When a child has had to endure the onslaught of chronic maltreatment, studies have shown that more than half of these children will be suffering from an attachment disorder. Sadly, some of those children will go on to develop psychological issues. This is often seen in severe cases when a child is sexually abused or has had to suffer through severe neglect. Helpless and alone, being forced to live in such horrible circumstances before being rescued by social services can lead these children to suffer from an issue that is similar to post traumatic stress disorder.
Suffering of chronic maltreatment such as abuse and/or neglect by a parent will often lead to the disruption of what should be normally developing “safe attachments”. When a child only has fear and sadness associated to his or her parent, the attachment will not be able to develop as it should. What happens when a child is not given the chance to have these attachments develop normally is that the child may act inappropriately, suffer from anxiety and often suffer from depression. As one can imagine, this would be a normal and understandable human reaction of chronic maltreatment.
Being able to develop trust and a safe attachment to other adult caregivers, such as foster parents, can begin to balance out this type of post traumatic disorder and bring a child back to feeling loved, cared for and safe. When a child receives this, it is often for the first time in his or her life. Care must be given to allow patience, as a child learns what an actually loving and caring family is. Time must be given for a child to learn appropriate responses to situations in a loving home. One must always keep in mind that living through years of chronic maltreatment can not be reversed from a day, a week or even a month of love. Love, nurturing and understanding must be given consistently until the child is able to trust and accept those elements.
When a child is a victim of chronic maltreatment, this happens more often if their mother was abused as a child, both parents are at home, the mother was a teenage runaway, the mother was a child of the foster care system or if there are a large number of other children in the household. Knowing that these are risk factors, this allows social services to be more aware of the types of homes in which a child may be being neglected, abused or maltreated. Once removed from the unsafe home, although needing to go through a transitional phase, many children bounce back and live fulfilling, happy and productive lives.