I know a lady who has sexual dysfunction in marriage which was traceable to sexual abuse she experienced in early childhood.
Another middle-aged man who sought anonymity said he was raised in a home where his parents were always at loggerheads and many mistakes he made as a child always drew the ire of his father who labelled him a failure. This, he claimed greatly affected his psyche leading to low self esteem, alcohol abuse, difficulty in maintaining relationships and his inability to complete promising projects.
According to a new study led by Lee Raby, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah, maltreatment experienced before age 5 can have negative effects that continue to be seen nearly three decades later.
“It is not a controversial statement to say abuse and neglect can have harmful consequences,” Raby said. “This study adds to that by showing that these effects are long term and don’t weaken with time. They persist from childhood across adolescence and into adulthood.”
In the study published in the journal Child Development, Raby said his team wanted to know two things: Does maltreatment early in life have long-term associations that extend into adulthood and do those effects remain stable or weaken over time?
The researchers used data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, which has followed participants since their births in the mid-1970s. The study looked at data on 267 individuals who had reached ages between 32 and 34.
Information about the participants’ exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect was gathered from multiple sources during two age periods: 0-5 years and 6-17.5 years. Throughout childhood and adolescence, teachers reported on the children’s functioning with peers. The children also completed standardized tests on academic achievement. The participants were interviewed again during their 20s and 30s, during which they discussed romantic experiences and educational attainment.
Raby said the findings showed those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood. The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older.
“The harmful effectS of early abuse and neglect was just as important when we were looking at outcomes at age 32 years as when we looked at outcomes at age 5,” he said.
“These findings add more evidence for the importance of identifying high-risk families and attempting to intervene before experiences of abuse and neglect occur,” Raby said.