Psychological Effects Of Physical And Emotional Abandonment In Children

Psychological effects of Physical and Emotional Abandonment in children

As the term itself indicates, taking care of children’s basic needs is essential for their proper physical development and health. The same happens with psychological needs.

Humans are sociable beings by nature: we absolutely need the love, support, and care of others to guarantee our psychological and even physical well-being. And our desire to relate is actually a natural way of guaranteeing our survival by bringing us closer to the rest of society.

And when is the help of our environment most necessary for our survival? When we were little. And who do we depend on at these ages? From our parents (or other caregivers, failing that).

Imagine the impact it has on our well-being when our main protectors do not fulfill their functions of care and affection. If you don’t want to be left alone in your imagination, keep reading this article, in which We will see the psychological effects of physical and emotional abandonment in children.

What is considered child abandonment?

Child abandonment occurs when a child’s basic and emotional needs are neglected or completely ignored by their caregivers (who are generally parents). It is recognized as a form of child abuse, specifically by omission.

This includes a wide range of situations in which there is abuse that only has in common physical, emotional, social and/or cognitive damage to the minor. Within child abandonment we can distinguish two categories: physical abandonment and emotional abandonment.

Physical abandonment occurs when there is a physical distance between the child and his/her caregivers, or a lack of attention and supervision towards the minor that implies not covering his/her basic needs: food, hygiene, clothing, protection, surveillance, education. and medical care.

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On the other hand, emotional abandonment occurs as a result of a persistent lack of interaction between the parents and the child, insufficient stimulation towards the child and the lack of response on the part of the caregivers to the minor’s attempts to approach and affect them. In this way, it is possible that parents are present, but do not devote enough attention to their children.

Some of the most notable examples of the signs of child abandonment are being unkempt or smelly, frequently appearing with injuries (bruises, fractures, scratches…), wearing clothes that are damaged or inappropriate for the weather, being malnourished, falling asleep in class and public places, etc. . However, The consequences of this type of abuse are not limited to physical symptoms, but also psychological ones.

What psychological effects does abandonment have on children?

Taking care of their basic needs and affection are essential for the psychological development of children (and also adults). If parents do not provide this attention, minors will not be able to feel safe or grow up happily, which has serious psychological repercussions. Below, we mention some of them.

Low self-esteem

Self-esteem is the assessment we make of the perception we have of ourselves. This depends largely on our own experiences throughout our lives, including the opinions, actions or lack thereof that we receive from the people around us.

When we are little, our parents are the most important people in our lives and in whom we usually place all our trust. In cases of child abandonment, this trust is betrayed, causing a feeling of insecurity and rejection.

This way, Self-esteem is especially violated in cases of abuse, since it begins to form at those ages. If the people from whom we expect more love and care don’t give it to us, it’s because there is something wrong with us, right? Children are also capable of reaching these conclusions, unfortunately, and they already start with a poor foundation of self-esteem.

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Problems in present and future relationships

Parental abandonment and low self-esteem cause children to have serious problems when it comes to relationships. To begin with, children are blank canvases, as well as sponges, so they easily learn what they see in their immediate environment, including how to relate. If their parents ignore their needs and emotions, chances are they will learn to ignore others too.

At the same time, they may fear abandonment as a result of having suffered it, which they generalize to all relationships. As a result of this fear, two things can happen. The first is develop emotional dependence with those people with whom they manage to have an emotional bond. For example, if one of the two parents has not abandoned them, they will generate dependency on him/her. This implies that you do not want to separate from this person and feel insecure both when you are not with him/her and in the relationship itself.

The other option is that they only allow themselves to have superficial relationships. The premise with which they arrive at this option is that if the relationship is not important or binding enough, it will cause less damage when abandonment occurs. This fact is also guaranteed by the first consequence that we have mentioned at a relational level: not being attentive to the needs of others.

Depression, anxiety and/or other emotional problems

The psychological damage caused by child abuse by omission causes unpleasant emotions. When these emotions and the situations that provoke them are perpetuated, it is easy for emotional problems to develop, such as depression and anxiety.

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It is often said that anxiety is the fear of being in a problematic situation and not having enough resources to face it. Meanwhile, depression is the distressing resignation in the face of these problematic situations, having already tried to face them repeatedly, but not having been able to overcome them.

Taking into account that their learning about problem and emotional management occurs mostly at home, these children do not have the tools or the security to resolve problematic situations.

Delay in evolutionary development

In the same way that they do not learn to manage problems or their own emotions, nor do they learn fundamental aspects in the evolutionary development of all people. For example, if caregivers barely interact with the child, the child will most likely end up developing serious speech problems.

As we have seen, children learn by imitation, and if they have to wait until they reach school age to start talking, they are already too late. Furthermore, the human brain is designed to learn and develop at specific times, so if it is not learned at a certain age, it will be quite difficult for them to learn basic functions later.

These and other consequences in adulthood

All the problems that children suffer from child abandonment can be perpetuated if intervention is not made in time. In this way, there are many adults who have difficulties identifying and managing their emotions, have adaptation difficulties and lack of flexibility, are emotionally dependent on their relationships and are insecure people with low self-esteem. All these components are predisposing to suffering psychological disorders.