The most important thing I learned about this topic is that there is not speculation about long-term effects of maltreatment, but that “the advent of neuro-imaging of children with documented child maltreatment histories has provided irrefutable evidence of the structural and functional changes that occur within the brains of these children” (Delima & Vimpani, 2011, p. 44). Scientific studies actually prove that there are physical changes within the brain structures of maltreated children caused solely by the abuse suffered.Something new that I learned about this topic is that brain injury to a child caused by maltreatment can actually happen in utero. The injuries sustained prior to birth can have effects that last for decades and can include developmental delays, traumatic brain injuries, and physical deformities. Additionally, I was surprised to learn that alcohol abuse by the pregnant mother can cause a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that can cause life-long developmental issues and mental health issues for the child.
I thought that maltreatment was typically defined as physical abuse, mental abuse, or sexual abuse, but the abuse as defined by the authors of this article can also include actions by parents or caregivers such as exposing children to second-hand smoke, caregivers who alter their state of mind with alcohol or drugs and therefore neglect the child to the extent that it does not receive proper care, and not providing proper nutrition to a child in utero and after birth. Questions I have about this reading assignment include how the researchers determined which injuries and developmental and physical problems a child suffered were caused by maltreatment and which were caused by something else, such as accidental trauma, birth defects, or by etiological problems. Another question I had was how they defined chronic stress and how they determined what the stressors were and if and how these stressors were caused by maltreatment or for other reasons.
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