Effects of harm

Harm experienced in childhood can have significant and lasting effects for children and young people, and no two children or young people react in the same way.

Some children and young people show no observable effects of harm they may have experienced, while others show a wide range of effects.

There may be long-term effects even when short-term effects are not apparent.

Children and young people may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical problems as a result of being harmed, including:

  • low self esteem
  • increased fear, guilt and self blame
  • distrust of adults
  • depression
  • suicidal thoughts and self harming
  • anxiety disorders
  • attachment disorders
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development
  • aggressive behaviour and other behavioural problems
  • developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments
  • delinquency and criminal behaviour including violent or aggressive behaviour
  • drug and alcohol abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour
  • permanent physical injuries or death
  • difficulty forming relationships with other adults
  • symptoms and behaviour that lead to them being singled out and victimised.

The most serious effects are likely to occur when no one takes action to stop the harm and protect the child or young person.

With early identification and an appropriate response and support, children and young people can recover from being harmed.

A child or young person's support network and bonds with those who believe in them and protect them will help them to cope.

Without effective support, harm experienced in childhood can have long-term effects on individuals and communities.