, as U.S. Department of Justice’s has done in their survey, that youth offenders, with ages ranging from 7 to 12 years, are becoming more and more involved with the juvenile justice system. One in ten juvenile arrests involves kids under thirteen years old. Offenses range from arson, rape, homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, to not so serious but persistent disruptive behavior such as truancy and incorrigibility. These children “have a two to threefold greater risk of becoming serious, violent, and chronic offenders” (_______OJJDP, Mar. 2003).
Sociologists, in an attempt to explain and point out the reasons behind delinquency, have concluded that there are connections between specific youth behaviors with the home environment, family background, the neighborhood, associations, and many other aspects that together, or separately affect the formative years of young people’s social environment. Delinquent children usually come from a background of difficult circumstances. Parental alcoholism, poverty, breakdown of family, abusive conditions in the home, death of parents during armed conflicts or drug overdose, and the HIV/AIDS scourge, and etc. are some of the various reasons that can leave children virtually orphaned. One or both parents may be physically present, but because of irresponsibility on their part (if even one of them is addicted to drugs or alcoholic), a child may grow developing certain ways and attitudes that are directly/indirectly caused by the parent/s addiction or drug-related behavior. In this case, true delinquency lies on the parents; and the children are, in a way, orphaned or unaccompanied, and without any means of subsistence which, in the first place, the parents’ fundamental responsibility to provide (OJJDP, Mar. 2003).
Children who are well taken care of by their parents and are thus adequately supervised are at less odds to be involved in criminal activities. Studies have proven that. A dysfunctional family, on the other hand, which is commonly characterized by regular conflicts, parental negligence, poor communication because of absorption to outside activities by parents, are always assumed to be the breeding ground for delinquents (Venkatesh, 1997).
Studies (Donnely, 2009; CWIG, 2008) regarding substance abuse (alcohol included) yielded results that clearly associate self esteem closely to it. Those who are engaged in alcohol use in later or older age do so because they have learned the use of it in their early and moldable years (11 years old or 5th & 6th grade). Consequently, attempts have been made to deal with the area of self-esteem in hopes that when this psychological problem among teens is addressed properly, substance abuse might somehow be curbed. There are programs that cater to this need and they are actually placed side by side with the traditional curriculums of some schools. Experts and researchers believe that this quandary of alcohol abuse among teens may be helped by treating it in a stage where it is less obvious – that is, when the youngster is not yet manifesting or is obviously using alcohol, but on the brink of experimenting on it (Donnelly, 2007). The line of attack of this particular method is directed towards factors that are crucial to the make up of adolescents’ life experiences. Understanding the transitions that teenagers most likely will go through is the underlying principle that facilitated the study that eventually led to the formation of this program. Hence, the high hopes that the proponents of this program maintain. In this paper, the author tries to explore and explain the rubric of the particular synopsis mentioned above and to finally (in the process) convince its readers of its viability in decreasing the problem of alcoholism among teens and young adults in the coming years. It explains the rationale behind the effectiveness of the curriculum since the whole program is aimed at the core level of the perpetual potential problem of alcohol addiction.
Parental abuse and neglect have been issues because these are factors that are vital to the child’s overall normal functioning and performance in academics for instance and as they operate as kids and later as adults in the real world. This is also true with nutritional status of children in their growing years. Several studies have proven the effects of these factors that they are consciously observed among the educated parents; as much as possible, many actively pursue in avoiding the drastic effects of either deficiency. Indeed, the environmental changes that are constantly influencing children in their early stages are established in the scientific disciplines; this despite the many arguments to the contrary.
Diana Baumrind developed a very widely known theory of parenting which created a great impact on the idea of parenting styles that most parents adhere to and follow today. The main concepts include the authoritative, permissive and authoritarian models (Darling, 1999; Atkinson et al, 1993). The main idea concerns these styles and their impact on the resulting developing person. It is considered influential because it is perhaps the easiest to remember and where most parents or adults readily relate to in most cases (Darling, 1999).
The theory indeed has inspired a lot of consequent studies especially the implied and emphasized acceptance of the superiority of the authoritative model over and against the rest of the other styles. In a sense, Baumrind and her theory or studies convey the clear message that there is such a correct way of rearing children and this she mentioned as the authoritative way (Darling, 1999). Critiques of course abound as to the validity and applicability of her theory at all times or in all set-ups or situations. The studies many argue had only been correlation which means that there is no such direct “cause and effect” as one would have wanted to appear (Darling, 1999).
Conclusion and Recommendations
Results of exhaustive researches on the subject of child abuse are grave and it is true as well that despite sensationalized accounts on television and overall media broadcasts, the general public have not sufficiently understood what the problem entails. In other words, since neglect is considered an aspect of abuse on the child, many individuals even the educated and literate are deficient of true knowledge and awareness of the issue. There are those few who know but have chosen to turn their eyes from the problem. Nevertheless, the rising tide of crime against children and babies has run unabated. Neglect for instance, accounts for the biggest bulk of cases and neglect of parents point to many dysfunctional related problems that these kids suffer then on in every stage of their development. Facts such as provided by the federal government succinctly say that physiological ailments and psychosomatic illnesses besetting adults such as allergies, hypertension, substance abuse, ulcers and many others are all traceable or correlated to the abuse and neglect that these adults as children experienced (Rosemary et al., 2002; OJJDP, 2003, 1997; Gateway Factsheet, 2008).
Relating all this information to the theoretical model of Baumrind among others, parents and their manner of raising children primarily is the issue here. Thus it is downright important that the parenting style appropriate for raising adults someday come from non-delinquent or reformed or transformed parents who realize the immense responsibilities in their hands.
Many get their inspiration for adopting their way of raising their family based on the Baumrind model. Indeed, it has been effective to a degree because it can easily be remembered and understood. Usually, anyone coming from a background of any of the styles can immediately relate. I believe the findings are mostly true for the idea that for most of those who advocate the authoritative style, children have emerged as more adjusted and more capable of getting into different stresses that life in reality has to offer (Darling, 1999). Although there may not be a hundred percent chance that all parents who advocate the authoritative style be fully successful as they should, nevertheless, the children stand a better and greater chance of ending as assets and not as liabilities to the community or society from which are brought forth.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway (2008). Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect: Factsheet
- Darling, Nancy (1999). ERIC Digest. http://www.ericdigests.org/1999-4/parenting.htm
- Donnelly, Joseph (2009). Self-Esteem and it’s Relationship to Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention in Adolescents. Dept. of Health Professions/PERLS
National Association for Self-esteem. Accessed June 11, 2009. <http://www.self-e
- Venkatesh, S (1997). ‘The social organization of street gang activity in an urban ghetto,’ American Journal of Sociology, vol. 103, No. 1, July, pp. 82-111.
- OJJDP, (Mar. 2003). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Accessed June 10, 2009. . <http://:www.cato.org/testimony/ct- wc67.html.>
- Rosemary Chalk, Alison Gibbons, and Harriet J. Scarupa (May 2002) The Multiple Dimensions of Child Abuse and Neglect: New Insights into an Old Problem, Accessed June 11, 2009 at www.childtrends.org