Child a buse is one of the most horrific things in the world, in my opinion. And throughout the years, scientists have been studying just how devastating trauma can be on small children, and how greatly it impacts their overall life.
According to statistics, 1 out of 7 children experiences misconduct and neglect each year, with 674,000 children having been abused or maltreated in 2017 in the U.S.
In the past, studies have shown the impact that lingers in children who were emotionally traumatized or neglected as children. But, in a recent study that was carried out by the Texas Children’s Hospital chief of psychiatry, Bruce Perry, he explored a new angle of the impact of misconduct.
To do so, he observed brain scans of children who had been severely emotionally neglected, and what he found was astounding.
The brain scan I have added above shows a normal child’s brain on the left, and on the right, the brain of a child who has been exposed to neglect and trauma.
The left brain is a 3-year-old, with “an average head size,” and the one on the right is an emotionally traumatized 3-year-old.
When explaining what the image shows, Perry says, “The image on the right is from a 3-year-old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has enlarged ventricles and cortical atrophy.”
During the first few years of our life, our brain grows quite a lot. The things that happen to us and the connections we have with others have a lot to do with the development of our brain. Typically, cortical atrophy doesn’t happen in small children, but instead, in elderly patients with degenerative brain diseases.
When a child is physically traumatized, it’s obvious to everyone the damage that is done, because it is visibly seen. However, emotional neglect is just as damaging, and possibly more, because it thwarts and stagnates brain development.
When speaking about this, Perry explained, “The neural systems responsible for mediating our cognitive, emotional, social and physiological functioning develop in childhood and, therefore, childhood experiences play a major role in shaping the functional capacity of these systems.
“When the necessary experiences are not provided at the optimal times, these neural systems do not develop in optimal ways.”
In turn, their brain doesn’t grow or develop as it should, and the effects can linger well into adulthood. Various studies show that those who are emotionally neglected are far more likely to have interpersonal relationship issues, attachment problems, substance problems, and mental health issues. Additionally, they are more likely to end up committing crimes and suffer from personality disorders.