Emotional Consequences of Abuse

So the part of the neuroplasticity talk that really caught my attention was the part about shaken baby syndrome.  It got me thinking, not necessarily about neroplasticity specifically, but about child abuse how someone could lose control in that way.   How could a trigger as simple as crying produce such a negative outcome, and how could parents not recognize the extent to which they are inflicting damage on their child.  I just found this to be horrific and completely petrifying.  While I was examining the topic of antecedents of child abuse a little closer I found that it really seems to be such a simple trigger can causes these outcomes.  Beyond that I could not find anything that interesting (besides the fact that it is ridiculously scary).

However, while I was doing this research I found a paper examining how maltreatment experiences affect children’s understanding of antecedents of emotion (Perlman, 2008).  This seemed like such an interesting effect that did not even consider.  If the possible triggers of mistreatment could be something so small then it seems obvious that children’s expected outcomes would be skewed.  This paper in specific presented children with different pairings of scenarios and emotional outcomes and asked the child to say if the outcome matched the scenario.  They did this by asking the children to help a robot understand human emotions.  The major finding of this study was that maltreated children saw positive negative events as equally as likely as causing sadness or anger.  It is particularly interesting that maltreated children saw anger or sadness as possible outcomes for positive situations.  This is particularly interesting since past research has shown that maltreated children are extremely sensitive to interpreting facial emotions, so could it be the mismatch between the event and the abuse in everyday situations that causes this mismatch.

I found this paper to be particularly interesting because in class we were very focused on the physical effects of shaken baby syndrome, and how the body copes in terms of neroplasticity.  After reading this paper it seems equally important to take a step back and examine the emotional outcomes of these horrible situations.  In addition, much more research that needs to be done in order to come to a better understanding of the full effects of abuse.

5 thoughts on “Emotional Consequences of Abuse

  1. Hey Hannah!

    I also find it very interesting to think about how shaken baby syndrome may be predicted by the child’s inability to discern facial expressions of emotion. It follows that I became interested in what the rates of commorbidity between SBS and autism look like. I actually did a quick search and couldn’t really find anything. If they frequently appear together, it might further strengthen the point that SBS can be predicted by a lack of ability to perceive emotions.

    -Michael S.


  2. Further proof of the permanent effects of SBS or child abuse in general- not only is the child physically and emotionally hurt, potentially he/she is disadvantaged socially as well due to incorrectly interpreting facial affect. Poor kids!!!


  3. I almost feel like the emotional effects are far worse than the physical. if you think about it, the emotional negative states can probably lead to physical malfunctioning as it is. it’s scary to think about.


  4. This is really powerful, and sad information. I agree with Jenn, that the emotional effects are far worse than the physical effects that result from abuse, even though the emotional effects are a result of the physical. I wonder if they have trouble discerning facial expressions of emotions if they themselves have emotional impairments in every day situations.


  5. All of you have very interesting and valid points. As I did my research on SBS, I was more and more horrified by the prospects of this syndrome. What I also realized is that I could not decide which symptom was worse than the other simply because they all seem so negatively interrelated. This could be described as a domino effect with the initiation of one symptom causing AND reinforcing others. In response to social and emotional behavior I found research that showed that these kids were far more socially awkward and irritable than their normal counterparts. Also interesting, are the adult repercussions of the social and emotional bluntness. SBS individuals display several behavioural abnormalities and so people want to spend less time around them and this affects the quality of their overall aging. Not to mention, many don’t seem to survive beyond their 20s and 30s 😦


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