While it is great to have April dedicated to Child Abuse Prevention—it is certainly something that needs to be addressed EVERYDAY! We need to continuously promote awareness of the effects of experience on the developing brain.
It is wonderful to know that things are going in a positive direction. In 2008, it was reported that child maltreatment decreased! However, there were reports of suspected child abuse and neglect involving six million children across the US. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that almost a third of these children are younger than 4 years old.
Abuse any age has an impact, but because we know that 90% of the brain develops from birth to age 5 we really need to care about these statistics. It is critical to do all we can to create awareness of the impact abuse can have and do all we can to continue to see a decrease in these numbers.
Following are simple points that you can use to help create support for the prevention of abuse and neglect. Share this information with people in your family, co-workers, and friends. Create an e-mail for people to forward, post it on a bulletin board at work, or post on your social networking sites!
Through large numbers of us simply using this month to create greater awareness, hopefully we can see a decrease of large numbers of abuse in reports next year!
- The brain creates connections based on repeated experiences. Repeated abuse or neglect will develop a brain based on these negative experiences.
- Repeated experiences become encoded in memory. This results in the development of expectations of the world and relationships. Negative experience can influence a child’s expectation to be treated badly.
- Children’s brains that are exposed to chronic stress are 20 – 30% smaller than children raised in a nurturing environment.
- A child experiencing an uncaring caregiver may become uncertain about their safety, distrustful of others, and uncertain about their own abilities.
- The brain is continuously on alert for safety in the environment and the people in it. If a child is exposed to an unsafe environment this creates high levels of stress in the brain.
- High levels of stress negatively impacts the memory, attention, and thinking areas of the brain.
- Children who are living in chaotic, unpredictable environments, have brains that are wired very differently than a child having primarily nurturing and consistent experiences.
- A critical time for the emotional areas of the brain to develop is from birth to 18 months. Babies that do not have their needs met in a loving and consistent way (neglect) develop behaviors focused on control.
- Children experiencing repeated trauma, stress ,and abuse will develop more of the fight or flight areas of the brain. These children’s behaviors will primarily focus on survival.
For more information or tips to prevent child abuse in your life or the lives of others click here.